Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Road Not Taken

 mini_DSC07554We took Mr. Liberty out for his first adventure last weekend. We decided on the name for several reasons.  First, and most obvious, that is what the car represents to us – FREEDOM!  Secondly, it reminds us both of France (liberte, egalite, fraternite) and of the US (we love the Statue of Liberty in NYC – which is also from France and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia).  So, why MR Liberty? Well, it is only fair since the last named car, Nellie Belle, was a girl.  Zander says that the boys have to have a turn to be in the majority of our family.  You may be surprised to hear this, since, on the surface it seems the boys are already in the majority – but that is only becausemini_DSC07637 you are forgetting our very female cat, Simone.

I’m happy to say Mr. Liberty performed admirably and it was fun to drive through the countryside on such a beautiful day. Zander took a few of the photos on this post – I will indicate which ones. We were hiking to Port au Bois – along the Loue River. (Z photo signpost) I crave rivers and was seriousmini_DSC07634ly in the mood for some time along the running water.    It took about an hour’s drive to get to this particular section of the river. Many years ago portions of the Loue were redirected and used for canals to pull cargo and crops along. (Kind of like New Hope, PA)  The canals were now mostly drained and the area was now covered with lovely green fields and grazing Montbemini_DSC00407liard cows.  We walked along the top of the dike but had to be careful because there were lots and lots of stinging nettle plants growing along the edges of the path.  Zander, ready for warmer weather, was wearing shorts and kept getting stung – poor guy!  Pretty soon we got to this bridge which, for some crazy reason, was covered in gigantic monarch butterflies.  I can’t imagine why mini_DSC07565they would have been there since they are rarely found in Europe, but what an amazing experience. Great shot, Andre!  Gotcha…

There were lots of people fishing nearby.  We walked upstream a bit to play on a rocky island – there were tons of beautiful river rocks, seemed to be made of some kind of marble – they reminded me a bit of the rocks on Jasper Beach where I went with my parents as a tween.  The kids were thrilled to find so many treasures to collect and, of course, throw into the water.  Andre’ is particularly good at skipping stones. Only about one in 5 of my tries actually skip at all but he routinely gets 4 or more skips from a rock.  After a few minutes an irate French fisherman told us to stop – we were scaring the fish!  Well, we did stop (after a couple more tosses) but, hey, he was like 100 meters up from us and it’s not HIS river, is it? mini_DSC07575 Swim fish, swim for your lives!

We wandered along the path some more seeing lots of wildflowers (so many they will be in a different post) and these great mushroommini_DSC00404s. It was a nice hike because it had no real destination and it was all flat – we took our time and just enjoyed the river.  We got to a fork where a still existing canal split off from the main river and we had to make a choice.  The kids asked me how to decide and I tried to remember the Robert Frost poem but could only remember the first two lines “Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood, and sorry I could not travel both”  and the last 2 lines – “Two Roads Diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” We tried to decide which was the road less traveled by, and we talked about what that might mean. Then they did eeny, meeny, miney, mo (OK…. that’s one way to figure it out….) I feel like our sojourn here is the epitome of making unusual choices (OK – maybe not the epitome –we could be living in a nudist colony or as hermits or something – but still – it is a bit off the beaten path, right?) It is interesting to reread this poem as an adult – I remember studying it in high school and I don’t remember seeing the 2 meanings of the poem (described eloquently here, http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/frost/section7.rhtml) I, being a philistine (Andre’ tells me this term is derogatory towards the ancient people of Philistine – but really, they are all dead, isn’t this taking PC a bit too far?), prefer the more obvious interpretation – dare to be different!  But, I do see the irony as well – sometimes people put so much drama into things – when really both choices are ‘just as fair’. And also, quoting someone I’m sure, nothing in this world is final – but death and taxes.  Anyway, here it is for your reading pleasure, along with a shot of my miniature adventurers joyfully embracing the road ahead.

The Road Not Taken (Robert Frost 1920)    mini_DSC07587

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.

 

Poetic digression over (for now).  We stopped and had a picnic lunch and themini_DSC07603n moved onward to another smini_DSC07604ection of the river (sans cranky fisherman) where we threw more rocks and enjoyed the little waterfall.   Then we headed back towards home, passing lots of beautiful trees infested with mistletoe.  In case you are  wondering what a mistletoe infested tree looks like, here is a picture left.  The mistletoe is all the puffy green balls.  Andre’ has been reading Superfudge to Zander and there is a whole section about mistletoe in there. It mini_DSC07588was neat to hear how Zander knew what it was from all our adventures.  Taking this walk, we saw very few other people, and no other families but we did see evidence of camping. This fire is typical and, to me, looks like it belongs on a warning sign featuring Smokey the Bear – remember kids, only YOU can prevent forest fires! (Hello??? You are not supposed to start them without clearing a fire ring!!!)

 

Now came the best part of the day, less than 5 minutes from the car we saw this….. 

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Don’t let the first glance fool you – look closer and you will see that the first piece of water is, indeed, only a puddle – the second is…..(you guessed it) a canal!  Yes, that’s right folks – a little river running over the road we need to cross to return to Mr. Liberty!  Yes it is April, yes the water is frigid, but, clearly, there was only one thing to do – and, as you can see, we did it!!!

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Even though it was not too deep, Daddie and Griffin hated it – their feet were too frozen – but Callie, Zander and I were invigorated! C and Z went back in and splashed around for another 15 minutes or so – while the rest of us watched.  We were all laughing out loud at their antics.  The cows that were  upwind of our shenanigans stayed as they were, but the ones that could smell us soon came wandering over to check out who was disturbing their usually peaceful existence. 

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I love the way my feet feel after I walk in a frozen stream, especially after I put my socks and shoes back on – they feel so cozy after their dunking and the skin on my feet feels tingly and almost sparkly-  it’s like a foot massage!

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The cows came right up to the fence (Zander took the leftmost shot) and we spent many minutes just watching them graze.  I have never done that before – it was really fun and very peaceful.  FriendDeb – we hope you are enjoying this part of our blog – and that you come visit someday to see these happy French cows!  We are happy to report they do eat dandelions and we also noticed that they lick the grass before they eat it – checking for bugs, perhaps?

We got back to tmini_DSC07640he car and headed towards home and saw some signs for a Gallo Roman Furnace.  This is exactly the kind of thing we are happy to have a car for so we decided to visit.  We went through a little town or two.  Zander had the camera and took tons of (bad) shots but this one of the ancient watering trough came out great. He also leapt out of the car at one point to get a shot of a town square featuring a statue of a giant chicken – how often do you get to see that?  It was in memory of lost children of the village (connection there is…? Not seeing one) Unfortunately – it came out so blurry it is not even recognizable, but the memory lives on. Then we comini_DSC07649ntinued to follow signs on a seemingly deserted road for a few more kilometers.  It was absolutely beautiful – I called it a cathedral of trees. It was a gravelly road with pot holes and we went bravely onward without seeing anyone or anything.  But look – ahead in the yellow wood, the road is diverging! The sign said to turn off the more common road for the ruins –and so, we did.  But, as soon as we rounded the corner we stopped, realizing this was the real road less traveled – for a reason!  This time there would be no eenie meenie minie mo - transversing this muddy path was not going to be in the realm of possibility for our little sedan.  So sad, I really wanted to see that Gallo Roman Forge – but, we must not be foolish, right? Well, unfortunately, our fate was sealed.  That’s right, we were already stuck in the mud. I got out to look and our wheels were spinning!  Great – the first time on the road and we get stuck – this adventure stuff can be blunderfully dangerous. You never hear about buses or trains getting stuck in the mud, do you?  I couldn’t believe it – the first section of the road didn’t look muddy at all to the naked eye. I guess it was “in leaves no step (or tire) had trodden black” so we couldn’t see the muck below. We were not able to make it back to the road without several minutes of panic followed by me and Zander getting out and pushing with all our might until we could roll to a drier section – and thank heavens that worked.  Sometimes the road more traveled by is there for a reason.  I was sooooooooo scared!  I didn’t take any photos because I guess I was too traumatized.  We went back to safer roads and headed home, only further adventure being stopping at a fromagerie for some good cheese and at the mall for a map of Paris (one week to go!!!!)

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