Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Footsteps in the snow

The storm that blew through last night left behind breezes and huge white fluffy clouds to float across the valley below. But wild weather still remained on the mountain; I could step out of my classroom door and see it up there, swirling around and filling the canyons with dark shadows. I’ve been walking every day without fail, doing the loop—down the road to the highway, up the highway to the fire road, up to the falls, then through my neighbor’s ‘yards’ back to my cabin. So today was no different. Even though I drove home in steady hail, I still donned hikers and my big squall jacket after I fed the cats, and off I went. My jacket is actually a thigh-length, wool-lined coat with a waterproof shell. The hood is wide, so as I walked along in the hail—which had the consistency of tiny snow dots—the coat provided a sort of small moving hut, with the hail glancing off and falling all around me while I was safe and snug (and eventually way too warm) inside.

The mountain becomes unbelievably quiet in a storm; the birds and animals huddle up somewhere, and the few people who are up here get comfortable in front of a fire and stay put. One car passed as I walked along the highway—someone coming down from the ski lift, I’m sure. And then nothing, no one, until I reached the fire road that winds up to the falls. A lone hiker passed me as I started up, looking annoyed by the weather. (He hadn’t hat nor hood.)

By this time, the hail had accumulated enough on the road to make a soft white carpet about an inch thick. At the turnoff by the falls, I looked back. Mine were the only footprints visible for a half mile down the trail. But I knew that in half an hour’s time, they’d be blotted out, covered over, with no trace left behind.

I often wonder if my life will be like this—a set of lone footprints will show that I passed through, but they will be gone in the same amount of time that it took to make them—say, a generation or two. I know that my children are my strongest legacy, and at this point in my life, I know I never did enough when I had them with me to show them how much I love and appreciate them, not just as my children but as unique individuals. My kids would testify, I’m sure, that while I worked to build a better life for them, I had little time to simply be their mom. And so I often wonder if the truths I tried to teach them about life, about respect for all sentient beings, about being people of integrity… about how deeply I love them… made a lasting impression.

I cannot leave them a legacy of riches. At times, though, it is a comfort to know that I will leave behind a legacy of words. While the old adage tells us that actions speak louder than words, I believe that the written word may have a voice hundreds perhaps even thousands of years after it is laid down. I don’t presume that my own writing will last that long, but I do have hope that my words will remain at least a bit longer than those footsteps in the snow.


  1. You are so right about leaving a legacy of words. It is the writer’s way to leave footprints on the hearts of others. Libby

  2. Your legacy is not left in your children, or even your grandchildren, but in your great-grandchildren (whom, your granddaughters assure me, will all be adopted).
    Hard enough to parent with a partner, still even more difficult parenting on your own, and damn near impossible-- battling the influence of an ex!
    Also, don't forget the legacy that Mrs. Tanner, my favorite high school English teacher left, without even realizing it... your legacy is not for you to know...

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  4. What a reflective account of a moment in time. And re: your not leaving your children a legacy of riches; I think a legacy of words is the ultimate in wealth, unmatched by any other. It is a piece of YOU -- and money, property, stocks can not compare. I personally would prefer that my mother leave me letters. journals and photographs rather than any other legacy.

    I can relate to the line about how quiet it is during a snow storm. Years ago, in Kansas, I asked someone I worked with to alert me if snow were to fall, as I had never experienced that. [Her question to me: "What country are you from?" (Answer: Southern California)] I was entranced by the hushed sound of snow falling, not expecting it was something I would hear as well as see.

  5. Ah, JP, you are so right. Many times, especially in researching the life of my infamous great-grandmother, I have wished that someone along the way had left behind some words.... I've been journaling in blank books regularly for a quarter of a century. Since I'm planning on living another 30 years or so, my descendants should have an interesting time reading back through them... about what it was like to type manuscripts on a typewriter... and doing research by searching through old books in the library... to say nothing of all the racy stuff in my history!