“The woods are lovely dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” This poem, by Robert Frost, are about a country doctor on his rounds. He’s driving in a buggy late in the evening on winter solstice. He and his horse are the only ones out. In some ways, he’s very much a man of the physical world—educated, professional, capable, dedicated. In other ways, he’s the mystical, fairy tale old-woman-on-the-road. He’s the person who in going about his business is in just the right place at just the right time to help those who need assistance both practical and spiritual.
In some ways, the-old-woman of fairy tales is very much a woman of the spiritual world—mysterious, magical, holding arcane wisdom. In other ways, she’s the practical, worldly healer, the doctor of the fairy-tale world. But, here’s the secret: Even in the physical world, there can be an old-woman on the road.
Actually, there’s always an-old-woman on the road—one behind you and one ahead. Today she showed up in a blue hat, sweater and leggings, and wearing jogging shoes. She answered his prayer just by being there and walking past. He’d seen her first by the school as he crossed into the park and thought nothing about her except he liked her hat and the color of her sweater, both light blue like clear water or an aquamarine sky.
He’d gone into the woods to clear his head and was sitting on a bench tucked into the trees. Instead of relaxing though, he’d been obsessing and worrying when she passed him at a good clip. It took him a moment to realize she was an-old-woman because she wasn’t dressed in an apron, long skirts or petticoat. She didn’t have a walking stick, a hooked nose, or fly-away gray hair, nor was she stooped over. In fact, she carried a water bottle, was young, and her hair, in a ponytail, swung as she walked. Not that any of those things meant she couldn’t be an-old-woman-on-the-road. She was simply a surprise. When he recognized what she was, he realized his prayer, for it was prayer more than it was anything else, had been heard and answered. It will be okay. Everything will work out. Keep going. And he knew he now had many miles to go before he would sleep. And now, too, thanks to her, he could look forward to them.