The Road Not Taken – Robert Frost
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.
I have always loved this poem by Robert Frost. Even in American Literature Class in high school it was this poem that stood out the moment we read through it and has stayed with me for life. It is a complex poem, covering different angles of choices in our lives. I think writer David Orr said it best when he explains
“The poem both is and isn’t about individualism, and it both is and isn’t about rationalization. It isn’t a wolf in sheep’s clothing so much as a wolf that is somehow also a sheep, or a sheep that is also a wolf. It is a poem about the necessity of choosing that somehow, like its author, never makes a choice itself—that instead repeatedly returns us to the same enigmatic, leaf-shadowed crossroads.”
It brings me comfort to understand that many others including the esteemed Robert Frost, feel this way about decisions they have made in their lives. This week I had the amazing experience of walking our newly cleared land that will be our vineyard and future home. The land is exactly as I pictured it with a gentle slope running down towards the southwest and now that the leaves have fallen, a peek of the lake that is integral to growing grapes in this area. It reminds me of the time, almost a decade ago now, that I lived here and had to make the decision to leave. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life at the time. The decision to come back was equally hard but for different reasons. I think it is natural to mentally relive decisions and try to imagine what would have happened if one had taken the other road. For myself, I know if I had stayed in the Finger Lakes and not moved to California, I would not have been able to walk the land we have now. I would not know what I know now. Those years in California were essential to my growth as a winemaker and I don’t feel that I could have offered as much to the region now if I had stayed here.
I know if I had stayed in the Finger Lakes and not moved to California, I would not have been able to walk the land we have now. I would not know what I know now.
However, it is natural to imagine what would have been particularly when faced with the reality of something that you have only dared dream of for close to 15 years. Nearly every time I have ever walked through a vineyard over the 13 years I have been making wine, I have dreamt of the day when I would be able to walk through my own. Walking the field this week and thinking of what clones and rootstocks we should use, what our spacing should be is almost surreal. It is the point in your life where dream and reality blur and I did need to pinch myself. To remind me that I was not going to wake up, still in California, but that we are really here and this is really our land. The light was amazing with the sun setting in the west and blazing on the Trestle surrounded by the autumn colors of russet, auburn, and gold.
One of the first things that was suggested to me earlier this year was that I should RoundUp (R) the entire field to make it easier to work the land next year. I recoiled from the thought of that radical approach. I realize my dream of a bio-dynamic vineyard in the middle of the Finger Lakes is probably well beyond any realistic possibility however I remain determined to use as little chemical intervention as possible without sacrificing the health of our future vines. Looking over the beautiful wildflowers and weeds I am happy that we made this decision. Even though some plants have been removed, it has been largely brush and small trees. The larger trees we have left in an attempt to keep the site as natural as possible to the original layout. A medium sized black walnut marks the western most end of the plantable area and a large white cedar stands midway up the Northern boundary. Both of these were kept since they were the largest trees that had grown up over the 40 plus years the field had not been farmed. The land is perfect for my husband and I. Brian has his forest complete with a creek and a stand of large Norway Spruces, Sugar Maples, and Walnuts that he is so fond of in this area and I have my field now for grapes. It is the perfect retreat for both of us. I can’t wait to see what the winter brings to see the full cycle of the year on the land.