As I rounded the corner of the snow-covered field, I noticed the run of tracks pressed into the fresh powder. I know dog and deer and these looked like neither. They were small and thin, like contrails and if there were indentations for paw or claw they didn’t reveal themselves. Rabbit maybe. I ventured further on the walk and encountered new sets of tracks. These left soft pockets and you could see the smaller indentations of hooves: deer. They went up over a short incline and disappeared into the tree line. The further I walked, the more I encountered both types of markings. At times they intersected, in other places they ran almost parallel to one another vanishing at the edge of a narrow stream cutting across the landscape.


I played my own little game, wondering at what I was witnessing. Frightened rabbit startled into high-tailing it for cover? Giddy rabbit tromping along without a care in the world? Anxious deer, pausing for a drink with one super sonic ear cocked listening for the seer of gunpowder leaving the barrel? Arrogant deer brazenly reclaiming field and yard and territory where houses and people have encroached? Maybe this is what keeps archaeologists going when they excavate the tiny fins of a prehistoric fish—they get to play author, making connections, weaving story.

I felt guilty leaving my own footprints in the snow. I had no business intruding on whatever dance had unfolded, disturbing whatever balance hung together in this bleached territory. Who’s to say that I belonged here at all? I just showed up, which is how a lot of American history seems to unfold. But now my prints are part of the story. My footfalls leave a legacy for someone else to find and think, “Someone out for an easy stroll on a winter’s day? Someone out hunting? Someone moving through this field trying to outpace a person, a heartbreak, a life?”

It seems to me that we’re all leaving bread crumbs behind in some form or another, traces of ourselves. We even talk about leaving “digital footprints:” photos, tweets, videos, posts. There are loved ones who curate the Facebook pages of people after they’ve made their final exit. These are just more refined tracks, but even they don’t tell the whole story. As hard as we try to cement legacy, we’re really just scattering pieces for someone else to find, and once we move on, we have no say in how those parts fit together. Unnerving. The notion that some day your tale assumes a new ontology, becomes animate again in a way you could never have envisioned. It’s enough to root you where you stand.

But you musn’t let it.

You have to venture out into the snow or mud or other stretch of rough earth to make a print; you have to move with intention, allow the heft of what you carry—your joys, your fears, your weariness, your desires–to show up in your stride. You have to be in the world in a meaningful way in order for your way to have meaning.

Otherwise you leave no gift, no story for the world to find, nothing but the stark, unbroken landscape of a field in winter unfolding before you like a blank page.



100 thoughts on “Traces

  1. I love this. I have often wondered about the impact of my presence on the lives of those I encounter. I have five Facebook friends who have passed away but their pages are maintained by loved ones as an ongoing memorial, allowing people to add on to the stories of their lives. It makes me wonder what will be said of me when I’m gone. Your post has made me rethink the way I am treading through life. Great post.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Hi Kevin..and wow..thank you for your kind words and for reading. Same here on FB…it makes me sad in some ways to see an “empty” page in one respect and then comforting in another respect to think that we can share memories and words to each other in a kind of digital cemetery (yikes..but right?) And who knows what kind of psychic and emotional imprint we’ve left, we’re leaving on those we touch in our daily lives. Fascinating stuff. Appreciate your thoughts..peace!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m late to the party maybe. But the thought of continuous impermanence is something that lives with me every day. I don’t have Facebook for many reasons, but thinking that something like this will stay there and survive after you – it just makes me want to disappear completely, to tread so lightly to leave nothing after me. Coming into this world I had nothing, and nothing should I have when leaving it.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. That is a powerful thought…maybe we try and curb our human footprints, but we should never curb our heartprints..the lives you touch, even just with a smile, a kind word, a commitment to really listen to someone…those are the real marks that stay…those are the things that social media can never really capture 🙂 Thanks for your thoughts!

        Liked by 6 people

  2. It seems you have had similar thoughts parallel to those that enraptured my thinking today as I sat by a snow and ice covered lake. Nicely written 🙂 The universe awaits all of us to open ourselves, our creativity and our internal beings sharing them with the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Was just reading a book where the author points out that Jesus was a “failure” in one sense, if we used today’s standards of success. He was taken out by power and could no longer pursue is calling. But he was a huge success simply by being out in the world and being faithful/obedient to what he saw as his call. So, just maybe, we have to get out in the world and try to make an impact, but not be concerned about our impact, only that we were faithful.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think you’re right…I think that wherever we can make a positive indentation, create a shared connection we’re honoring the gift we’re given of being human. “Success” is a distraction, you know? What matters is what’s felt, those lasting traces on our humanity that we carry with us. Thanks! Peace to you!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is written beautifully and the words are crafted so intentionally. There is a lesson to be learned here about courage, self-discovery, and creating your sense of purpose. Honestly, no matter how much we may deny it, at the end of it all, we want to know that we’ce left footprints in people’s hearts. I would like to know that I’ve made a difference in the world, which could only happen because I chose to “venture out in the snow”.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much! You are so right and beautifully put. It’s tempting to tuck ourselves in so we don’t get hurt, so we don’t risk our hearts, our spirits, but then we deny others the gift of all we have and all we are! You get it…peace to you! Thanks for reading. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Interesting and thank you for haring. I sometimes get lost on these thoughts like I wonder what it means when I find myself at Disneyland and wonder about the people and how we are all in the same place at the same time and yet probably will never see them. Other times I think about how society measures you on what you have, car, job and home. If you don’t measure up even in the size you are less and worthy. There are many good people who make a world of difference but aren’t really in high powered paying jobs….I could go on but its time to get out there and start my wonderful day!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks M! I think you’re right. If we go by what society or our culture tells us is successful and measurable, we miss out on a lot. You’ll never know the difference you made by being kind to someone in your every day, by looking someone in the eye when you’re talking to them. They will walk away and say “Wow, I really felt like she heard me, like she was really listening.” That’s the kind of pay-out that no salary can touch, right? Have an inspired day! Thanks!

      Liked by 4 people

  6. Hey Sheila,

    this is one of the deepest posts I’ve read recently. I think it captures a fear and a wish that lives within every person – leaving a legacy behind.

    I’m new to blogging but from what I’ve written so far I think it’s exactly how I feel right now.

    I’d love if you could spend some time checking out my posts, hopefully you’ll see my perspective on this issue.


    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Ram! Thanks so much for the kind words and for reading. I really, really appreciate it. And I think you’re right..we are caught up in that feeling/anxiety of “Will I matter? Do I count? How do I know?” It’s an interesting thing, for sure! I’ll look forward to reading more of your discoveries! Thanks!

      Liked by 3 people

  7. I just wanna say I know that feeling and I loved the way you have wrote those feelings. You have portrayed these thoughts in a really beautiful and elegant way.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. This is a really great way to address such a universal worry. I love the way you open with the story of the prints you found, and develop it into such a beautiful metaphor. This is the kind of writing I want to get better at…

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Great post! You totally captured the feelings I have when setting out in fresh snow for a snowshoe or XC ski! And what a neat way to bring it back to everyday life 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I totally agree with you, that’s something I’m working on as well! I’m a personal trainer, but I focus a lot on mental and spiritual health in my training, which is odd to the typical personal trainers who only care about the looks from the outside. Anyways, I tried to follow your blog and its not letting me view your page past this post!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Your writing is packed full of powerful quotes. For one, I love: “You have to be in the world in a meaningful way in order for your way to have meaning.” Your thoughts string together so nicely! I love your tone, and I wonder if some who are reading it might overlay a joyful tone, when they realize to look back and see the footprints they are leaving. What a great thing in itself for those who feel lost or forgotten, to be reminded that we leave evidence of our existence wherever we go! Such a thoughtful post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Kayla! You are so sweet..that means a lot. Truly. I love the idea of feeling energized and joyful in looking over our traces, to see how we’ve shown up in the lives of others and feel happy for all the ways they, too, have shown up in ours..lot’s of tracks running back and forth I think 🙂 I’ll have to think more about it…THANKS! xo!


    1. Thanks so much! I’m so glad you stopped in to read and that something resonated with you. Absolutely..make your own traces, forge your own paths, and know that it MATTERS that you do..yes! 🙂


  11. Hey! I stumbled upon your post and I never regret clicking it on the discover page. The way you weave words has an effect to people. You effectively tell them what you really to. I wish I had your degree of talent. I just started blogging, about a week ago to be exact. If you’re interested, you can visit it at


    1. Thanks! I think we’re all more aware of this kind of thing in a culture where everyone and everything seems to be on display all the time. It’s worth looking in the small places too, you know? 🙂


  12. Earlier today, I was speaking with someone about perspective, and how truly important and under appreciated it is. It started from discussing our mutual tendencies to isolate and self-solve our problems, bottling it all up to minimize the impact. I swear, this was just the perspective that was needed. I adore your wording and imagery. You gave us all a fresh reminder that the path we take in life is limited, that in a flash it could all be gone. The footsteps we’re taking, hoping to reach the “someday” we’re all waiting for will merely be footsteps in time. There won’t be any explanations for why we walked two feet to the left and turned around, what caused us to circle in place, struggling to find the right footing to go on. It’ll only be footsteps, most of which will be covered before we’re willing to believe. Ambition is great, it makes the future less bleak.. Gives us hope that the time we have will be purposeful. But if we spend our lives stepping daintily, waiting for someday, our mark on this world won’t linger – they’ll melt away like snow.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Your images remind me of an image upon which I stumbled today, tracks of a rabbit suddenly ending with the fan of feathers — hawk or owl. I’m not sure. That raised its own set of ontological thoughts for me, not very sanguine ones, I must admit. Your reflections set me to reflecting, too. It’s been positive. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! That is sweet, kind, and very thoughtful. We do not live in a Disney movie..nature has its necessary order and even though we don’t understand that dance, there is beauty in it 🙂 Be well and peace!


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