A snowy afternoon

  • Aperture: f/4.5
  • Focal Length: 50mm
  • ISO: 400
  • Shutter: 1/800 sec
  • Camera: NIKON D80

Northport, Alabama

Poets and musicians are fascinated with the latent possibility in roads as metaphor, and rightly so. The road ahead is forward motion towards a new reality. Some roads seem to go on forever, vanishing into such a distant horizon that promise becomes as much expectation as hope. Other roads quickly twist, winding into dark, thorny forests fraught with terror. And then there are roads with a clear delineation — flower-strewn allées leading to rambling front porches, gentle gravel paths leading to chimney smoke and mugs of cocoa on gray winter days.

Wherever the road ahead leads, it’s not a place for stopping long. To rest, yes. To gather one’s bearings, look around, and see what’s next, but roads by their nature force action. You can turn back or race forward, but one thing’s certain — standing still isn’t an option. Life will run you over and leave you for dead.

Every once in a while though, it’s nice to slow down and enjoy a moment of magic. Even if it melts as quickly as snowflakes on the tongue, the sharp coldness, the crisp bite, the profound aliveness of this briefest sliver of time is worth continuing the journey, just to see what lies beyond.

In my valedictory speech, I quoted one of my favorite poets, Robert Frost:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Even at 17, I understood the extended metaphor of the wintry forest, but the part I missed was Frost’s most important message: You can stop to ponder the terrible beauty of the tangled woods, feel the lure of falling into the deep dark nothing, but the road beckons. If you stand rooted by your fears, mesmerized by your mortality, the snows will cover far too soon. The horse knows this, but he’s willing to indulge the foolish man. The gentle shake of his harness contrasts with the softly falling snow, reminding his rider — reminding us all — that work remains, and night falls all too fast.

Music: Hazy Shade of Winer (Extended Mix) by The Bangles (lyrics)

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