Miles To Go Before I Sleep

I have much to do, my friends. And, while it may seem frivolous to take a walk in the woods when there is so much to do – I need it to clear my head. The lonesome sound of the quiet woods, the wind gently blowing the treetops, the leaves and acorns fluttering and plopping onto to their new home on the yellow and orange carpeted forest floor below – helps to calm me. I can pretend, if only for a moment that there are no cell phones, TVs, computers, bills, clutter, problems, or stresses – just me and the hush.

I long for peace, rest, and calm. I wonder how many of us are longing for the same but can’t imagine a place where that exists. The constant demands on our time and cacophonous interruptions during our day tax our minds, bodies, and souls to the uttermost.  The cost is too great.

I read a study not too long ago about memory. The report explained how when we take photographs of or film events, we are less able to remember them in detail or at all. Little by little, even our memories are being automated away. As a younger person, I had pages of phone numbers memorized – now, only family members and a few friends who’ve had the same number since the time of memorization. My phone holds all those numbers now. My youngest daughter told me a few weeks ago that she was sad because she didn’t remember much about her childhood and so, at my behest, she spent hours scrolling through photos on the computer. Automated photo albums. I began to miss holding the bulky binders full of pictures I used to scour through as a child.

It is possible these days to never have to interact with a human at all. If I need an answer about something, I can google it. If I need a book, I can search for it online and never have to step foot in a library. If I need help, a bot will dutifully answer my questions and don’t get me started on trying to actually speak to a real person on the phone – customer service has been automated away too.

At the grocery store, I can glide past people and check myself out in the self-service lane. I fill my own tank with gas. I don’t actually have to go to the store at all – everything I need can be delivered right to my doorstep and left on the porch without ever having to interact with a single soul. Now, I even get robocalls with very human-sounding AI on the other end asking me questions. I started asking them if they are human – “their” answer is always a dial tone.

The other day I was working on my book (revision stages) and there was a word I had written in a sentence that I wasn’t 100% sure about. I couldn’t decide if it should be preceded by the word get, as was written, or take – so I looked it up at the Merriam Webster site. Much to my chagrin, instead of a definition, part of speech, and example of usage in a sentence, a message popped up on the screen. 

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As I scrolled down it asked me to please write where I had heard the word and what made me want to look it up, followed by the fact that it was below the 20% of words searched. All of this… but no definition. I was being thwarted by some algorithm. Never had a physical dictionary slammed its pages shut on me – this wasn’t some Harry Potter type world! But, here I was, confronting the fact that even my language was being automated away.

Language is life.

Without language, there are no thoughts.

Without language is no way to articulate the nuanced realities of life. Everything is not “good”, “bad”, or “nice!”

I think I need to clear my head.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
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.
Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” from The Poetry of Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1923, © 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, Inc., renewed 1951, by Robert Frost. Reprinted with the permission of Henry Holt and Company, LLC.

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