Swinging Birches

“So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be…”

I think I want to run away. Pure, blissful freedom…

I wrote these words one night earlier this month after a particularly stressful, exhausting day. I have a friend who is usually on the receiving end of these pointless, rambling emails that I will never take action on. Well, at least I think I’ll never take action on them. I’ll confess, I have this silly little dream of uprooting and starting over sometimes. For some reason, I have romanticized the idea of living and working on a ranch in New Mexico, surrounded by mountains and plains. (Yes, go ahead and laugh. If you know me at all, you are aware that I’ve watched Legends of the Fall a couple dozen times too many.) I have this other dream of living in Segovia, Spain…undoubtedly my most favorite place in the world.

“It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I’d like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over…”

I’ve reached the grand “old” age where a dreaded emotion called “regret” often presents itself. After you’ve put a few years behind you and have the experience of living in and supporting yourself in the world, you begin to see how the individual pieces of the puzzle of your life are coming together. It becomes easy to identify those particular pieces you wish had never fit. You gawk at the pieces you forced to fit (the ones that just sort of dangle there now haphazardly as though to say, “Yeah, you made me do it.”) As they start to add up, admittedly, a do-over would be nice.

“May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.”

Sometimes, I don’t know what I’m waiting for. I whine and gripe and say things that tend to convince people I have some semblance of a clue as to what I’m talking about. Half the time, it’s a lot of hot air and I really haven’t the slightest clue as to what I really want at all. And if I get what I say I want…then what? It’s when I become aware of this utter cluelessness, the idea of “running away” sounds appealing. If whatever I’m waiting for isn’t here…maybe it is somewhere out there…

“I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back…”

While I’ve been known to accomplish an irrational feat or two in my day, I’m incredibly aware that running away is a really, really stupid idea. My family is here. So are my friends (my amazing, ridiculously witty, funny, supportive friends). Leaving any of this behind would qualify as the most irrational thing I’ve ever done.

So, when I feel this way, I remind myself of all that is here and all that is yet to arrive. As Robert Frost so eloquently described in “Birches,” sometimes we are all looking for an escape. I think that, deep down, we all have our secret escape routes planned. Therein lies the beauty of the human experience. We are so different. And yet at the same time, we are all the same.

“One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.”

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