Editorial: Along Thompson Road
By Richard Gaw
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
As had become habit to him, the Chester County Press reporter, driving southwest on Marshall Bridge
Road in Kennett Square last week, made the instinctual right hand turn onto
Kaolin Road for the quick jaunt to the Kennett Square Borough, and nearly ended
up in the Red Clay Creek.
He had forgotten that the Marshall Bridge had recently vanished and given way to a complete reconstruction that had made the bridge disappear and turn into a quagmire of mud made even soggier from the recent summer rains. The area was dotted with a dedicated troop of workers who maneuvered tractors and wielded shovels. Some saw what the reporter had just done, and pointed him in different directions.
Detoured, the reporter drove along Newark Road, which scissors through Toughkenamon and connects to Baltimore Pike, a route that gets the driver to the borough by way of Cypress Street.
The reporter had also forgotten that the intersection of Newark and Hillendale roads was in the middle of a physical transformation that has redirected drivers for the past few months.
Marked off by his car’s clock, the reporter spent the next 23 minutes following orange detour signage that led him along unfamiliar territory -- winding and snaky tributaries that seemed to head circuitously to nowhere. Many of the roads were marked “One Lane Only” and “Construction Ahead,” necessitated by the damage that Hurricane Isaiah had unleashed, that left southern Chester County to burrow out from just weeks before.
Then took the other,
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,
As he meandered somewhere between Avondale and Kennett Square, the reporter swore at the ineptitude of shutting down two major thoroughfares simultaneously, and how these inconveniences had tossed another layer of frustration and anger onto a year that if he had his druthers would be buried six feet deep into the Chester County soil.
The blood pulse of anger is easily transferable, and as the reporter tried to find his way out of the maze, his anger had diverted its way from the broken down roads to the straggling emotions that had been blazing like an ember inside of him for the past six months.
He thought of the global pandemic that has burned through our world like a wildfire, and in particular in the United States, where despite five million cases and over 180,000 deaths, shows no signs of abating against the narrative of those who give more credence to the potions of snake oil salesmen than the superior men and women of science.
The reporter turned left onto another road: He thought of the repeated atrocity of systemic racism in a country that openly defies its most moral code that all men – and women – are created equal. He made a left: He thought of the murder of George Floyd, and in the aftermath of that murder, the faces of many colors marching on the streets in a face-off for justice. He made a right and then a right: He heard the seven shots in Wisconsin.
He came to a stop, seeing the alphabet of the many fallen trees that formed ‘V’s and ‘W’s along the curved lanes of his disappearance – the aftermath of devastation that had touched down in Chester County.
Another road was blocked off so he turned his car around and drove: It was crystallizing and connecting for him. His country was broken. Its center was not holding and its moral and social conscience was crumbling on the weight of its differences.
The reporter was in the thicket of wooded roads he had never been on before, but rather than punch the GPS for directions home, he switched it off. For the first time in months, he felt the chains that had tied him to the tumultuous year of 2020 simply become unbolted. After bullying his way through several months of shock, denial, anger, bargaining and depression at the state of the world and his country, here he now was, momentarily lost, finally arriving at the final stage of grief.
And both that morning
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.
~ “The Road Not Taken” By Robert Frost
Acceptance, in its purest form, is the first breath we take after the fighting has ended. It is the moment when, powerless to revolt against an invisible enemy, we simply choose to move forward. As he drove, a terrible year not quite ended continued to wash over the reporter, but this time, he did not battle against it but vowed to simply endure it. He was very, very lost, but this time, against the measure of a very structured life, the reporter suddenly and gleefully acknowledged his momentary disappearance and the inconveniences that brought him there.
Eventually, the reporter found his way to Kennett Square by recognizing a familiar landmark, but made a promise to himself that he would not miss anything he saw on his way to his final destination.