“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference”
– Excerpt from ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost
For the past three years, it has become a tradition for me to hang out on Father’s Day with friends whose fathers have passed away. My own father is alive and well but lives on the other side of the world, so I figured those of us who are unable to spend time with our fathers should spend time with each other instead.
In previous years I’ve done this more for them than for me because I know I would want to be kept distracted on Father’s Day if it were my father up in heaven. This year, I needed the distraction myself. As it turns out, it was also my friend’s birthday, the one who recently passed away. He would have been 37…thirty freaking seven! It still blows my mind that he’s gone. But I can’t be in denial about it anymore. I went to his funeral, paid my respects, said my goodbye…Ever since the funeral, I can’t get the image of his body in the casket out of my head in each quiet moment that I have. I used to love the quiet moments. Cherished them even. Scheduled them in my damn calendar so I can recharge. Preached about the importance of alone time and actively practiced what I preached, but now I can’t be by myself for five minutes without that image appearing in my mind…
I know I’ll get there eventually after I let myself go through the grief process, but in the meantime, it hurts every time. I feel a physical heaviness in my chest and a burning in my throat. I’m just so sad and the tears are never far. It’s a process, I know. I’m feeling better day by day, I know. You know what else I know? It sucks and it will always suck, no matter how much better I get at processing grief. I’m going to have to go through this again, and again, and again, and it will hurt just as much each time. I can only hope that I continue to be surrounded with people who care about me and who listen to me with compassion when I talk about it. People who ask me how I’m doing, give me space when I need it, and aren’t afraid to have the hard, emotional conversations with me. You know what else I know? I truly am blessed.
I don’t know why we are so surprised when death happens. It’s the only certainty we have in life. We all die eventually. And yet our reactions are usually to be in denial about it. “Wait, how?” “But, why?” It makes no sense. It makes me wonder if I have to change my own view of death so I can process grief better. It’s certainly something for me to think about once I’m in the right emotional and mental state.
In any case, this was and still is my current line of thinking every time I’m alone, so like I said, this year I also needed the distraction on Father’s Day.
Fortunately for us the weather has finally been cooperating lately and it was a gorgeous day to be outside! We decided to go hiking to a place neither of us had been to before, a place called Bear Swamp State Forest. The plan was to go hiking for 2 or 3 hours and then have dinner at a restaurant in Skaneateles. It was a simple plan, I printed out a map this time, how could it be anything but a straight forward, fun, distracting father’s day?
Ok, first of all, the map lied. There is no parking lot on Harnett Rd. Second, Google led us astray and we ended up inadvertently going off-roading in my beautiful not-meant-for-unpaved-road Silvie (yes, I named my car)!
In any case, we eventually found the other parking lot and made our merry way through the clearly marked “Y” trails. We followed Y1 to Y7 to Y8 to Y9 and when we got to the juncture where it met up with Y5 and Y6, we decided to go the Y5 route because we weren’t tired yet. The thought was to follow my handy-dandy map and loop through the “B” trails and eventually back to the “Y” trails where I parked my car. Then we could go to Skaneateles, have dinner, and head home as planned.
Here’s what happened instead: We thought we were on the “B” trails because we noticed there was blue paint on the trees, so perhaps “B” stood for blue. After all, the “Y” trails were marked with yellow tags. So there we were, chatting, walking along the trail and as we got deeper and deeper into the woods, we noticed the trail got less and less maintained looking. Then we noticed a fallen tree blocking the less maintained looking trail. We didn’t think anything of it because after all, trees do fall sometimes, but after the third one I commented on it.
“Do you think they put the trees on the path, blocking it like this, on purpose?”
My friend looks over at the base of the tree and goes, “Nah. It looks like it fell naturally.”
In hindsight, the likelihood of three trees naturally falling directly on the path is highly unlikely.
Nature: 1, Our collective common sense: 0
We continue on our ignorant, merry way until the trail is looking even less maintained than before.
“Do you think this is a path?” my friend asked me.
I compare the length of the grass and weeds on the “path” we were on versus the surrounding area and conclude that it looks slightly shorter.
“Sure, it looks kinda like a path,” I said.
Nature: 2, Our collective common sense: 0
So we go on like this for a while as the “path” becomes less and less visible (truthfully, it probably never was visible) until suddenly…we are in the middle of the woods and no longer on a discernible trail. We couldn’t go back, because there was no trail to follow, and we couldn’t go down because we were already at the edge of state property, so the only way was up. Way the f*ck up.
There seemed to be a ridge at the very top, but it was a steep incline and pretty far away so before embarking on our journey, we decided to check if we could figure out where we were on GPS. I did not take a picture of our location on the map at the time, but it basically looked like this:
We couldn’t tell which direction we were facing because the signal wasn’t great and we couldn’t do the trick of “which direction is the sun?” being that we were in the middle of the woods, surrounded by tall trees and all, so we confirmed that indeed, all the way up was our only option.
“Hey, what would you do if we got all the way up to the ridge and it doesn’t lead us back to the trail?” I asked my friend.
“I would cry. Then I would sit down and eat my banana. And then come up with a new plan,” she responded.
I probably would’ve done the same, except with the fancy pureed snack that I brought that was essentially baby food marketed to health-conscious, fitness freak idiots like me.
After about an hour of hiking up a steep incline, literally crawling on our hands at times and just aiming from one tree to the next, we finally made it. All 98 flights, according to my friend’s FitBit. For the non-FitBit owners like myself, each flight is 10 ft. We were none the worse for wear other than a few bug bites and scratches, so yeah…
The rest of the hike was uneventful and fortunately the way out didn’t require any off-roading, unintentional or otherwise. We found the turn we should have made to avoid the unintentional off-roading so at least next time we know where to go. We did end up going to Skaneateles for dinner, albeit a few hours later than intended. Nevertheless, mission accomplished, we were both distracted from the forever absence of loved ones in our lives. Perhaps, we could have found a less scary way to distract ourselves but hey, now we both can say we’ve had an adventure and this father’s day memory will forever be remembered.
Two roads diverged in a wood. Check.
I took the one less traveled by. Double check.
And that has made all the difference. Err…check?