April 9, 2015

Where the Road Ends

"The Road goes ever on and on..."

Every life is a picture, or a painting, or a legacy to leave behind, but how is it that we get from one place to another?  Life is a story, but we are all traveling down the road that gets us there, from one chapter to the next. On and on it goes, but few of us can ever see that we are taking a journey that will lead us to our final destination; it will either lead us home or we will be lost along the way. 

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.” ~ Lord of the Rings

I looked out of the window through the foggy glass, and I saw that a road wound before me, disappearing into the mist and fog of early morning. There's never any time like the present, so I grabbed my coat and slipped out into the chill, determined to see where the road would take me.  As soon as my feet touched the pavement, a little cloud of fog vanished in a whirl of vapor, but it was not enough. I could only see one step ahead of me, and so I stepped again.  As if it knew my intent, the humid smoke disappeared, but only enough to see one step farther. This time I could see a light that helped me to see the edge of the road, but not what was ahead.  In anxious excitement, I resigned myself to follow the road until I came to the end.

It was easy going at first. One step cleared the way for the next and I hurried forward towards the light as fast as my feet could go, making marvelous ground. I could see behind me; it was hazy with dew, but visible, which relieved my fear. I could always go back. 

“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” ~ Lord of the Rings

I pressed onward, steadily going on, until I came to a place where there was no fog. It had stopped like a wall and as I pressed out of it, I saw that I had come to a cross road.  One branch of the road was wide and smooth, with large, scented flowers all bunched around the edges.  The other was narrow and coarse with small, insignificant buds blooming along the cracks that ran through the road.  'Why shouldn't I choose the way that is clear and pleasant?' thought I, as I summoned my tiring feet forward. 

But the smooth way was not easier, as I soon found out.  It started leading me downwards towards a valley that smelled so strongly of rich perfumes, I felt myself growing faint with delight. The way was beautiful and satisfying, but as I reached the valley, I saw a terrible creature pacing back and forth along the grass.  At once I was horrified and I turned to escape the beast, but found that there were no longer pleasant flowers and lush meadows, but sharp crags and dusty winds rising up to meet me.  As storms raged and overcame me, I cried out for mercy and hid my face from the gales.  I staggered back the way I had come, but the road was steep and difficult for me to scale. But for my fear of the dragon, I should have laid down and let the storms take me.

"The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater." ~ Lord of the Rings

After a long, arduous fight, I made it back to the little crossroads and took the narrow branch speedily. There was no apparent beauty, and my love for the other path began to taint my view of the small one, but I was reminded of the hideous beast and kept on.  I soon discovered that this road had a beauty of its own; the wildflowers that grew in the path made me stop and gaze at them. The birds were singing cheerfully and the sky was blue overhead.  Suddenly, the fog drifted back over the road and I could no longer see ahead of me further than one step, but the little light held fast in its center.  The birds still chirped and the flowers lingered, but I had to trust that the light would hold true and not lead me astray. 

After much climbing, upwards, as I believed, I began to grow weak from weariness. I shed my jacket and left it by the roadside and continued forward, until I reached the place where the fog again ceased. In its place was a weather-beaten shepherd, who sat with the rod in his hand and a flower in the other. 

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference." ~ Robert Frost

"So you have come," the shepherd said, as if expecting me.
"Yes, but where am I?" 
"You have come to where the road ends. Is that not why you have come? You set out to seek it."
"Indeed, I wanted to know where the road leads to, but I nearly forgot my purpose for coming. It has been a long journey." I said as I sat down to rest. 

Suddenly, the fog on the road vanished and all was clear as light upon water.  I could see the place at which I had started, far off in the distance, but it was as close as if it were before me. I saw the twisting winding road which I had taken, though I thought it to be straight. I saw the forked path and the valley which looked now as dark as midnight. And I saw that I had come to a place high above the rest and could see clearly the road that lay behind me. 

"You, my friend," said the shepherd with his rod, "have come a far way. The fog made it impossible to see, so that you would trust the light to guide your path. You took many turns that you did not know, but now, looking back, you can see what a journey you have taken. You fell prey to the temptations and delights of the wide path, and were nearly overcome by the evilness that lurked there.  But, dear one, you righted your course, and though difficult, you made your way back to the lighted path.  And now you are here, where the road ends. You have come into your home."

"…time has a way of leading a person along a crooked path. Sometimes the path is hard to hold to and people fall off along the way. They curse the road for its steep grades and muddy ruts and settle themselves in hinterlands of thorn and sorrow, never knowing or dreaming that the road meant all along to lead them home. Some call that road a tragedy and lose themselves along it. Others, those that see it home, call it an adventure." ~ The Fiddler’s Gun

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