Frost and Tolkien Meet in Scranton

Frost and Tolkien Meet in Scranton

The hinterlands of Blakely and Olyphant buroughs near Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Photo: Nathan F. Elmore (December 23, 2016).

Two days before Christmas, in the late afternoon, our family of five and our Pennsylvania-based extended family dragged ourselves out of the holiday nest. We set out on a playful walk—almost a hike—away from the Gertrude Hawk milk chocolate smidgens and homemade peanut butter fudge, some distance from the Oreo Winter cookies filled with (faux) red cream and my wife's sister's heavenly apple cobbler.

Between my mother-in-law's apartment complex on the outskirts of Scranton and a thin-sliver portion of the Lackawanna River lies a simple but dense patch of woods. At this point, you wouldn't know it, but indeed you are smack dab in the hinterlands of Blakely and Olyphant buroughs, framed as they are by an array of dollar stores, dental offices and automotive shops bearing Polish or Italian names, and street-corner pizza joints.

No doubt, in her own way, she is always beautiful—this patch of woods. Whether you happen upon her in the full blossom of spring, the comfortable warmth of summer, or the illustrious color of fall.

However, by a mile, I would recommend winter.


Today this patch of woods was unusually beautiful. The serene light of almost-twilight danced off the surface of a snow that was just getting used to sticking around. It bounced to and from, and around, all the barren trees and fallen branches. It seemed to awaken even unseen things barren and fallen.

That's when I saw him—saw them, actually.

Frost and Tolkien.

They took me by complete surprise, meeting like this, near Scranton, near Christmas, in a simple but dense patch of woods.

I glanced to the right—

Whose woods these are I think I know...became...Whose woods these are I do not know.

I whirled to the left—

Not all those who wander are lost...became...Not all those who wonder are lost.


After the ghosts disappeared, a surge pulsated through my mind. It traveled the often lengthy, obstacle-ridden distance between my head and my heart. Eventually, it escaped my body (without a sound) from the fingertips and toes of my soul.

For a brief moment, I stood there, catching and watching my cold breath. All of those complicated "do not know's" were overwhelmed by the electricity of wonder.

To be this lost, I thought, as I turned to look for my family.

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