It has been a very long time since I first heard Robert Frost’s “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” but the poem has stayed with me all this time, particularly the lines…..”…The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.” Most recently I am reminded of a night in Minnesota, in January of 2000, shortly after my daughter was released from the hospital. She had been admitted with unrelenting headaches, and I feared the worst. I did not convey peace to fellow flyers as I white-knuckled it from Philadelphia to Minneapolis, rosary beads in hand. It was the sickest I had ever seen her, and nothing seemed to be helping. However, at the end of the week of my arrival, a kindly resident happened on treatment, when he stayed up all night, not willing to give up until he found something to help her. It amazes me still that something so simple as high doses of caffeine and an NSAID would be sufficient to stop excruciating headaches that had plagued her for months. This resident noted a not often reported condition called “occipital neuralgia” and high dose caffeine is the treatment. Within 24 hours she was almost as good as new. (She had taken up running several months before and apparently this condition ensued from the way she was holding her shoulders, which compressed the occipital nerve on each side of her neck. Never caring for exercise myself, I delighted in telling her that trying to get healthy could really hurt you!)
Once we got her safely home, and feeling better, fluffy white flakes fell from the Buffalo, Minnesota sky, as if to wash away the fear and anxiety of the previous weeks. Although it was very cold, I ventured out into the storm, to enjoy its cleansing nature, and walked the edge of the woods near her home, thinking of this poem all the while.
I did not know it yet, but I was very soon to be on my own, after 28 years of a mostly turbulent marriage, so this particular night of peace was most welcome in the months to come. The poem has become a mantra of sorts, to keep the promises I made to myself when faced with living on my own for the first time in my life. I had gone from my parents’ home to college, back to my parents’, and then I was married, and moved to another state. I truly was afraid of how I would cope, alone, at 53 years of age. I guess I ‘got my Irish up’ because I have made it, not always easily, but I have survived, thanks to some exceptional friends and some wonderful rescue Beagles.
I first used Promises to Keep as a business name back in 1997 when I started sewing doll clothes for American Girl dolls and My Twinn. It seems apppropriate now, so I have made it the title for this blog. We all make promises, and some of the most important ones we make are to ourselves.
We need to remember that we are important too, even if we have no one else. Find a place you love, a place which soothes your spirit, and go there when the world around you becomes just too much. For me it can be the edge of the woods on a snowy evening, but just as readily it can be at the edge of the sea, or in botanical gardens (Longwood Gardens) where I see God’s glory all around me, and know that Someone cares.
"Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village, though; He will not see me stopping here, to watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer to stop without a farmhouse near, between the woods and frozen lake, the darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake, to ask if there is some mistake,
the only other sounds the sweep of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep."
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