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 strike 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.

This post was first published eight years ago today, and then re-published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

12 Comments

  1. MaryAnn

    Love Robert Frost: fav poet! “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” tops the list.
    Love Muir Woods!
    I appreciate how you put together photos & poems or sayings. Keep feeding your “students”.
    We absorb your vast knowledge.

    • Thanks Mary Ann! That’s something else we have in common; Frost is my favorite poet, too, or at least one of my favorites. If I had to name just one, it probably would be Frost. “Stopping by woods” has an amazing rhyme scheme and meter. I am currently taking an online poetry workshop at Oxford University, and though it naturally focuses mainly on British poets, our Tutor does have a lot of respect for Frost, and cites his work frequently.

  2. Wanted to let you know your card came today. Thank you. Hope all is well in your corner of the world.

    • Hi M, so glad you got the card. All is “OK” in my world right now. Could be better, but of course, could always be worse. I enjoy seeing my lovely gift (the one you sent recently) each and every day. It cheers me each time I see it! ❤ Sending giant hugs.

      • I’ll try and write again soon. Yes, I’m grateful for how good things are and that they are not worse. Hugs back. Hang in there.

        • ❤ ❤ ❤

  3. Judy from Pennsylvania

    I’ll enjoy seeing others’ writings that you enjoy and want to share, but I hope that you also continue to use some of your own past blog posts with us. I’ve tried reading other bloggers’ entries but have never stuck with them because they didn’t offer the variety and depth of insights and encouragement that yours do. I’m curious to see what you’ve found that you want to show us. Maybe you could also do some “throwback days” of your own posts as well, sort of like the Throwback Thursdays that crop up on social media?

    I hope that you and Matt are staying well and finding ways to cope with these very difficult times we’re all in. I have to keep reminding myself that I have a personal history of being resilient. Some days it’s an effort but the inner core is mostly there. I liked your quote from Albert Camus in your very first post, November 10, 2013, “In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” https://defeatdespair.com/2013/11/10/remembering-an-invincible-summer/

    • Judy, thanks so much for your steadfast presence here, and for your encouragement about the blog. Even now I continue to mull over different approaches I might take in the future. For now I’m content to keep re-blogging, but of course I only posted daily for two years, so even if I keep doing this for another year, that will be time limited. I still flag quotes that I come across just in case I ever go back to posting, and I also wonder about posting book recommendations, online essays that seem particularly worth reading, poems (mine or other people’s), art (so much is in the public domain and can be shared freely), travel stories– which can be reviews of specific places, or simply essays about my wanderings…on and on the list could go! But I do appreciate your observations and suggestions, and I’m especially complimented that you have chosen my work over most others online you have visited. Thanks again for being here!

  4. I agree about blogging being very different than other “social media” platforms. Even constructing full sentences reveals more about a person than a quick LOL or “like.”
    Regarding photos without reflective context, we sometimes see that on Facebook. On Facebook, my experience is that posts with no photos don’t attract attention, photos with no additional description rarely evoke more than a “like,” but a photo with a question posed to the reader will sometimes get a little conversation. Sometimes it even brings a comment from someone that I don’t often hear from.
    Your photos and quotes are so intriguing that I find I have a lot to think about, and often something to say. Mostly, I’d like to say “thank you.”

    • Susan, you’re welcome! Count me among those who see the continual truncation of language as a huge warning sign to our culture. I don’t use Instagram, but isn’t it (like Pinterest, which I do occasionally use) mostly just photos with no words? I can’t think of a single area of communication where context is not important. Just think of the mischief and outright damage being done by our sound-bite culture, especially in areas such as politics, where much character assassination takes place through misquoting or lifting brief snippets totally out of context. So, all that to say, I agree with you that words without images are less effective (except in fiction, where the imagination engages to create an interactive experience) and images without words (or context) can sometimes be misleading and even dangerous. Is it my imagination, or are people growing too impatient to communicate effectively? Is written language becoming something people are proud of avoiding?

      • Julia, I hadn’t thought about why people aren’t communicating effectively overall, but perhaps it is impatience, as you suggested.
        I’d have to take a survey regarding pride of avoiding written language – maybe some people are, but it seems like a completely backwards concept to me. On the other hand, I’m blessed to have a relatively good grasp of written language, and so I tend toward being proud of my skills in that area. Maybe people who find it more challenging also decline to pursue it – like sour grapes?
        But then the other day, someone didn’t understand something I’d written, and I felt it was my job to change my writing to make it understandable for them. After all, that is my job, and the most sophisticated concepts expressed in exquisite detail are rather useless if the writing communicates nothing to the intended audience.
        Hmm. No wonder I rarely spend much time waiting for fun, anymore?

        • Susan, was that meant to say “writing for fun?” They taught us in my very earliest college communications courses (way back in the mid 1970’s) that there is definitely responsibility for both sender and receiver, to make sure the message is understood. So you did the right thing! Perhaps if you turn it into a sort of puzzle or game such as you seem to enjoy (the analytical part of your brain) you might find working through communication a bit more fun. Remember what Mary Poppins says! 😀

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