Buildings have footprints. So does Bigfoot. Even carbon has a footprint these days. Robinson Crusoe found Friday by following his footprints in the sand. Footprints are but the ephemeral impressions left on a soft surface like sand or snow, or on a concept like time or the environment. Unlike fingerprints which can serve to identify individuality, footprints are generally anonymous. I find a fingerprint and with a microscope and a little forensic training, I can tell you whose hand has been in the cookie jar; I see a footprint and I wonder who has passed this way before. Fingerprints can lead us to certainty while footprints retain an air of mystery, unless, of course, you’re one of those canny, old-time trackers on the trail of an outlaw or a wounded buffalo in a John Ford western.
Footprints are all around us. If you think about it, even time leaves a footprint: the rings that count the seasons of a tree, the carbon-dating of an artifact, the wrinkles that come with our own advancing years. These are the footprints of our lives, the ones that help us remember all that we’ve done and all that we’ve left undone. And if, God forbid, we should ever lose our way in this world, it’s the footprints of our lives that can help us retrace our steps and find our way back home.
I’m thinking about footprints today because this Musing is my 260th consecutive weekly offering. If you do the math, you’ll see that 260 weeks adds up to five years. So, with your permission, I’m bending my arm to pat myself on my back for five years of writing about the world in which I live, the place I’ve come to call home, the people that I love. Like my footprints in last week’s dusting of snow, these Musings mark my way through the landscape of my life and while I probably won’t get lost going to the shed out back, my footprints will always lead me back to my own doorstep.
Five years in, there are some people I want to thank: Dave Wheelan, publisher of The Spy newspapers, who gambled on me five years ago when I first posited that a flock of northbound geese were much better prognosticators of spring than a grumpy old groundhog in his burrow up on Gobblers Knob; Jim Dissette, who helped me collect over a hundred of these Musings and turned them into two lovely little books; my friends who simply smiled when I wrote about their exploits on the golf course or about their businesses in town; to readers who have encouraged me with kind comments in print or in the checkout line at the grocery store; and, of course, to the wee wife who is always the first reader of my early drafts and the person whose footprints I would follow anywhere. My muse.
Musings are my happy disciplines. One of the questions I’m asked most often is “How do you come up with something to write about week-after-week?” It’s a fair question, one that I’m not sure I can truthfully answer. Maybe someday the well will run dry, but so far, these footprints of my mind not only follow me on my own journey, but they also push me forward along the path to wherever it is I’m going.
Today’s forecast is calling for snow, maybe even a lot of it. Think I’ll go take a walk…
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com