“But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep “ -Robert Frost
This is an addition to the Letters to Home Challenge. It’s personal, so I’ll keep who it’s written to hidden for now, but I think it’s pretty obvious.
There was a riddle I used to tell because I thought it was the easiest but hardest one yet. I cherished it like it was a firefly I had caught. I held it close to my chest, clasped it in my hands, and only revealed it to those who I thought worth it. I wasn’t selfish of it, but I was proud. I was so proud of something that wasn’t even mine.
“What’s the furthest you can go into the woods?”
I was entitled, then. And I still am. You made sure that I wasn’t spoiled–you keep a good weight of consequence and reward, a solid balance that served as my mooring place while the world rose up around me. As school became difficult. As levels of sports increased. As I began realizing this home is not the only home I’ll know. You kept my feet on the ground.
I would tell the riddle to you, probably a hundred times by now, and you’d roll your eyes or you’d humor me, but almost never did you say the answer yourself. You bated me for a moment before asking. “What?” And I’d say excitedly.
Now, I’m halfway in life, and it’s the furthest I’ve ever been. I’m in this grey stage between childhood and adulthood. I have property in my name. I have money in my accounts. But you’re my ultimate support that I can’t live without.
I’m halfway in the woods and that’s the furthest I could go.
There’s always thoughts in my head of circling. Of walking to the east or west; to lose sight of my north star so that I lose track of the distance; so that I’m no longer at the furthest point, but at some other with less gravity.
I also want to run headlong towards the other end–bone tired as I am, I’m tired of this trekking. I’m tired of not knowing where the end lays and being caught up in this seemingly infinite woods. I see my footprints on the snow behind me, weaving and stretching for miles, and I’m tired of seeing them.
I also want to fly.
But I can’t, can I? I could climb the tallest spruce in this forest. I could walk out on the highest sturdy limb that sways hundreds of feet above the forest floor. I could stand among the sparrows and starlings–then I could jump. But I wouldn’t fly, would I? Will alone can never hold me up. I’ll just be another Icarus with his melted wings, trying to fly too close to the Sun.
You keep me grounded and I know I sometimes get short with you. I sometimes hate how far your voice seems now that I’m halfway and you’re back home and I can’t turn around. I sometimes feel like Orpheus with my back to my old life, walking on and on and unable to turn around in fear I’ll lose everything. And you call my name and it breaks me, but resolves each step all the same.
So I’m halfway in the forest and it’s the furthest I could go.
And I just have to keep going.
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.