Last week I went for a walk in the woods behind our house. It had snowed most of the day before but now people were out walking their dogs, sledding down the hill, enjoying the cold air and the opportunity to be outdoors. Much of the trail had already been traveled by the neighbors, deep ruts where sets of footprints overlapped others. I stepped aside from the path in order to walk through the undisturbed snow. After some time I turned around and set back home and was startled to see rather large shoe prints in the snow where I had expected there would be none. Strange. And then it occurred to me that what I was seeing were the familiar waffle patterns made by my own shoes. I was retreading the familiar and seeing it from a new perspective.
Long ago, a very long time ago, I thought I had my future planned out. Through junior high, high school, and on into college I had taken art classes in preparation for a career in “Art.” Still life drawing, life drawing, color wheels and painting, printmaking and sculpture were all classes I loved and excelled in. My fabric sculpture class? Not so much, I dropped out after a week.
Art history classes each semester, trips to local and regional art museums, and then membership in a co-op art gallery where I was privileged to exhibit my drawings and small watercolors along with other members of the gallery on a monthly basis all helped to confirm my strong desire to make a living in the art world.
Three years after graduating with a degree in fine arts (painting) I moved to San Diego and took what I thought would be a temporary job in a silkscreen production company. And for the next 43 years I created…no art. A variety of jobs ensued, a lifelong career in graphic production, trade show and museum exhibits. But no art.
Retired now, I am slowly returning to my first-avowed vocation. I’ve been greatly encouraged lately by the artwork of a young friend, a businessman actually who really shouldn’t have time to pursue his art, but does. Managing to find time to paint, raise a family, and lead a business, Tyler’s efforts have inspired me to take up again what I thought I had lost years ago. View some of his art online here https://www.tylergeel.com/
Last week while searching online for friends from “the good old days,” I came across a former roommate from college. John had taken a turn in his career too, after college. While I had assumed he would end up in politics or perhaps with a law degree, he eventually ended up as an artist and gallery owner. You can see his work here https://studiojomac.com/
I mention this because at one point in time we each worked for the same company, went to the same university; though at that time we pursued vastly different career goals, yet only one of us ended up with the life I thought I had wanted. Looking back now with the benefit of age, I wonder—was it many small decisions that resulted in such different outcomes? Or was there one defining moment, a fork in the road as it were, and here we are today? Can we retrace our steps, perhaps even find our way back and walk for awhile down the untrod path? Proverbs 16:9 says “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.”
Robert Frost has a lovely poem along these lines.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.