Miss Woodhouse's Musings

…about life, the universe, and everything. Don't panic!

And That Has Made All The Difference

There is a poem that, like it has for countless others, has always resonated in my mind. It is by the incomparable Robert Frost (Yes, I know he’s an American writer. No, in this case, I don’t mind.), and it speaks to the choices and decisions we make in our lives. It reads as follows: 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

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.

 

Well, I am at that place in the woods. In less than two weeks I need to make a choice, and I am torn about what to do. Both options lie before me, each having an equal amounts of pros and cons. One path makes me feel more unsure about my future, but the other path locks me into a road I’m not sure I’m willing to be on for much longer.

I’ve put a lot of work and effort into both these ventures, and until now both paths have run, albeit tiringly, smoothly alongside each other. But now, there is a boulder separating one from the other forever, as far as I can see. My first thought was that if I could only figure out which was the one less traveled, I would know what I was to do. But, what defines less traveled? 

With an actual path, it would be the road that is overrun with grass, so long it has been since a human foot has trod on it. It would be the one with a smaller breadth, the one more often left off the maps. It is the one that only a few locals remember, and that even fewer know how to traverse. 

But life is not as clear as a path. Sure, one way is more…shall we say, commercial? But does that make it more traveled? Often on this road so far, I’ve felt very, very alone. And isn’t that the earmark of a road less traveled, that you have few fellow travelers, if indeed any at all? And the other road, it’s “off the beaten path” to be sure. But it is also the safe choice, the road that has been with me the longest. It is the safety net. It is a road I’ve traveled for a long time, a road that I can be pretty sure of where I’ll end up.

So, what if I determine the path less traveled? Does this really help me decide my future? Look at that last stanza. The speaker says that maybe, years and years down the road, he might recount this choice in the woods “with a sigh.” Is this good? Bad? All the speaker really tells us is that by taking the road less traveled, it made all the difference. 

Unfortunately for me, this doesn’t shed any illumination on my dilemma. Any choice, any decision, any stance makes “all the difference” in a life. Is difference a good thing, or a bad thing? Can we say with any certainty that our lives will be truly better if we go one way, than if we go another? Can we ever look back and say “this was the right path”? I think that we want to be able to trust our decisions. We want to say that hindsight is 20/20 and we know for sure that we made a good choice, or that we can see now how we made a bad choice. But, did we really?

We can’t predict the future, and we can’t change the past. We can’t run parallel lives and find out how a different choice truly would have affected our life. So, we create this environment that says if a decision in the past, then we can make definitive calls on how it impacted our lives. However, just as we cannot accurately predict the future, I don’t think that we can absolutely read the past.

Maybe this is the point that Frost wanted to make. Maybe he wanted us to see that we cannot travel two paths as the same person, and we cannot know where the path we did not choose would lead us. All we can do is look, evaluate, and take those first brave steps down the road of our choosing.

Which doesn’t help me decide which path to choose, in the least. 

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Collection of Thoughts

Gentle Readers,

* Teaching Tinturn Abby ito my class went much better than teaching Songs of Innocence and Experience. I will admit, this is a first in my teaching experience.

* I think Farm Fresh employees hate their lives. I can’t blame them at all.

* They found Richard III’s bones while building a car park. There might be irony enough in that for a whole blog post, we will see.

* Though I never would have ordered it on my own, pepperoni and pineapple pizza with cheese stuffed crust is quite yummy.

* When “It’s your thing, do what you wanna do” comes on, you have to sing along with it. That’s a rule.

* If you are going to preach about pitching tents, make sure to say pitching tents. Still laughing about that, D!

* Midsomer must be an awful place to live. So many murders…thanks, Mystery!.

* Josh Groban’s new album came out today, All That Echoes. Go. Buy. Listen. Repeat.

Until tomorrow,

Miss W

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Fire and Ice

This week I wanted to show off a PhotoShop project I worked on all on my own! It’s nothing fancy or difficult, but it did involve layers, and I did do it without any aids- books, teacher, cheatsheet, nothing. Just me.

Glancing through a book a few weeks ago, my eye was caught by Robert Frost’s poems. I may not like much about American Literature, but I do enjoy his writings. Specifically, I love one of his shorter works, Fire and Ice. It just so happened that I had some awesome fire photos (pyromaniac for the win!), so I wanted to do something with both elements.

I think it turned out really well, but what do you all think?

As per usual, click on the picture if you’d like to see it BIGGER. Have a great weekend!

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Midday Bay

I really love the ocean. I mean, really really love the ocean. There’s nothing like standing at the water’s edge staring out into the infinite horizon to realize just how insignificant you are in the scope of time. However, at the same time I love looking down at the minute grains of sand and remembering that God has them all numbered; so how much more does He care about us?

It’s an odd conflict of feelings- feeling both vastly significant and insignificant at the same time.

Then I tend to just stare out into the horizon. It’s so peaceful; there’s nothing there to distract your mind. My imagination is then free to imagine what lies beyond what I can see: more ocean, deep swells, and far-away lands.

I don’t know if I could ever live far away from the ocean. Even though I don’t go to the beach that often, it’s comforting to know that it is there. I love sitting in a restaurant looking over the bay and the ocean, driving over long bridges to get from one place to another, or even just driving by the oceanfront while running errands.

Enough pontificating, on to the picture! This is taken from the porch of one of our favourite local seafood restaurants. The food is amazing (she-crab soup with sherry especially!), but the view is really spectacular. The restaurant is set back into a bay, so this shot is taken from one end of the bay looking out to the other. The infinite ocean is to the left….

Enjoy your weekend! (Click on the picture to see it full size.)

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the A gaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Matthew Arnold, Dover Beach

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Facade

Confession time: it’s been years since I’ve written proper poetry.

By proper, I mean poetry that has rhyme, rhythm, and form; poetry that expresses feelings in roundabout and new ways.

Let’s face it: good poetry takes time. I haven’t that much time.

Good poetry takes life experience and inspiration. Want to read a poem about a frazzled barista? Didn’t think so.

However, I do write free-form poetry sometimes. Often, it’s spur-of-the-moment; I have a thought, I jot it down. Thus, when I discover it a few months later, I’ve no memory of actually writing the piece.

Except, it’s not good enough for anyone else to have written it. Ergo, it must be mine!

I’m not sure, then, what prompted me to write this piece. Maybe it was the stress of work, maybe not liking what path school was forcing me to take, maybe frustrations with my friends. Whatever the case, I apparently was trying to deck myself upside the head and tell myself to get a grip!

I think it worked.

Lately, I’ve been a lot more honest with myself. When I’m upset, I tell myself I’m upset. When I’m happy about something, I’m trying to let myself be happy. Basically, I’m a little afraid that life is flying by, and that I’m missing it by always trying to act a certain way, do certain things, be a certain type of person.

This also must be from last Fall, because there are a lot of Shakespearian sonnet references in this. Just saying….

Oh! Bonus points if you can find the Shakespeare influences! Leave your guesses in the comments.

Anyway, I’ll be very open here and *gasp* share this little glimpse into my past. Just please, please, be gentle with me!

When the façade slips

When you see me as I truly am

Sad, scared, seeking approval

Too long-sought, too hardly won.

Never finding rest

Peace.

Fleeing from myself

If I don’t like me, why should you?

I’m just a player in this

Game of chance that we call

Life.

Moved by the force of others

A ball knocked from the wicket gate

By the turn of another.

Influenced by none

Guided by all.

Who am I?

The daughter, sister, worker, friend?

Or something deeper-

Am I myself? If so

This is hidden too well

A secret guarded by

A wall of sorts

A wall of right

A wall of will

A wall of acting

A façade.

Who I am lies beneath

Ready for you to see me

As I am

If I ever let the façade

Slip.

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Footprints

This week’s Friday Frame-Up is from my trip to the beach on Monday. Enjoy!

One night I had a dream–
I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord
and across the sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints,
one belonged to me and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that many times along the path of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest
and saddest times in my life.
This really bothered me and I questioned the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
you would walk with me all the way,
but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life
there is only one set of footprints.
“I don’t understand why in times when I needed you most,
you should leave me.”
The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child,
I love you and I would never, never leave you
during your times of trial and suffering.
“When you saw only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.”

Mary Stevenson

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The Birthday Bard

It’s poetry in its purest form- browsing Books-A-Million brooding about the Bard’s birthday. Think I used enough “b”s in that sentence?

But yes, you read that right. Today is supposedly William Shakespeare’s birthday (I subscribe to the 25th, but that’s a story for another time), it is indeed the anniversary of his death, and it is also St. George’s Day, the patron saint of England.

‘Tis a lot to take in.

Therefore, friends, Romans, blog readers, lead me your ears! For indeed I am a friend of the Bard, a fan of his witty sayings and dramatic tales of star-crossed lovers. Forsooth, even I turn a blind eye to his obvious copying of others’ tales, and his shameless borrowing of his own best-loved plot turns. For what great a man he was, still to be revered ev’n in this modern age in which we live.

Yet, my meager words cannot express the genius of this great man; actor, poet, playwright. Let us all instead divert our attention to a different vein; let us turn to the words of the man himself, and let us listen to his thoughts near the end of his life. For it is said that the character Prospero, that wizard and magician banished so many long years on a deserted isle, is meant to be Shakespeare himself, a means by which the Bard expressed his feelings and a plea to his devoted fans:

“Now my charms are all o’erthrown,

And what strength I have’s mine own,

Which is most faint….

…Now I want

Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,

And my ending is despair

Unless I be relieved by prayer,

Which pierces so, that it assaults

Mercy itself, and frees all faults.

As you from crimes would pardoned be,

Let your indulgence set me free.”

–The Tempest

So, then, dear friends, ‘tis nobler indeed to laud the life of a man who spent his time well, and did so faithfully devote his hours to writing for the entertainment of many.

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Nothing That Is Not There

Warning: this post contains the musings of a university English major. Read at your own mental risk! :) –Miss Woodhouse

For the few of you out there who do not yet know about my feelings towards American Literature, I have some very strong ones: I don’t like American Literature. I’m currently taking an American Lit class only because I would LOVE to graduate sometime this century.

Nonetheless, I believe in giving everything your best effort as much as you can. So, let it come as a little shock when I say that reading the poetry this week was almost bearable. Almost.

I found myself somewhat taken with a poet I have not ever read, Wallace Stevens. In particular, I really enjoyed his poem entitled “The Snow Man.” I’ve reprinted it here for your reading pleasure:

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place.

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

This last stanza really captured my attention. The poem, though nicely balanced and arranged, is somewhat bleak. The landscape described is blank, desolate, frozen, and harsh (did you notice how Stevens used the words “crusted”, “shagged”, and “rough” to hint at harshness without coming out and using the word?).

The speaker in the poem reveals how he is looking at the world- not only is it harsh, but he hears mournfulness and misery in the sound of the winter wind. For some reason, these thoughts displease him, and he yearns to think like a snowman. In his mind, the snowman can see things as they truly are without the bias of human presumptions. Everything leads up to that final line as the speaker declares that since the snowman is himself nothing he can see the “Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.”

It doesn’t seem to bother the speaker (as it bothers me) that in looking to the snowman for an unbiased view of the world, the speaker is effectively placing his own bias on what he imagines the snowman to see. In reality, the speaker can find nothing worthwhile in the world around him, and the snowman becomes merely a vehicle by which the speaker can justify and rationalize the perception of meaningless life.

Life may be nothing, but for the speaker, nothingness must actually exist. If nothingness is not real and tangible, then the speaker realizes that he is most likely missing out on something huge in life. This appears to scare the speaker, thus he chronicles his winter quest to justify (ironically) the existence and purpose of nothingness. He creates this blank landscape, finds a blank “mind”, and creates a situation where nothing actually exists. He thinks that this will make him happy, that if he can achieve this goal he will no longer hear mournful wind and see harsh landscapes. Everything becomes nothing, and nothing is everything. The only problem is that this world that the speaker creates is quite…well, depressing.

So, I’ve shared how I read and interpret this poem. Why don’t you all take a moment or two to jot down in the comments what you see in the poem? I promise to respond!

Thanks to this transcript of All Things Considered for affirming that my interpretation is not completely off the wall!

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Ring Around the Rosy

Last week I jumped the gun and posted a picture of my “pocketful of” Posy. So this week, I have to post something about rings for Photo Friday. At least, that’s my excuse for posting this photo.

The truth is that my laptop is currently on its way to Sony to have the fan fixed. Do you know the sound of ice in a blender? That’s what my laptop sounds like. It’s not good.

Anyway, the laptop is gone, and with it all my current “artsy” pictures. However, I had this picture on my iPod so I emailed it to myself. There’s an existential activity for you!

Boring intro aside, I do love this photo. The bottom ring was given to me by my parents when I turned 15. The top ring is one I found for myself when I turned 21. I wear them both everyday, and get lots of compliments on them both.

The picture is a result of my playing around with the manual focus on my camera. The result, surprisingly, was a nice, sharp picture. The black and white effect only adds to the contrast.

As usual, click on the picture to see it full size (you really want to do this!). Have a wonderful weekend!

And because I’m a bookworm:

Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. –J.R.R. Tolkien

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