There is a poem that my dad used to read me called The Calf-Path, about a little calf wandering through the woods who makes a crooked path and how that path shapes the future. Essentially it's about questioning why you do the things you do and the habits of your thoughts and behaviors.
That poem, however inadvertently, may be the reason why the hotel and the Globe (theglobe1901.com) even became possibilities to us. If status quo, or regular paths of thought were followed, these large conglomerations of overwhelming stacks of brick would remain today as they had for over the last 30 years. And maybe, just maybe, they would have slipped away and been lost.
It's too hard. It's too much work. It can't be done. It shouldn't be done. It's not a good idea. It's not a good location. It will cost too much money. It will take too much time. It's just flat-out crazy. These are just a few of the signs that flanked our proverbial "hotel calf-path" as we stood looking down it. It is still yet to be determined if it is a good OR lucky thing financially that I knew about this poem, but it allowed me to assure my family that picking a different, unorthodox path is okay. Almost daily in the beginning, people tried to steer us back toward that calf-path. I believe everyone was scared for us; not wanting us to fail or get into dangerous territory. The risks were/are great, the outcome too unknown. The first couple of months, it seemed almost daily that someone needed reassurance that it was going to be okay that we were taking on these projects. Parents, friends, bankers, our construction crew, etc. all needed to be reassured. I actually could hear people's eyebrows go up even over the phone! Meanwhile, that calf-path would call out to me, "Hey, it's easier walking over here! What are you doing over there?"
I can truthfully say that on many days, I lied to everybody. "Yep, this is gonna be great! We can do it!" Meanwhile, I would be laying in bed at 3 am asking myself what in the world we were doing. Wondering if this was going to bankrupt us? I could feel my hairs turn gray one-by-one. And then something special started to happen. Our new path started to get easier and those calf-path signs telling us why it was easier not to forge ahead got fewer and fewer. Our family fell in love with each other again. We got away from being boring with each other and would look forward to whatever project the day held. Even our boys, who really are normal kids that would love to flop on the couch with a game console, got a sense of pride and accomplishment after learning a new skill, dreaming up a design, or helping to create something beautiful out of something that was neglected.
I have no idea how any of this will turn out. I am certain that we will create a beautiful space that we can say we poured our heart and effort into. I am sure that my family and my soul are better off for doing this. I hope our community will be enriched by all of our efforts. We will have saved two buildings that have each stood for 100+ years and are part of the fabric of our history. I am not from here, but I am no less of a pioneer in my life path than those that came before me or will after. We are all just calves and we all should chose our own path. Maybe we will be the one who others follow. Maybe, hopefully, going off the beaten path will become the way we really find out who we are.
The Calf-Path by Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911) One day, through the primeval wood, A calf walked home, as good calves should; But made a trail all bent askew, A crooked trail, as all calves do. Since then three hundred years have fled, And, I infer, the calf is dead. But still he left behind his trail, And thereby hangs my moral tale. The trail was taken up next day By a lone dog that passed that way; And then a wise bellwether sheep Pursued the trail o’er vale and steep, And drew the flock behind him, too, As good bellwethers always do. And from that day, o’er hill and glade, Through those old woods a path was made, And many men wound in and out, And dodged and turned and bent about, And uttered words of righteous wrath Because ’twas such a crooked path; But still they followed — do not laugh -- The first migrations of that calf, And through this winding wood-way stalked Because he wobbled when he walked. This forest path became a lane, That bent, and turned, and turned again. This crooked lane became a road, Where many a poor horse with his load Toiled on beneath the burning sun, And traveled some three miles in one. And thus a century and a half They trod the footsteps of that calf. The years passed on in swiftness fleet. The road became a village street, And this, before men were aware, A city’s crowded thoroughfare, And soon the central street was this Of a renowned metropolis; And men two centuries and a half Trod in the footsteps of that calf. Each day a hundred thousand rout Followed that zigzag calf about, And o’er his crooked journey went The traffic of a continent. A hundred thousand men were led By one calf near three centuries dead. They follow still his crooked way, And lose one hundred years a day, For thus such reverence is lent To well-established precedent. A moral lesson this might teach Were I ordained and called to preach; For men are prone to go it blind Along the calf-paths of the mind, And work away from sun to sun To do what other men have done. They follow in the beaten track, And out and in, and forth and back, And still their devious course pursue, To keep the path that others do. They keep the path a sacred groove, Along which all their lives they move; But how the wise old wood-gods laugh, Who saw the first primeval calf! Ah, many things this tale might teach -- But I am not ordained to preach.