“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees.” When Henry David Thoreau penned these words in his memoir Walden, he entreated readers – all humanity – to study nature as a source of wisdom. I doubt that he would have anticipated my English-teacher brain to connect it with a much later piece of writing: Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” For Frost, the woods held many paths that presented many choices. In making a decision to take one or another, we forever alter our futures: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” You see, the woods aren’t simply a thick growth of trees permeated with the scent of damp pine. The woods are our lives, the parts where danger looms and the towering shadows of choice obscure our vision. It is in choosing the less-popular, and perhaps more difficult paths, that we gain insight, wisdom, and strength – allowing us to come out “taller than the trees.” A friend gifted me with this intriguing (and quite beautiful) quote by Thoreau a few weeks ago. After reading it, I posted it in my classroom, little knowing what door to discovery she had opened for me.
The same day I posted this quote in my classroom, Whitman’s poem popped up in our reading material. Teaching on a theme of “Choices,” it appeared I would also be learning a bit about choosing paths in life. It has been 25 years since I sat in a desk in middle school, and I’m not sure that facing difficult decisions has become much easier; however, I do know this: choosing one path over another requires me to trust that the journey will allow me to grow, change, and discover a little more about myself – it will allow me to become bigger than my circumstances, stronger than the challenge looming over me, and better than the selfishness that tugs at my soul.
In the season 2 finale of Chesapeake Shores, seemingly every character came to a crossroads, or a place where “two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” as Whitman might put it. Jess faced letting David go without expectations of his return. Connor faced choosing to inform his father that he is working for his uncle. Bree faced a new path she had never experienced: independence. And Abby faced choosing to let go of someone who was quickly becoming her whole world.
What will come of these bends in their roads? How will these characters “come out taller than the trees” that have quickly turned their sunshine into shadows?
I anticipate that Jess will learn to trust. David has promised to return, but after experiencing her mother’s “abandonment” as a child, Jess doesn’t truly believe he will be back. When he returns, she will discover that she can trust those she loves.
After fearing a hostile reaction, Connor chose to fill his dad in on his new position. Hopefully, Connor will learn that honesty and confrontation (when approached lovingly) are more worthwhile in building trust than pushing volatile topics into secrecy to avoid tension.
Bree has seen her trust in others wither away to almost nothing after experiencing hurt time and time again. Perhaps choosing the difficult road of navigating the world on her own for awhile – without Simon Atwater – will give her a chance to discover who she is as a writer, a daughter, a sister, and a friend.
Abby, who left Chesapeake Shores to follow her dreams, decided that holding on too tightly to love might create resentment within a relationship. So, while Trace made the choice to stay behind and not join his band on tour, Abby understood that true love means giving others the freedom to be who they are and to allow them their own opportunities to chase their dreams. Now, it is her chance to learn that she is strong enough to weather the emotions and emptiness of missing someone. Through that emptiness, she will realize that her worth is not defined by who she is in relation to another but in who she is on her own.
So many times in my life, I have had to trust that a decision I made was the best one for me. We can’t always know where a decision will take us; there are far too many bends in the road for us to see around the curve. We can be sure, though, that each time the roads diverge and we choose the path that may be less defined and perhaps a bit more intimidating, we will come out on the other side “taller than the trees” that we encountered along the way.