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Promises to Keep, Promises Kept

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 sound’s 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.”
— Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

You can’t really live in New Hampshire without hearing the echo of Robert Frost in every stand of trees or old stone fence. I could drive to his old farm in fifteen minutes give or take, should I be inclined to. Some days I’m inclined to. But like so many things, not nearly enough.

I woke up in the middle of the night with this poem running through my head. It’s been awhile since it’s lingered there, or if it had it didn’t bother to wake me from my slumber. Maybe it’s the cold days and the pleasant thought of woods silently filling with snow that seized my attention. But no, I should think it was the many promises to keep that are waking me in the middle of the night.

That’s it: promises to keep. Big projects due this week that occupy my mind, and things left undone in my life that nag at me, so much more than the things done in my life that I don’t give myself enough credit for. It’s funny how the promises to keep are so much louder in our heads than the promises kept. We are our own worst critics, aren’t we? But after running through the promises I broke to myself that kept me awake I began listing the ones I kept, and eventually drifted back to sleep.

To borrow from another Frost poem written in nearby woods, that made all the difference.

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