I took a new path in the woods the other day. It ran at right-angles to the main track, overgrown with brambles and not well-trodden. It was more than a deer path but hardly a highway. I was on my normal circuit but it felt like the right day to break the routine.
The brambles grabbed at my ankles as I picked my way through them. The path ran steeply down a slippery muddy slope between trees. I clung gratefully onto their branches on the slithery route down.
Next obstacle: a stream, running at full height after weeks of rain. There was no crossing point which didn’t look likely to end in wet feet. A green mossy log lay enticingly along the bank at the narrowest point, but this turned out to be a slippery customer. After some wandering up and down, I chose a wider point, and jumped. Dry feet. Good.
On the far side, the way was fainter, but I could just make out a path running thorough the undergrowth up another steep bank. The phrase “safer than a known way”, from Minnie Louise Haskins’ 1908 poem, came to mind.
I was now in unfamiliar territory deep in the woods, in an area I’d only ever visited on skis during last winter’s snow. The faint path meant someone, sometime had come this way, but not very often and certainly not in recent days.
Suddenly the steep slope levelled out and the path emerged onto a broad, straight woodland avenue. A surprising find, and a beautiful one. Even in winter it had the air of autumn: the carpet was of leaves not mud, and there was still an orangey hue to the brown tones. The new path less travelled had led to a beautiful new place.
It was a walk that helped clarify a decision, like an interactive parable. It was time to take a new path in life too.
This morning I posted a letter that will change the course of my life. I’ve accepted voluntary redundancy with what could best be described as mixed emotions.
I have no idea where the path will lead, but I’ll take it anyway. Maybe it’ll plunge straight down a slippery slope, with obstacles that are hard to cross. Maybe it’ll lead on to a wide avenue. Either way, the memory of that woodland walk will stay with me and I’ll try to keep the same line of poetry ringing in my ears: “Safer than a known way”.
And of course, I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.