I was walking down a path on an otherwise unremarkable day, when I came to a bend which led me to a fork in the road.
I stopped. I hesitated. I contemplated.
Knowing fully well which pathway I should choose…
To my left – a familiar, well-worn path, predictable, more of the same on which I had already tread, a ho-hum kind of travel, familiar and reliable yet unexciting and if more of the same – tedious.
To my right – a path that drew my attention by its intoxicating scent of blossoms. Its pathway surrounded on both sides by long rows of weeping willow trees with such thick branches they formed an arch as far as the eye could see; and oh how they swaying in the wind as if to entice me.
“Come, girl… Come down our way.”
I hesitated again. Should I stay on familiar, unchanging ground or dare I step upon this beautiful path of unfamiliarity?
Tucked deep within the bows of one of the Weeping Willows, hung a small, wooden white painted sign, whose letters had been painstakingly engraved with a wood burning tool; carefully created with the precision and care which only a feminine hand would have taken the tedious time to do. It read, “Private Way.”
The sign was clearly meant to dissuade, yet caused within me the opposite effect.
“You have no business going down that other road. Don’t do it.” A quiet stern little voice whispered in my head. “Don’t do it. Stay on the pathway of familiarity. It is your safest bet.”
“What can the harm be?” I scoffed, stamping my foot. “I deserve to walk down this pathway. How splendid it is and I can’t help but wonder where it leads? Perhaps it is even a short cut? I’m sure it will be fine. An adventure, what harm will be done?”
With that my decision was made. I took a bold if not rebellious step onto the path.
Each step lovelier than the next, my heart felt full. My well-worn shoes did the pathway a dishonor. Leaving me no other choice… Feeling somewhat naughty, glancing quickly around me, I knelt down and removed my dusty shoes and socks and lowered my bare toes down into the springy velvety softness of green grass which cupped around my feet lovingly.
“Ohhhh…” I sighed. What harm would a moment of rest do? I lay back looking up a the blueness of the partially seen sky between high treetop limbs. Allowing my palms to face down so my fingers could caress the softness of the dark earth beneath them. How heady and captivating were the fragrant flowers lining the way; turning only my head to admire the breathtaking view I wonder what lay beyond the horizon? Could there possibly be any sight more splendid than this? Rising back up, I felt light-footed and danced along the pathway, skipping in and out and around the long trunks of the trees giddy at the thought of more to come.
Mine! Mine! Mine! Mine! My pathway! Made in love for ME, meant for ME! For my feet alone. Mine to cherish! Mine to love. Mine to adore! Mine to walk!
So enchanted and self-involved was I that I did not see along one side, a woman’s straw hat flung and forgotten, off in the grass – or the initials of a couple, encircled in a heart engraved upon the trunks of one of the trees.
On I went, following this oh so splendid path. The longer I trod upon it the more I wanted to continue. Before long, the sun began to set, and I wrapped my arms around my chest beginning to feel cold. Cold and very much alone. Rubbing my arms, I hesitated for the first time. Looking far ahead, I could see way in the distance a stone cottage, with a warm yellow light shinning from its windows. How lovely, I thought as it came closer and closer into view.
To my surprise a very robust, unattractive and heavy set woman flew out of the house. Indeed, if not for her voice, I would have thought she was a he.
“What are you doing on our pathway? Did you not see the sign?” She said furiously. Eyeballing me with contempt her hands furled tight in fists. An angry tick twitching within her right cheek.
“You have defiled it! You had NO business continuing on property that is not yours.” The more she looked at me, the angrier she got. “What business have you here?”
I glanced behind me at the way I had come. Thought about the day I had experienced, looked back at the pathway I had come to love, and realized, no answer I gave her would suffice.
“I have none,” I admitted honestly. “I just happened upon the way, and noticed this lovely, lovely path…without giving it much thought – I took it.”
She looked incredulous for a moment. Spittle forming on the outside corners of her lips. “Lovely way?” She said. “Lovely way???” She looked behind me at the path as though she was trying to see what I saw. “This way has not been lovely in many a year! It has been a hard pathway. A relentless pathway, and exhausting pathway. I have had to beat weeds down. What once was lush and vibrant and full has become hard and unforgiving and unyielding. I have tried to grow many a vegetable upon this soil – yet it has withered and died. It has become cold and hard and unyielding…Yet this pathway has been mine since I was 18. I know every grain of its soil. For 38 years it has been mine. I know its every mood. It is MINE not yours and I will not allow you to come prancing down the way as if you owned it. You do not, no matter what you may think.” ”
Listening to her I stood astonished, my mouth gaping. How could she not see what I saw? The land she described was not that of which I stood upon. It was lush and green and vibrant and seductive. Calling my name like a lover – tempting me to become one with it over and over again.
She stood defiantly facing me. Braced for war. A fight I could not win. I had only known this pathway for a short while – she had known it for years. I did not see what she saw – and I actually felt sorry for her because somewhere along the way, she lost the ability to see the beauty in the path. Her perspective had changed. Her appreciation for it had grown cold. I did not see what she saw before her and yet she was right. It was not my pathway. It did not belong to me. It belonged to her. There was nothing I could say. I hated her at that moment. Hated her because she had everything I wanted and I wanted to stay there. Make her be gone! It was my pathway! Created for ME in love. Mine to walk, mine to enjoy, mine to cherish, mine to love! – Yet it wasn’t. The pathway belonged to her. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay! Yet, it wasn’t mine.
Reaching into her pocket she pulled out a paper. “You see?” She said shoving her big man size hand under my nose for me to see it. “Proof! Proof that this is MY pathway. Not yours. So be gone!”
I had no words. For what could I say? She smiled an ugly smile, turned around and headed back through the door of which she came. I heard the door slam behind her.
Reaching down to caress the mossy ground, I was at a loss for words. It seemed like it should be mine. It felt like it should be mine. Yet proof stood within the walls of that house that it was not. The sorrow I felt was immense. It filled my soul. Turning around I didn’t know which way to go. Should I go back the way I came? Yet I could not. Should I go forward? How? I only knew that I could not remain in front of that house for fear she would c
ome out again. How could she not see the beauty I saw? The love I felt? It was all around me. How could I be without it? Yet as long as she remained, she was proof that it was not mine. This most beautiful and gifted pathway. How could years be spent upon it not relishing in the lusciousness of it? When had her eyes dulled? Or perhaps she had never seen it for what it was. How very sad…
Sighing, I dusted off my hands and continued forward finally understanding the weeping willows lining the way.