the road less travelled

My husband’s grandparents’ cottage is about four hours from our home, in a lake-laden region home to only a sparse crop of locals—mostly farmers, it seems—when it is not overrun with vacationers in the summer months. While the main roads in the area are paved, some of my favorite local travels have been on the dirt roads. The cottage itself is on a dirt road, a single lane tunneling through a hilly woods, one which always makes me imagine what it must’ve been like to be one of the early settlers in the region. Other local dirt roads hold equal gems: long-abandoned farmhouses hiding in overgrown fields, tidy cottages situated at the end of tree-lined dirt driveways, squat ranch homes with a half-dozen haphazard additions surrounded by the flotsam of life. I always watch inspect the homes with interest, wondering what sort of person has made their life on this quiet path. I collect and peruse real estate catalogues, dreaming of owning a hidden parcel of land in solitude.

Then reality strikes, and I realize that such a dream would, besides making it virtually impossible for my husband to find a job, remove me from the nearness of my parents, eliminate our connection to the few friends we’ve found, and separate us from the opportunities afforded by a populated locale—scads of parks to visit, kids’ classes available through multiple nearby park districts and oodles of local businesses, multitudes of different library branches, a variety of concerts and plays, and community events galore. I would love the solitude, but I would miss the civilization.

In some ways, I feel like I’ve already made the move to solitude decades ago, living in civilization but not gaining the full benefit of it. My mom has told me that nearly everyone feels at least a little lonely and set-apart, but since we are each unique, we can never truly feel understood. Somehow I feel more set-apart than I believe most people do (though I guess I’ll never know). Some of it I’ve brought on myself (like being too lazy to hook up my TV), some of it is situational (like not having enough in the budget for much entertainment), and some of it is hereditary (like being utterly unathletic).

Oftentimes, the road less traveled is a beautiful one, full of scenery others are missing. Sometimes, however, you begin to tire of being alone on the road. You think that there are many lovely well-traveled roads, and you wonder if you really ought to consider taking fewer scenic routes.