Traces


To many people, life is a series of motions. We get up from bed, eat, do things with friends, do things with strangers, do things by ourselves, and move from one place to another. A moment devoid of action is temporary. We count our days by the time left before we go out to do something, then by the time since. Our memories are defined by the things we did, rather than the things we did not.

Each of these actions leaves behind a visible trace. Of what significance are these traces?

traces in ice

1. A closer look:

every sound creates vibrations, moving some objects and changing others;

every smile leaves a fine line, or makes a fine line charmingly less fine;

every step disturbs the particles beneath the foot, or in the absence of particles, fresh ones are left behind.

2. Sometimes, these traces are undesirable.

In a day and age where there is too much noise, there is an eagerness for quiet:

Quiet in volume,

quiet in movement,

quiet in impact.

The world cannot survive if we do not change our ways.

patterns in a leaf skeleton

How to increase quiet:

Leave your surroundings as you found them.

Disturb the environment as little as possible, lest a catastrophic mistake is set in motion.

Make the smallest mark possible.

Do these ideas sound familiar? Once cornerstones for only some civilizations, they now permeate many, many cultures.

bird footprints in the sand

3. But these traces can tell amazing stories, if we know how to listen to them.

As inevitable as these effects are, we might as well enjoy what we are shown—worrying less about what could and might go wrong, instead observing what already happened.

When did this come to be?

Who left this here? What was he or she doing, thinking at that moment?

Was this the making of something beautiful or profound?

How am I, at this very moment, though the action of observation, already leaving my mark? Perhaps I am adding to the narrative, one that was made by the person who was here before me, and the person before him or her, and the people who came before us.

Did a non-human energy lend its voice, too?

Did the wind carve this soft corner?

Did the rain smoothen this surface?

All of our traces mingle in a story of endless, tiny moments.

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