Last night, winter left us what I expect will be its parting gift for the 2014 season. We don’t usually get much snow in my part of the world (a half inch is enough to close the schools), and so the winter weather is something of an adventure when it comes.
When it snows at my house, I try to be the first one outside. I want to be able to see the ice on the branches before the sun melts it away. I want to watch the birds and the animals taking in the strange sights. Most of all, I want to see the smooth layer of untouched snow before it gets chopped up by dogs and children and sled runs down our modest hill. I want to see the world as it has been made new.
The irony, of course, is that to see it new means to disturb its newness. I try to walk the perimeter of our land so that its interior will remain pristine, at least until I’m discovered by kids or animals. But my footsteps change the landscape and, when I look behind me, alter my view. I suppose that can’t be helped, but it still makes me a bit sad.
Footprints in the snow tell us something about the nature of our world. We pass through it and explore it and make our mark as best we can. But in time the snow will melt away and the mud and grass will erase all thought of where we had been. In fact, this usually happens in a matter of days, if not hours. It’s a sobering metaphor.
Still, the beauty of snow (at least in northeast Arkansas) lies in part in its transience. If it stayed around forever, we would not appreciate it. Its impending disappearance makes us pay attention all the more.
The same is true of footprints. They do not testify to accomplishment so much as to motion. They show that we moved through a particular place at a particular time and then kept going. As William Faulkner put it, “A monument only says, ‘At least I got this far,’ while a footprint says, ‘This is where I was when I moved again.'”
May the footprints you make today leave a beautiful impression.