The Edge of the High Road

Mt. Evans Highway is the highest paved road in North America, built between 1917 and 1927.

8/5/11

 Teach us the road to travel, and we will not depart from it forever.”

Satank, Kiowa War Chief and Medicine Man

I rode to the edge of the sky last weekend.  At peak, it was 50 degrees cooler than when I’d left home an hour before.  On the way there, I climbed from 10,500 to 14,130 feet above sea level in one stretch of 14 miles.  I passed three plant and animal zones and visited one of the few areas below the Arctic Circle where alpine tundra is found. 

Just like a song might jog a memory or a déjà vu moment, this trip to the top got me thinking about how often writers use the metaphor of a road to share ideas about life’s journey and the choices we make in life.   How often have you read about the coulda, woulda, shoulda of taking the high road?  Or the need to consider or reflect back on a fork in the road?  And the detours and bends in the road of understanding oneself?

 So many books are entirely organized around a road or journey.  The Odyssey, Canterbury Tales, Huckleberry Finn, Grapes of Wrath, On the Road, Blue Highways, Mississippi Solo.  Just to name a few that happen to be favorites of mine.  Poetry’s classic example:  Robert Frost’s The Road Less Traveled.  Songs in almost every genre relate to highways, roads, trips, journeys (think:  Born to be Wild).  All use the image of a journey to make a point about life. 

Come to think of it, even I spend a fair amount of time writing about the road.   God knows I like my time on the road, so that may be why.  Usually, en route, I find myself nudged to think about other places I’ve been and other circumstances I’ve known.   As I rode along the highest road in North America, my mind wandered further, as it often does, to a conversation I’d had with a friend in which she talked about taking the high road.  I digress and I write. 

Consider this:   three women scorned.  One turns her cheek and a blind eye.  Stays with her husband and keeps smiling outwardly.  The second fights tooth and nail.  Divorce decreed to her advantage, anger still hot, men now the enemy.  The third gives in quickly, forgives without forgetting, men now not necessary.

Who took the high road?

Seems to me you’d be hard-pressed to answer without more information and more information you’d probably rather not know.  Taking the high road often refers to one being a “class act” during a difficult time.  Somebody on the high road may be said to show honesty or fairness.  They might be called selfless.  Maybe each of these women took the high road.  Maybe none of them did. 

In the end, perhaps the high road is strictly in the eye of the beholder.  You might commend the first woman for staying the course.  Someone else might praise the second woman for standing up for herself and for what is “right.”  Another might feel the third woman acted most selflessly.  Me, I can’t say for sure.  It seems like there’s something to say for each them.   It’s never black and white.   I’d like to think that each of them took at least a short ride along the high road. 

I am one who tries my best to not judge.  If I can’t help myself, I at least wait until I’ve walked a while in someone else’s moccasins.  I won’t judge these women or the road that they chose.  But I will say I believe that if you end up with a lifetime of anger and resentment, you’ve chosen to go down the road with a heck of a hard load to carry.  And I know that in the journey called life, there will be disappointment, betrayal, hurt, regret, pain, and plenty of other things that test your ability to take the high road.   And you, only you, choose how to react. 

As I sat on the edge of the small alpine pond near the summit of Mt. Evans last weekend, I saw the rocks clearly beneath the surface of the water.  The clouds overhead seemed within reach.  Breathing was different at that altitude.  There were plants you do not see elsewhere.  I was reminded yet again of how thankful I am for the road I’m on.  I know I have had a few moments on the high road and a lot more, not so.  I am grateful for each twist and turn, for the lessons they have taught me are many.   And the road of learning and growing is a good enough high road for me. 

And what, may I ask, does the high road mean to you?

16 thoughts on “The Edge of the High Road

  1. I have been on that Mount Evans Road before, it had some wonderful places to stop and look at the glory before you. My high road has had so many dips in it sometimes it feels as if I am on a rollercoaster. But still even in the difficult times in life you have to be able to give back better than the other deserved. It is easier when life is going good to do the right thing, but tougher during times of trial. It builds character to continue to strive for the high road, sometimes I take a little wrong turn but find my way back as quick as I can. Great pictures, thanks.

  2. Your photos are stunning and I have now put this road on the list of places to visit in my life. This road and the high road, whatever that might be. Because to me the high road is doing what you feel is right in your heart, no matter what, no matter how difficult and uncomfortable and challenging, staying true to yourself is the most important thing…

    • Mt. Evans highway is one of so many beautiful highways in Colorado and I hope you enjoy it someday. And you’re right, staying true to yourself is the best way to stick to the high road of life, whatever highway that might be.

  3. Well, introspection not being one of my greatest gifts, I would say this: Could the high road be whatever road we are on? (Reference your “eye of the beholder” comment.)

    Life is indeed a journey, the culmination of which, we hope, is a life well-lived. A life that will have mattered. It takes us down many roads. As we travel each road we have to decide if it is taking us where we want to go. We then either continue on or detour if that is the best choice for us.

    To me, it is a matter of malice aforethought. If we know the road is self-destructive or harmful to others, yet take it anyway, it is certainly a low road. Otherwise, is is part of the high road toward a life that enriches others as well as ourselves. Maybe that’s why we call it life’s “highway.”

    Another great post, Winsomebella. I look forward to the next.

    • Love your suggestion that the high road is whatever road we’re on as long as it enriches others as well as ourselves. Seems quite introspective to me Big Al. Thanks.

  4. Gorgeous piece of writing. You always give me so much to reflect upon. Good questions. I think I usually take the high road because I always try to be kind and tender-hearted. That can backfire sometimes, I know, but in the end, you don’t regret it. Better to err on the side of the high road. Hope I get to see your country in person some day. Would love to experience it for real. Thanks, Winsomebella.

  5. This was so thought-provoking. We are given daily reminders of how little a judgmental attitude inspires change, and we just never know what’s going on behind closed doors. I am amazed how well people can hold things together, only to find out the depth of pain they are experiencing. I am thankful for those who lovingly corrected me and held out a hand while I traveled the low road, and thankful that I listened enough to take their hand. I too am enjoying the road I am on, and along the way, I just want to love people.

    Thank you for the sweet reminder.

    • You remind me of those people who lovingly corrected me while I traveled the low road. They are as important as those who inspired me to reach for the high road. Thanks.

  6. Great question, eloquently illustrated. And, maybe for me right now, the high road is accepting the past for simply what it was without regrets or recriminations, and moving forward on what I think and hope is a more personally fulfilling journey…with an awareness that only I can control what path I take now.

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