How many roads must a man walk down, before you call him a man? – Bob Dylan
There’s a trailhead to Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks that starts on an old forest road. It’s probably left over from the days of logging. I haven’t been on this trail in probably 20 or more years. It might be closer to 30. And yet, for some reason I can picture it in my mind almost perfectly. Or at least I think I can. I mean without going back, how can I be sure I accurately remember it? But the reality in my mind is that I recall it perfectly.
I also remember key points along the trail. Sometimes I will wander down this road in my memory and remember the joys of this particular hike. I should do it again someday.
There are many physical roads like that that I travel down in my mind and hope to go back to again someday.
But, at night, as I lay in bed, there are some roads in my mind I find I just can’t travel down anymore. Or at least not now, perhaps in the future. Last night as I was drifting off, I started to remember my father’s property in the years soon after he bought it. It had a number of outbuildings that had been built over the years. I’m still not sure what they were used for, since it was a never a working farm or anything like that, and even so they weren’t the sort of buildings one would use for such a purpose. I do recall one had some old nudes pasted on the wall. I remember having grandiose plans for turning one into sort of a clubhouse for me and my friends, but for various reasons… life happened and that didn’t.
Travelling down this particular road started to bring up other memories of my father, who would have been 72 this year. And I stare down these lanes of memory and have to stop myself. Some I know I can explore and laugh and smile as I travel down the fond memories, others… well I have built gates across them. The memories are too close and too raw and I fear if I travel down them any distance I’ll get lost in those memories and the pain will be too much. So, I look over the gate and say, “not now…”
Gradually I’ve found some of those gates I can open, but not all.
The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say. – JRR Tolkien
My father introduced me to both the poet and author I quote here, but he was more fond of one, and I the other. I’ll leave it to the reader to guess or know which is which.
So, I don’t know how many roads I have to travel down, or how many I can. But they’re there, beckoning.