Leave No Trace

The realization that from at least the time we’re in the 3rd grade we have an instinctive need to be noticed and recognized and that need only seems to grow as we become adults has me thinking.

Is that what everything we do is really all about?  From whining about loud music at 6:15AM to flying solo in a hang glider off a mountain launch to taking pictures and posting them on the web.  Is it really all about the same thing?

How do we make a mark.  How do we matter.  How does the life we live add up to something that was worthwhile.

Far away, in a beautiful place called Montana, a young woman I think of as a “surrogate” daughter (as in, she’s someone else’s child, but I would like to claim her and her twin sister for my own) is in the middle of creating a new life–literally.  Just over half way through her first pregnancy, she is glowing so much it’s evident even in mobile phone photos and posts on FB.

Watching her grow with this new life inside her via the internet gives whole new meaning to virtual reality.  I am reminded of our visit there about this time of year a couple of years ago.  I pull out the old photos and pick out a few with fall colors that fit my mood.

Having retouched the photos a bit to make them look a little more like I remember the place, I find myself wondering if this will be my contribution to the world.  Pictures that make people smile politely and say, “that’s nice.”  Is this the best I can do when it comes to making my own mark?

I have dreamt of riding my bike (alternately motorized and not, depending on which year I was dreaming in) across the US, of through-hiking the whole of the Appalachian Trail, of writing daring and evocative fiction, of starting a community garden and teaching inner city children how to grow their own food.  I have dreamt of things I have no skills to do and of solving problems I know virtually nothing about.  But when it comes to leaving my mark, instead of raising my hand, I seem to lift my feet.  I want to move, to see, to do.  And the only evidence I leave behind is my footprints.

Do the mountains and trees know I’ve been there appreciating them?  Does the sun set with a little extra punch?

In the end, we are all nomads–we’re all just visiting.  Maybe it’s ok if, like good houseguests, once the laundry has been washed, it’s as if we were never there.