Roads have a magic of their own. They beckon to unexpected things, and conjure up pictures of far distant places, visions of hopes to be realized, dreams that are ever beyond the receding horizon.
There is the country road — hardly more than a lane — that leads nowhere in particular, and brings a quieting of tensions to him who forgets himself in following its peaceful meanderings. There is the road climbing a hill from whose summit a whole new world is revealed. Breath-taking these panoramas are sometimes, leaving a memory more pregnant with joy than is that same scene revisited. Between such roads and the broad highway there are countless others — good, bad, and indifferent; lanes and even foot-paths that may one day be a link in some vast artery of commerce, leading who knows where? And then the highway! — winding along valleys, going over and even through mountains: this is a road that brings us beauty at all seasons, but leaves us gasping on occasion at the majesty of earth and Nature with which we are suddenly brought face to face.
One such road opened a window into another world. The time was early Spring. There had been rain in the lowlands which had turned to snow on the higher slopes and in the mountains. Trees and shrubs were cloaked in bewildering loveliness; here and there slate-gray rocks stood out in stern contrast to the soft whiteness all around them; and winding its way like a black ribbon was the road, disclosing beauty on beauty with every turn. The air was clear and still with the stillness of fallen snow — a world apart, yet linked with the life of the lowlands by that ribbon of winding road. Up and up it went, and then it was no more: a sign said "Road not cleared beyond this point." So simple a thing could make a cleavage almost unbelievable! Here were snow-covered slopes, but here also was the cleared road with human life in evidence — cars parked momentarily before turning to go back down the mountain; beyond, all was whiteness. Footprints that disappeared around a jutting cliff showed where the road lay buried, but there was no sign of those who made them, and a phantom mist rising from the snow only added to the sense of mystery. It was a different world, a strange and unreal world — or was it real, and where we stood was unreality?
How many have traveled these roads, sensing romance behind their making and wishing for the story of their coming into being, a history of their evolution from a well-worn cow path, or an Indian trail, to a four-lane highway connecting busy centers of industry? How many others have passed that way, content to enjoy the changing scene and season, but unaware of the toil and labor, the far-seeing vision of those who planned, the expert work of engineers who carried out those plans? There is the mystery of transmutation here, and as with other worthwhile things, the part that meets the eye is but a fraction of the whole. The more important part remains unknown and often unsuspected. A symbol, mayhap, of that road "steep and thorny" which "leads to the Heart of the Universe."
It is said that one cannot travel on that road until one has become the Way itself. There is a link, then, between the pattern of the broad highway and that of the evolving soul: the final achievement is the sum-total of that which has gone before, and none, perhaps, who sees it thus will guess the toil and heartache that have made it possible. Countless hours of thought and labor — incarnations of shaping and reshaping are represented here; and at no time can it be said with absolute finality, "This is the end."
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