Rocky Mountain Moosings #2
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.
(Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening -Robert Frost)
An ever increasing amount of years ago, I memorized this poem as part of my coursework at Clinton Junior High School, as memorization of things is and was the way things were “learned.” Rote learning has an exceedingly small place in my world now as I would much rather know things, but that is a matter for another day. Yet, every word to this familiar poem has stayed with me all these years for two reasons—connection and nostalgia. Connection—I would close my eyes and recite this poem and imagine being on a gentle horse, with great glistening snowflakes floating down, and I would hear the silence that moment created. I could relate to the dichotomous pull of responsibility and obligation against the longing my heart had to just discover a natural splendor and remain there, perhaps forever. As for nostalgia—even in my youth, I had an imprint that things were always changing and that we somehow always remember things in the past as “simpler times.” I felt sadness in nostalgia though, as even in the beautiful times I knew that nothing lasts forever and that every moment is destined to die and only become a remembrance. These days, I think I understand nostalgia better and I feel pleasant sitting with it for a while—it’s an old friend that no longer walks the earth.
Why am I moosing about all of this? Well, I went for my first snowshoe trek of the year and the loveliness of the trees brought my thoughts to rest here for a moment. I set out to take in the wintery wonders of Monarch Lake. I was with a new friend, whom I found as pleasant as the woods themselves and equally as distinctive as one of the snowflakes dancing off the trees. She too felt the allure before us and heard the silence of the woods. There was a connection. I told her about this poem and I think she implicitly understood.
As we trekked on we talked a little, stopped often to admire that which was offered before us, and took time to revel in comfortable silence; to enjoy uninterrupted thoughts and to connect and reflect. We saw some scanty remnants of an old logging camp dwelling, and an oxidized steam donkey from the early 1900’s before the lake was even there. The poetry of the trees and the mountains lured me in, as they always do, and nostalgia crept in. I imagined a simpler life of living in a hand strewn one room log dwelling with magnificent views of the lake and mountains, and of course the path to the home through the lovely, dark, and deep forest. I quickly realized that this, as memories often are, was a simplified, romanticized ideal that wasn’t historically or even practically accurate. But I didn’t care; I decided to remain in my splendor and idealism for just a little while.
We continued to make our way…we encountered a few little squirrely critters, stalked some fresh tracks from a moose that we hoped to encounter, and were consistently led through the forest and around the lake by a set of faithful fox tracks. My friend shared a story that she was not sure was authenticated, but nonetheless interesting—she was told that before nearby Lake Granby (which is actually a reservoir) was created that there were people who lived there and raised foxes. When they had to leave their land they let all the foxes go and this is why we see so many foxes here—many with remarkable colors and features. As I write this a fox with a sunshine and rust colored coat ran close by my office window. A messenger of some sort for sure.
As the short journey in the Indian Peaks Wilderness was nearing its end, we stopped again to watch and listen to the Arapaho creek as it forged its way through ice and snow to empty into Monarch Lake. The heart of winter would be here soon and the creek would be buried beneath the snow and ice, all but forgotten until spring. I wished the water good tidings and checked the time…oh, I could stay here forever but of course responsibility and obligation would pull me back. Then I pause and sense that “Miles to go before I sleep” is not just one night in the lovely woods, but more likely it’s a metaphor for life itself. I smile from the inside out and know that I still have plenty of time to trek those miles. I resolve to be back another day, here or somewhere, to connect and reflect— a promise I intend to keep.