I was sitting on a rock along the shore of Chittenden Reservoir in central Vermont and gave thought to my footprints. The day was bone cold. The sky, azure blue, cleared the muck from my readapting brain. I had not a care in the world. A white-golden sun radiated at a thirty degree angle off the treeline in the western afternoon sky.
In front of me was the reservoir, frozen over and covered by four inches of fresh snow. I was situated in a little cove not unlike the one at the Mary Ann Furnace trails of Codorus.
There was no one around. The only sounds were those of wind blowing across an open body of water, and the dull knocking of a woodpecker’s beak hitting a dead tree.
My size ten hiking boot tracks lay to my right. They approached from the other side of the cove, coming out of the woods like a deer on holiday. They meandered by the shoreline. There was a laziness in their gait, characterized by an eight inch slide of the back heel before it planted itself in the white crunch.
I looked at my steps and ponderd the understanding that I had just been “there”. I walked, one-foot-in-front-of-the-other, and arrived “here”. I began to feel a sense of awe and wonder.
I thought to myself, “I have hiked hundreds of miles of trails, beach, and urban landscape, but I never have given much attention to the act of walking itself. How do we do it? I always go out to commune with mother nature, get some fresh air, or exercise a bit. I do not think about walking. It’s always been there.”
Seeing my footprints in the snow caused me to realize that walking is a miracle. It may not seem so, but it is. When we were babies our nature set us to crawling, and then to standing upright. We surely do not remember our first steps, nor how we courageously decided to take them. They simply occurred. Grace happened.
I smiled when this revelation came upon me. I smiled at the simplicity, and the mystery of walking. The footprints were art on life’s canvas.
I took an apple out of my pack and snapped off a bite. Turning my head to the left, the wintry scene was untouched, a virgin laying of snow on frozen water.
There were no footprints.
(written 12 January 2000)