Remembering: Promises to keep

Muir Woods, Marin County, CA 2003

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
 But I have promises to keep,

 And miles to go before I sleep…”  — Robert Frost

It’s tempting to be drawn into our own ruminations. Trouble can be an isolating experience, and solitude is a seductive force, both healing and dangerous. If we withdraw too long or too often from others, we neglect our responsibility to ourselves as well as to them. Most of us really do have promises to keep and miles to go, no matter how exhausted or discouraged we become.

How can we find the balance between contemplative, wholesome solitude and the daily activities that maintain the connections to others that are so vital to our existence? How can we discern whether a suffering person needs our company, our words or our silence? What are some ways we can be open to the help that others can provide?

Update for 11-13-13, one year later:

Well, I see that I finally started writing some comments, though I’m still briefer and more restrained here than I became as I went along…maybe I should have kept things shorter!  Also, I note that the past year has answered my closing questions for me, at least in some ways.  Blogs, whether reading or writing them, can often involve a nearly perfect balance between solitude and connection.

We normally sit at our computers alone, or at least focused more on cyberspace than on our immediate surroundings, yet we are connecting with others through words and photos.  In starting this blog, I was unaware I was opening the door to help, hope and friendship from so many I didn’t know, and facilitating re-connections with friends I’ve known and loved for years. 

Compared to the quicker, more party-like climate on Facebook, blogs offer space for contemplative writing and discussion that goes beyond clever one-liners. In reading the blogs of others, I find much food for thought, identification with ideas and emotions I had held but never expressed myself, and sometimes just happy, light-hearted fun.  Not to mention craft ideas, handy hints, humor and many heartwarming or breathtakingly beautiful photos and artwork.

After the week of daily re-blogging my first posts ends on Saturday, I hope to be introducing you to some blog posts and other web offerings I’ve enjoyed, on the same eclectic range of topics as I’ve covered for the past year.  Do let me know what you’d like to see more of (or less of).  There is something for everyone in cyberspace, and I hope to keep using it as a means of defeating despair.  I hope you’ll continue to join us here to laugh, cry, talk and survive!
To see the original post with comments from one year ago today, look here.

16 Comments

  1. raynard

    Julia, funny thing about”all those years in Army for me”out in the sticks/boonies”.. Never did I stand around and sing’I wanna be a forest ranger, stand around commune with nature, I wanna like in a tree.. I digress. I get more “quiet time @ 4am with everyone( including my dogs is sleeping) A different insight and prospective when you”allow yourself to be open( like I might try sushi) is a process.. Presently , I’m reconnecting to the men in my family after”being like a book with missing and blank pages. Yes , I do believe the God allows you to go through and experience painful events, to test you, make you stronger, and then share that strength to bless and encourage others…Imagine if I’m afraid of getting old in my 50’s now. What about those already past my age? I sense fear in my wife’s family her elderly aunt and uncle as they know longer drive . They are both hermits and recluses and feel safe in their home. Didnt that Billionaire Howard Hughes with all the fame ,accomplishments and money he had, spent the last days of his life”like a hermit and recluse?( According to his “life story”). To me reading a obituary and attending a funeral is honoring the life.(if you show up at mine looking for”chicken & potato salad you will be sad and I hope there is a”deli” near by.. For all you do and continue to do, encouraging, serving and blessing others, ( thanks keep up the good work) Nuff said……….

    • Thank you Raynard, I myself am loving home more and more – sometimes I wonder whether I’m getting mildly agoraphobic? Probably not, because I love getting out when I do get out, but am so happy at home I just have little incentive to want to go anywhere else. Maybe this is how many of us feel as we get older. Perhaps it’s a sort of preview of our ultimate forever Home. Thanks for your kind words!

  2. As this blog progressed through 2013, animals became more a part of it
    (perhaps motivated, in part, by the loss of a half-dozen beloved pets). Remember that Frost’s words include, “my little horse must think it queer . . .”

    • Yes, although the complex rhyme schemes (of which Frost is an undisputed master) demand the more poetic word that rhymes, maybe the horse himself would be thinking “OK, just what is the deal here? Are we trying to commit suicide by freezing? If so, count me OUT!” I can almost hear the horse snorting!

  3. John M.

    I’m an introvert trapped in an extrovert’s mind, body and vocation. When left to my own devices, I prefer my own company. Ouch. I have a wife I love and four children that I adore but still, I find myself engaged in solitary activities. Reading. Walking. Hunting. By myself.

    Some time alone is healthy, but I know it’s too much when my aloneness changes from, as CS Lewis calls it, “experience of the Numinous”, a heart warming kind of awe, to what my wife calls “awfulizing”, that rare talent to turn something grand into something else. Those woods are lovely, but they’re dark and deep too. I dare not live there.

    • Wow, what a great comment! Love the last two sentences especially! I too have been puzzled by the introvert vs. extrovert question, but when I told my elder son that I wondered about it, he laughed aloud. He (or someone) explained to me the meaning of being an extrovert, which is not (as I had imagined) determined by whether one is talkative, sociable, quiet, etc. but rather, by the question: are you energized or exhausted by your contact with people? Then it came into focus. Unlike my husband and sons, all of whom find contact with lots of people exhausting, I definitely thrive on it. But my paradoxical tendency to get overstimulated works against me because I don’t know when to say when. Jeff has been my respite and salvation from that excessive extroversion; our life at home is very quiet and restful, and is increasingly all I really want. I think most writers walk that tightrope between introvert and extrovert. My favorite means of connecting with others is through reading and writing, which combines solitude with company. Some of my favorite people died long before I was born!

    • John M., I identify with what you are describing. Julia would be surprised at this, but My personality tested as I N T P on the Myers – Briggs test. Search this, and see if some of the characteristics describe you. I agree with Julia about your last two sentences – poignant, indeed!

      • Eric, I will have to read up on the INTP combo. I myself am classed as L-O-U-D. Another indicator: if you hang around with hunters, you are probably an introvert. If you hang around with politicians, you are either an extrovert, or after something bigger than any sort of game. Seriously, though, I am not surprised that you are an introvert. I can’t remember the other ones.

  4. MaryAnn

    Ah! Julia, Muir woods AND Robert Frost! My favorite poet since high school & a gorgeous place to spend time worshipping our Lord!

    • Thanks Mary Ann! I love Frost too, and really enjoyed visiting his New Hampshire home not too long ago. Be sure to check out “The Envelope please” since you are mentioned there!

  5. raynard

    Good Day to you Julia.I think I’m trapped in The Superman Bizarro World. Why I just got off work and here I am singing Mr Rogers songs. (Maybe the sweater is itching me lol hope all is well today and look forward to reading more of your blogs

    • Hey Raynard, those are some of my favorite songs! I love, love, love Mr. Rogers. Most of his songs are happy or at least interesting. There’s one sad little song called “You will not go” and I was singing that to myself for days after he died. The one I need to sing most often is “What do you do with the mad that you feel?” I am too old to have learned any of these things as a child, but I learned them when my sons were very young and have never forgotten them!

  6. I find as I mature, I’m starting to enjoy my own company much more. I worked for a communications company for 25 years and was constantly on the phone. I could easily talk to 50 people a day and found the pace exciting. The days flew by. Now I really dread being on the phone and could probably easily be a hermit in the winter.

    Friends will ask me, what do you do all day? My gosh, where do the days go? I’m never bored, never watching TV, always thinking of my next project or blog and look forward to waking every day and planning meals and playing with the cats. I feel so lucky.

    The perfect winter evening would be cooking a nice meal for the hubby and I, enjoying a nice glass of wine together. Reading a few pages of whatever I have on the go and visiting with you and others here on WP…..and then off to sleep.

    • Sounds lovely to me. During the years I was in airline reservations I would be talking all day (and I just loved my hands-free headset, which was not generally available in those days because they were SO expensive). I too enjoyed the constant contact immensely, but as you are, I am growing more and more averse to the telephone. If I didn’t need it for emergency or urgent purposes, I would be tempted to just disconnect it. I know what you mean about the time flying by and staying so busy. I think when one is home, there is far more to get excited about and involved in. That makes working from home extra-hard to do. Not to mention having the electric kettle nearby. I would hate to know how much time I spend brewing tea! But it’s just seconds at a time, and at least it gets me up out of the chair when I start to get glued to the screen.

  7. Oh PS, we went to Muir Woods in May and just loved it. It was so nice and cool down there and I made friends with a squirrel at lunch. Beautiful there!

    • Isn’t it amazing there? A self-contained world that feels a million miles away from the detritus of what we call “civilization.” Of course, it is the National Park Service who maintains this lovely spot of sanity, so government regulation isn’t without its benefits. It is so cool there, an especially refreshing treat in the hot summer months farther inland where we lived.

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