The road less traveled

       The road less traveled isn’t about the road.  It is about you.  It is about the fact that you stopped and thought and decided for yourself where and when and how you are going to go to get there. Where is there?  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is how, and that is up to you.   

Your road might be the highway. That is fine. The way doesn’t have to be a back road or a dusty path.  You don’t have to go on foot, carrying everything you think you’ll need in a backpack. You don’t have to suffer.  This isn’t penance. But perhaps it is a pilgrimage.

The famous poem about the two roads is at the end of this post for your convenience. Read it slowly, line by line, as if you are reading it for the first time.  If you are like me, you’ve heard it so often you miss what it is really saying.

But this isn’t about the road – either one.  This is about you.


Where are you going?  Why?  Which way will you get there? Why? Consider it.  Be awake, and mindful.  Choose.  The only wrong choice is to waffle so much that you don’t make a choice at all.  To fail to act for fear of failure is the only true failure.


My husband and I have driven together to Chattanooga many times over the years.  Usually we take the interstate.  I-24 East is a pleasant enough drive.  There are nice views and the trip takes about 2 hours.  It is safe, and that is part of the appeal.  There are places we can stop along the way for a snack or a bathroom break or to stretch our legs. However, it is uneventful, and because of the nature of the road, it inspires mindlessness.  You can get from here to there without thinking at all.  That is a concern.

How much of our lives is like that? Too much.

There is a road that runs almost parallel to I-24.  It is the original road that linked the cities before the interstate was built.  It is US-41.  We’ve seen glimpses of it on our right as we are coming home, going over bridge at Nickajack Lake, just West of Chattanooga. One time we got off at the exit just before there and considered taking that way back.  We stopped at a gas station and got some snacks and a map.  We went to the bathroom.  For some reason it felt like we were about to go to the moon and we needed to prepare really hard for this trip. It was going to add at least an hour and a half to our trip – maybe more.  We weren’t sure.  We didn’t know if there were going to be places we could stop along the way to refresh or refuel.


We drove a little way up the road and freaked out a little.  We got back onto the freeway as soon as we could.  Perhaps we were already tired from our trip and just needed to get home.

Just going on a road trip can be the entire purpose of the trip.  Sometimes it isn’t where you go, but how you go.  The journey itself is the destination.

Another time we drove down part of the way on US-41.  It was beautiful.  Lots of hidden scenes and sights that you simply cannot see when going 70 mph.

US-41 is Broad Street in Chattanooga. But then it turns Right and is East Main.

It is how US-11 is also Lee Highway.

You can live in a town and not even notice how the road you’ve lived on all your life is part of something so much bigger – that it stretches all across the country.  It takes a while to find the lines sometimes – they merge with named roads, take detours, appear to drop off and then re-appear.

It is a bit like doing genealogy, now that I think about it.  If you’ve ever tried to uncover your family past, you might understand this.

The writer Charles Kuralt talked about this.  That we gain time when we take the freeway, but we lose something else.  We lose our sense of discovery and wonder.  Perhaps we aren’t meant to go faster, but to go slower.  Perhaps 70mph is too much for humans.  We sacrifice part of who we are, part of our nature, when we go so fast that we can’t see what is going on around us.

Life goes too fast as is. We need to slow down to actually live.  Life isn’t about traveling quickly from birth to death, but noticing all the moments in between.


This time, on our way down, I went to find the maps we’d bought, but couldn’t locate them.  Would the GPS signal work?  We’d discovered that problem in the wilds of the North Carolina mountains.  There are areas where you can get pretty lost, still, these days. Technology doesn’t always serve. We asked for directions at a tiny church in a town called Frank.  Something about going up the road for several miles, and turning left at the dentist’s office. All too often, people give directions by what used to be there.  If I was local, I’d know what used to be there – but if I was local, I wouldn’t be asking for directions.   We wore ourselves out looking for that office.  It was mentally exhausting.  I didn’t want a repeat of that experience.

We went anyway, and I’m glad we did.


I’ve learned that the route began around 1926, and runs 2000 miles, North to South, across the US, stretching from Miami, Florida to just before Copper Harbor, Michigan.

Maybe one day we’ll take a road trip and do the whole thing.


The Road Not Taken – by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,


And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.


I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

Wander kit

What’s in your Wander kit?
What supplies do you need on your adventure?

This is my basic kit – a “map case” bought at a Army supply store.  An assortment of pens.  A small blank journal found at a used book shop.  A bottle of water. An energy bar. A napkin.  A compass. Some reading material.


This goes with me to doctor’s offices, when I go to get the oil changed in my car, when I have to take a class for work, and on every day off.  Simply assembling it gets me in the mood for a wander, knowing I’ll have the tools I need at hand.

My door collection


At 88 Kitchen – a Chinese buffet in Madison, TN


Lindsley Avenue Church of Christ (near the Howard School Building)



Downtown Cookeville, TN


Ferdinand, IN  – at Monastery Immaculate Conception



Super solid door in the bathroom at Henry Horton state park, TN



At Sewanee – a college on Monteagle Mountain.  A very narrow door outside of a classroom – an emergency exit?  You’d have to be skinny.



At Sewanee – under the stairs in a building with classrooms.  A tiny hatch.


At Sewanee – a very tall and very narrow door.   A supply closet?  A professor’s office?


At Sewanee – the entrance to a bathroom.  Almost TARDIS like – it was bigger on the inside.  Very hard to get in, though – the sink was very close to the door.


Outside Tulip grove elementary school – a utility building?  A tiny metal door.



LLanthony, Wales. An abandoned priory.


Tintagel, Cornwall


Atop the Glastonbury Tor


A tiny door – at the Frist art museum, part of the “Woman on the Run” exhibit by Tracey Snelling.


Invisible street

This is a place that doesn’t exist. It could, and perhaps it was supposed to, but it doesn’t yet – exist. This is in Old Hickory – a suburb of Nashville, TN.

I first noticed it while on a walk. At the intersection of Jones and 9th, the road stops and there is nothing. Not a house, not a permanent structure. There’s a large fence, and you can see a garage top.  It is a gap.  It is not an empty lot.  Looking to the North-West.


Here’s the end of the road seen from here, turning to your right if you were facing North. Looking East.


So I looked online. It is amazing what patterns appear when you look at things from a different perspective.

Here’s Google maps – Street


And Earth.


Notice that there isn’t a single house between the “ends” of 9th. There are garages. The road could be continued.  Here’s a closer view –


Notice that there is space behind the houses.  There are fences, but there is space between the fences, going vertically. The yards don’t butt up next to each other.  This creates an alleyway of sorts. This is true on all three vertical neighborhood blocks that you can see in the Earth picture. You can notice it somewhat on the Street picture, but it isn’t as pronounced.

Here is the end of the alleyway from 10th.  Looking North.


And here it is from 8th.  Looking South.


And here is the other side of the gap from Cleves, looking East.


I wonder if neighborhood children see this empty space and take advantage of it to cut through behind the houses without being seen.  I also wonder if I’d get in trouble exploring here.  Probably.  So I explore virtually.

Fall is coming

It is good to slow down and watch the seasons change right before your eyes.  Ideally, I’d take this picture every day at the same time, but my lunch schedule doesn’t permit it.  So noon and 2 it will be.

tree2pm101816  2 pm, Tuesday 10/18/16

tree12pm101916 Noon, Wednesday 10/19/16

2pm-thursday-10-20-16-after-a-rain 2 pm, Thursday 10/20/16, after a storm

And then I run into a dilemma – I’m off this next week.  But if I don’t take a photo of this every day, I’ll miss it. This isn’t as forgiving as the “Tuesday Buffet” series I did.

tree2pmfriday102116 2 pm, Friday 10/21/16

tree-2pm-sunday-102316  2pm, Sunday 10/23/16

2-pm-monday-102416   2 pm, Monday 10/24/16

It doesn’t seem like it is changing very fast.  So do I need to take a picture every day?  But – if I don’t try, I won’t be able to go back and fill in that gap.  However – art must serve the artist, not the other way around.  If this isn’t fun to me, but work, then it defeats the purpose.

2pm-wednesday-102616 2 pm, Wednesday 10/26/16

12-pm-saturday-102916 12pm Saturday 10/29/16

i-12-pm-monday-103116  12 pm Monday 10/31/16

j-2pm-tuesday-110116   2pm Tuesday 11/1/16

k-12pm-wednesday-110216 12pm Wednesday 11/02/16

l-12pm-saturday-110516 12pm Saturday 11/05/16

m-12pm-monday-110716 12 pm Monday 11/07/16

m2-12pm-wednesday-110916 12pm Wednesday 11/09/16

m3-2-pm-thursday-111016 2pm Thursday 11/10/16

Off four days, did not come up here to take pictures.

m4-2pm-tuesday-111516 2 pm Tuesday 11/15/16

m5-12-wednesday-111616 12pm Wednesday 11/16/16

m6-2pm-thursday-111716 2pm Thursday 11/17/16

m7-12-saturday-111916 12 pm Saturday 11/19/16

m8-2pm-tuesday-112216 2 pm Tuesday 11/22/16

m9-12pm-wednesday-112316 12 pm Wednesday 11/23/16

A rainy and windy day.  I drove here rather than walk so I didn’t get stuck outside in a storm.

And then it was Thanksgiving break, so I missed 4 days.  I almost skipped Monday as well because I was off to tutor for the second time this school year.  But a lot has happened, so I had to.

n1-12-monday-112816 12 Monday 11/28/16

We had a big storm with 50MPH winds on Monday night. Leaves are everywhere and finally there is the smell of late autumn – wet leaves decaying.

n2-2pm-tuesday-112916 2pm Tuesday 11/29/16

n3-12pm-wednesday-113016 12pm Wednesday 11/30/16

n3-2pm-thursday-120116 2pm Thursday 12/01/16

n5-12pm-saturday-120316 12pm Saturday 12/03/16

n6-12pm-monday-120516 12pm Monday 12/05/16

Since you can barely see any more leaves on it, I’ve decided to post this. Perhaps I’ll do a Winter, Spring, and Summer series too.

Friday adventure

I have Fridays off. Don’t get too jealous – I have to work every Saturday.

After years of being off on Fridays, I’ve finally learned how to do extra during the week so that my Friday is actually a day when I can do what I want to do, rather than a day to do chores.  A day off isn’t a day off if it involves getting gas, picking up the mail, getting groceries, going to the pharmacy, paying bills…

So now I go on adventures.  Usually the day starts with waking up whenever I wake up.  This often means around 10.  I have to be up around 7 every day, and that is not normal for me.  I make up for it by sleeping in when I can.  But I don’t want to sleep in too much – then I’ve slept away my life.

My theme for the day was to only go to places I had a coupon or a gift certificate.  I wanted to spend as little money as possible.  I’ve had some of these saved up for over a year -and some I just got the day before.

This was outside of my car when I got out to go to lunch. I took it as a sign that this was going to be a fruitful adventure.


While eating lunch, I read some of the material from The Wander Society and learned a new word – Zouave. I looked it up and here’s a picture of one.  He’s charming!  And it is in sepia.  I’m not sure what it is about sepia that I love so much these days.


Here’s the definition from the Dictionary website –   “(formerly) a member of a body of French infantry composed of Algerian recruits noted for their dash, hardiness, and colourful uniforms. 2. a member of any body of soldiers wearing a similar uniform or otherwise modelled on the French Zouaves, esp a volunteer in such a unit of the Union Army in the American Civil War.”

I like writing down new words (well, new to me) in my journal and then writing the definition beside it.  It is like collecting ephemera.  I may or may not use the words later in my writing, much like with how I use ephemera in my collages.  I don’t think I’ll have a call to use this word, but that picture may spark a story.

I had a $12 lunch at Panera and paid only $2.  I used a gift card that I’d gotten for Christmas from a lady in my book club.  The meal was tasty and healthy, although not very filling.

I went to Target in the next town over and perused the dollar bins near the front of the store. It actually took over an hour to find something I wanted and needed that was close to my budget for this trip.  The ticket was $9 and I spent $4 because of the free gift card my husband gave me.   I got some Halloween yarn to use in making a quipu, some gauze that was for Halloween decorating that I’m putting in a collage-painting (See the post “October art), and some pumpkin pie energy bars from Larabar.  I was a little hungry at that point but didn’t want to be forced to eat fast food (translation, processed and greasy and mostly meat, as well as taking a while to get to and to get).  Plus, the Larabars were on sale, and there was one more in the package than the Kind bars that cost more.

I spent the most at Yankee Candle, but saved the most too.  The total was $61 and I paid $45.  I got Napa Valley Sunshine (an old favorite that they are discontinuing.  It smells like the convent I like to visit on silent retreat) and Maple Pancake  – for my husband.  I also got a car scent of Autumn in the Park.  I had a $20 off coupon that came with the catalog I just got, and a $5 voucher for buying so much stuff in the past.  I like to supplement the atmosphere of my house with smells.  It helps my mood and helps me concentrate. My first book was finished using candle-scents to focus me.  They had a deal where I could have gotten a $25 jar for $12 but I didn’t want to spend over fifty dollars here.  I was a little bummed that the clerk took the $5 off after the tax was added.

The best deal was the last – it was a trip to Duncan Donuts (why not spell it Doughnut?)  where I got a salty-caramel hot chocolate for free.  A friend had given me a $5 gift card for them (paired with Baskin Robbins) for Easter – last year.  I’d used part of it and kept it.  I saved it and drank it cold at work the next morning.

I kept all the gift cards I used and will make them in to scrapers/markers for painting.

I keep a running total of gift cards that I have not yet used in my phone so I won’t forget to use them.  They are like cash.  I used to do the same with Groupon-type things too but I stopped buying them.  The expiration dates came us too soon and there were too many exclusions and limitations.  Too stressful.

All told, I got $84 worth of stuff for $51 = so I saved $33.


The weird/interesting/sad part is that I had to leave the house at all.  I really like having time to myself, and right now my husband is unemployed.  So he’s home all the time.  I need a day to reset, to do what I want without anybody watching what I’m doing and asking me questions.  I self-censor enough as it is, so I don’t need help with that.

Tiny picnic park

There’s this unusually landscaped area in an open-air mall in Mt. Juliet, TN.   This is near the movie theater and Fulin’s restaurant.   What is unusual is that it looks like a tiny park.

The sidewalk goes from the fenced-in courtyard of a now-defunct restaurant.


This place is begging for a picnic…


Notice the stepping stones.  They were added in after this area was built.  People kept walking across the grass to get to the other side.  People walk along the path of least resistance.  These paths are known as “desire lines” or “desire paths”.  (Definition from Wikipedia – A path that pedestrians take informally, rather than taking a sidewalk or set route ; e.g. a well-worn ribbon of dirt that one sees cutting across a patch of grass, or paths in the snow.)

adven4              adven5

Some colleges and apartment complexes are now realizing the futility of putting in sidewalks first.  They wait to see how people use the area, and then pave the desire lines, rather than paving un-used areas first.

A small park bench would look nice here – one like this


or maybe this –

Lackford Lakes June 2010

but never this –


There will be a picnic here one day, and I’ll add that here.