Back when I was a Spanish major at university in California, I read a short story by Jorge Luis Borges called “The Garden of the Forking Paths.” Most of what I remember about it now is exactly what I’ve told you up to this point. But it struck me then, as someone pretty much just embarking on the “main” path of my life, that there were decisions to be made, and that by choosing one – and then by extension, all the paths that grew out from that one – I would by leaving others behind.
That’s life, my dad reminded me. Well, yes. And I have always enjoyed the path I chose. It’s brought me a great man to spend my life with, a bunch of kids – and by extension, grandkids – who have enriched it over the years and continue to do so to this day. It’s given me cold winters and hot summers, and a Master’s degree in Theology (wasn’t expecting that!) and the opportunity to write almost seventy books along with all the traveling and researching and great friends all over the world who have come my way as a result.
Sometimes I think about those other paths. I wonder what it would have been like if we’d moved to my grandparents’ place in Colorado as my dad considered, and I’d spent my formative years on their small ranch. There’s a ranch person lurking inside me, I am virtually certain. My inner cowgirl has often found itself coming out in my books. And the time I did spend there has been formative, too, even though it wasn’t a long part of my life.
It drew me then, and in some ways it still does. Yet as we contemplate moving full-time to Montana, I find myself looking in town, not in the country. I think my inner rancher may have to wait for another lifetime. Or live vicariously through my books and others’ in this one.
One of my boys early on imprinted on Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The summer he turned ten he went on an archaeological dig with his dad. I lived vicariously through that dig – and the couple of actual days I got to go, too. It wasn’t underwater, but it was – for Iowa – quite good enough. It still has tugged at me from time to time.
So this year I decided to do something about it. Next month I’m going down one of those forking paths, taking a week in Virginia around Williamsburg and Jamestown participating in an archaeological dig through a Road Scholar program.
A week isn’t much – but my inner archaeological is thrilled at the prospect. I may do no more than grub around in the dirt and/or wash potsherds. No matter. It’s a taste. And I am eager for the taste. I’m eager to learn more, to experience first hand a small part of what an archaeological life can be like.
I used to wish I could get old enough to go on a Road Scholar program (back when they were ElderHostel). But now they’ve lowered their age limit to 40! And there are quite a few programs that allow you to take family members (or go with family members who do qualify). So ‘waiting’ is not such a huge issue anymore.
I am making a list of other great places to see and things to do. I can spend hours just paging through the catalogues and coming up with ideas (the finances are a different issue entirely). Some of them I hope I will get to do down the road a piece. Some of them I will look longingly at and then decide that even for a week, I can’t do it.
But this – the archaeological road – it’s going to be mine for a week. I can hardly wait.
If you are looking to spend some vicarious traveling time, check out Road Scholar online. Also, please tell me what paths you didn’t take that you’d still like to have a taste of. You might very well whet my appetite for a forking path I haven’t even considered yet!
1) Kingsmill Plantation near Williamsburg, See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
2) John Cadsby Chapman, Coronation of Powhatan. Work in the Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons