I am back there now, at the first reading of this poem. Something clicked. It was akin to love at first sight, like the moment I met my wife. I was pulled towards it and it spoke to me. It said that I should always be myself and, as being myself was not being anybody else, I should shun the ways of others. EGOCENTRIC NUT!
So I read and digested Frost’s words and put them into action for the rest of my life. Even now, I cannot read them without wanting to walk, or run, through the woods, find an overgrown trail and follow it rather than choosing the designated footpath. Oh, what a quintessential American frontiersman I would have been. Unfortunately, the American Frontier has been officially close since 1896. Nevertheless, there are other frontiers and they seem to constantly want to find me.
So, my latest frontier is Mallorca. No matter how much I try, I cannot convince myself that Mallorca is an undiscovered country. In the course of a year, just less than ten-million tourists visit the island. It is a European ‘bolt-hole’, a place to kick-back and relax, stop and enjoy. It can provide the most beautiful of landscapes, the richest of the rich, the quiet and serene; or just a place to get drunk and brown for two-weeks. For me, it was what I hoped to be the final leg of my pilgrimage back to normality. Again, there’s the rub. For somebody who lives by The Road Not Taken, normality is not what I want nor need. So, why was I there?
Because it was there.
My life has followed this pattern for as long as I can remember. There is something freewheeling about my approach to it that is both bothersome and engrossing. Tiredness ought to have settled upon me by now and I should be at that stage when I put my feet up, relax and just accept the onset of evening. I am going all Robert Frost again with my backwoods approach to the business of living; the three most important things he taught me about life were:
So, Robert Frost, thank you!
In reality, I don’t need much coaxing.
“You, we, have a big decision to make,” Sophie told me this morning.
We had both been awake for quite some time, me in Mallorca and she in Beverley. Both of us had been thinking about the possibility of the move out here on a semi-permanent basis and both of us had had to consider the Brexit ramifications. Again, the absolute uncertainty of the world pervades our own.
“I can’t make this decision for us,” I told her with some honesty. “It is not my place. I am here just as a pathfinder.” Backwoodsman once again.
She agreed with me and then gave me a list of things that I had to find out, for certain.
In truth, the certainty of anything is temporary. Time flies, it waits for no man, it is a healer and a destroyer. Time could be on my side or it could be playing for the other team. After a lifetime of treating life as a tapas bar, I find my choices now limited to a decision to stay or go. If, and for a two-letter word it is massive, if I stay there will be changes and I know that my wife is not good with changes. If could mean that we are thrown into the abyss of uncertainty again and if could be the undoing of everything we have worked for, including our marriage. If we move here, there will be a household of ifs, each demanding our attention. If is a cliff edge that presents us with a possible panorama of possibilities and potential anxieties; we could move to the edge and take to flight or we could plummet.
This is where my father comes in again. For my eighteenth-birthday he brought me a framed copy of Kipling’s famous poem, If.
If you can dream and not make dream your master,
I f you can think, and not make thoughts your aim
Yes, I get it. I was supposed to dream but not to become a dreamer. This, I failed in. I was expected to think and not make thoughts my goal in life. I failed this too. Sorry, Dad, but by your reckoning I never have become a man. The conditional would never allow me to graduate from teenager to manhood. I dream and I think, therefore I am (a two-penny tosspot). And yet, IF stands in my way. IF, IF, IF. All a bloody bit IFFY is you ask me, but you won’t because the pun is too bad or you’ll never get to read this bloody whatever it is.
IF you and your friends do read this, then I’ll be a MAN.
From To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I love an Atticus quote. But his one must have been overlooked because I too often gave in and walked away.
Being an individual in a culture that prizes the group over all else is difficult. There have been times when I thought it to be impossible. Even so, I pulled away from the general gravity and tried to free-step into a space where few had gone before. A little Captain Tiberius Kirk, eh? But it is true. It seems that all of my basic philosophy has been completed by mainstream writers. Surely, that does not make me an individual. What it makes me is a ‘sucker’ or a dreamer. Perhaps that is it, I am a dreamer and always have been. I have also built.
I think that I am a ‘creative’. That means something to me because it tells me that I do belong, but I belong to a small tribe of strange individuals who rarely meet. The thing with being a ‘creative’ is that you do create, but you follow a very different path to that taken by others.
Creativity is very messy.
According to one prominent theory, the creative process involves four stages: preparation, incubation, illumination, and verification. This is all well and good in theory. In reality, the creative process often feels like this:
The Messy Minds of Creative People
By Scott Barry Kaufman
This is a little like mine but there are some subtle differences. When I was young, loved the challenge of creating something new. Unfortunately, I spent most of my time thinking about it and then forgot to apply myself properly to the finished product. My processes went something like this:
Somehow, knowing that I was who I was, right from the off, has made my decisions for me. I am a fish that finds it impossible to swim backwards. I didn’t chose the road-less traveled-by, it chose me.
I knew I was licked before I started, but I did it anyway.