Emily Franko's The Winding Road evoked memories for me that had faded, for some reason, as the years of my life passed in twists and turns, fits and starts, fumbles and foibles, into the belief that to be cautious is to be living a proper life.
You see, growing up in Western Colorado, in a family that loved the outdoors, afforded me the opportunity to wander, unconcerned, over hills and valleys and along roads that had no real destination. As a young girl, I roamed woodsy paths that followed crystal clear streams, with hidden caves and mysterious little holes at the bases of scrubby trees.
I was never afraid to leave the path, knowing that I could always find my way back. The lure of anticipation over what new experiences I might discover overpowered any fear I may have had. Imagining turned to fantasy as thoughts of communing with the wildlife created a desire to sit in silence, and wait for the animals to come.
Sometimes, I would even stay on the path, walking along the road for long stretches of time, reaching a high point in the far distance my only goal. I never worried that I wouldn't reach my destination, even when the climb became almost too difficult a challenge. What would be the point of coming this far, I would ask myself, if you can't go back and tell everyone you made it? It was worth risking a fall, or getting lost for a while, to stand at the end of the road and look down on it all.
But with maturity comes responsibility. I learned by way of hurt and humiliation, failure and fault, that the risks we take as adults not only affect us, but those around us too. So we try to make different choices - ones that are assured to provide security, on a well traveled road, with a proven destination. When faced with difficult situations - you know, the ones that affect our children, our parents, our mates - we have to make decisions that take others into consideration.
So instead of following the lure of the unknown, that fluttering in the belly that signals excitement ahead, I learned to be cautious. When faced with a difficult challenge, I would just back up and find another way around. A way that offered no surprises, no hardship, and often times, no real reward.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the Dells just outside Prescott Arizona. What a magnificent and inspiring place! While all my friends were lunching at a picnic table near the water, I decided to explore. I started off on a well worn path and within a minute, began to worry that I might get lost. It was a ridiculous notion really, and I told myself that if I lost my way, all I had to do was climb to higher ground, where I could look out over the water and find my way back.
And just for the hell of it, that's what I did. I left the path and climbed, slipping and sliding over smooth rock formations, until I reached the highest point I could find.
Spread out before me was the entire world - the earth, the sky, the water, and brilliant rays of the sun pouring down through the dark clouds.
And directly below me, so close I could hear their conversation, were the friends I had come with, right where I'd left them. I hadn't lost my way at all; I'd just taken the scenic route.
That day opened a new perspective for me, one in which I feel free to explore all the many paths that lie ahead. But, I wonder, over all those many years of being solid, dependable, stable, smart, what kind of example did I set for my children?
Did I give them enough freedom to delve into the unknown? Did I allow them the chance to feel unsure about the choices they were about to make so they could question all the other endless possibilities?
I think not. But somehow, despite all the caution and the overprotective devices I used to keep my children from making their own mistakes, they grew to be free spirited young women who live their lives without fear of taking a wrong turn.
I could have learned from their example long ago but, true to form, I had to take the long way around in order to discover my own true sense of freedom.
Here's to hoping you hold on to yours,