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Fading Tracks Across Time

Yesterday morning I stood outside, barefoot, on the deck scanning the woods.  A dozen deer were moving silently through, silhouetted by the sun reflecting off the rapidly melting snow.  Unusually warm weather has created this opportunity to stand barefoot for me, and given the deer access to acorns and other edibles that should be locked into a frozen vault for a couple more months.  The deer don’t worry about climate change, only food and safety, and they graze uninterrupted as I walked back inside.

Late morning we met friends for a walk on the Windham Rail Trail.  The trail changes every day, and today brought slush mixed with large bare spots.  We discussed using micro-spikes, but they would’ve been overkill on most of the trail, with just one section of about 100 meters testing our decision to leave them in the car.  No, this was a day for water-resistant footwear, good socks and focus on where you stepped next.    The week ahead brings more mild temperatures, and it’s likely this trail will be all pavement by next weekend.

As usual on this trail, there were many animal tracks crossing this way and that.  Wildlife has their own trail system, but crossing paths with human roads and trails is inevitable.  Deer tracks mixed with turkey, squirrels and the other regulars.  But one set of tracks stood out from the rest; like a small child doing handstands across the snow, beaver tracks punctuated the softening snow.  Their front paws are very defined and human-life.  The back paws are more like a ducks.  The combination convinced me it wasn’t a racoon’s tracks we were looking at.  Beaver don’t hibernate, but they usually aren’t moving about that much this time of year.  Looking around there was no apparent evidence of tree damage from beaver, but we were right next to a pond.  Beaver store their winter food underwater near their nest.  Nest building isn’t a winter activity.  So I wondered what the beaver was traveling through here for.  Visiting friends?  Booty call? Or like me earlier just stepping outside to see what was new in the world?

Yesterday was a big news day with the death of Kobe Bryant.  Social media and traditional media alike erupted in a flurry of reaction.  It’s a jolt when someone so young and vibrant is killed so abruptly.  Stoicism points out that it could happen to any of us at any moment, so live this moment fully.  So many forget that until a famous person or a loved one shocks the system with a reminder.  Living this moment starts with awareness of everything around you, feeling the changes in the air, seeing the deer moving through the woods, seeing the tracks in the snow, and having an extended conversation with people you care about while you navigate a slushy trail.  Life is now, today, whether it’s a Monday morning or a Friday night.  Bryant, and the other people on that helicopter were taken unexpectedly, tragically, but they were living a full life.  If you aren’t fully alive in this moment, fully aware of the magic around you, are you really living?

As we left the trail yesterday, our own tracks marched along for 3 1/2 miles in one direction  and back again, covering seven full miles of conversation, observation, exercise and being alive.  Many of those tracks were turning to slushy mush even as we took them, and disappeared with the thousands of other tracks that have walked this path over the years.  Our time here is limited, the memories are made now, so what shall we do with this day before it too disappears?


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