Walking is a favourite pastime for me. Long walks into the forest pathways have often been therapeutic.
One evening, on a sunny afternoon, I chose a path I never tried before. Each step I took, shaped into the famous poetic lines from Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I felt no different. It was the most beautiful day. Deeper into the woods, I was welcomed by a stream flowing unidirectional, and the mallard ducks swimming in the opposite direction.
The light wind tousled my hair and the sun-kissed leaves of the huge tree sizzled. And then I heard a wild calling. It was suddenly deafening to my ears. My courage took a U-turn and I stood searching. “Where am I in the woods?” The thought triggered a nauseating sensation in my stomach. “Breathe, girl breathe.” I had to tell myself.
A few long breaths calmed me down. I sat down on the green grass. The ducks were not bothered. But, the noise was incessant. Probably, it was more like an SOS call. But who? I looked carefully towards the tree. A big brown wild squirrel sat upright with its tail twitching.
As our eyes met, the squirrel’s alarm call grew louder. Here, my heartbeat was growing louder for I didn’t know what to expect. It was the first time I was feeling like an intruder and a predator in the home of the animals.
Should I be worried?
Of course, it is common knowledge that squirrels are wild animals. It also means these little animals can be unpredictable. I also remembered reading about the possibility of squirrels causing rabies.
Whether the animal was going to attack, was the next detail to watch out for.
I did not let my focus astray. The squirrel remained in the same position and did not move an inch. I sighed!
How to return home?
With relief flooding over me, I searched my pocket for my phone. To my dismay, I had not carried it with me on my walk. What a day!
“I will find my way,” I repeated the words again and again. It was yet another first in the era of mobile phones and Google Maps that, I was directionless.
I looked around once more, ignoring the beauty of the bushy-tailed, hairy-eared, lovely wild squirrel. Mindfully shut my eyes and began to trace the route from my memory. Rewind…. Before the lake, the fragrance of the flowering tree, and …. Robert Frost began to replay. Smiling, I opened my eyes and got up still watching the squirrel. And I turned and walked the same path.
The more determined I was, confident became my strides. The squirrel was left far behind; the way turned familiar and I crossed paths with a cyclist. The moment I reached the signboard on the main road, my thoughts went back to repeat the poem. Indeed, the less travelled road made all the difference.
2021, Deeya Nambiar