Tracks in the Snow

January 16th, 2011 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

devinesnowCoastal New Englanders get to experience and describe at least two types of granular metaphor generators — snow and sand. Their natures make them all too similar. They fairly cry out for imagery of the ephemeral.

For the warm stuff, you could do a lot worse than invoking Jimi Hendrix’ Castles Made of Sand. The pretty nasty little song has it in refrain that “…castles made of sand fall in the sea…eventually.”

When I cross-country ski over the same ground on successive days, I think of such transience. Today on the Franklin Park golf course, I looked for the tracks I had laid down Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.  I skipped yesterday and in that absence, evidence of my passage, poetically my existence, was either greatly diminished or gone entirely.

There’s our metaphor. We come, we act, we make a difference (we believe), we leave and our traces may soon be faint or forgotten.

For the non-Nordic skier, the tracks one cuts are both work and legacy. Following in ruts cut by a human on skis or a machine is much easier than pushing through six or 10 or 18 inches of snow and ice. When you put down the tracks, you invariably think you’ll return on them or at least other skiers will benefit, and likely do the same for you when they are first.

We can torture that trope even more with other snowfield visitors. Finding previous ski tracks obliterated and deeply pitted by those in boots or snowshoes is annoying and disheartening.

They might tromp in through ignorance or thoughtlessness or malice or simple lack of breeding. It’s a little thing for them to walk elsewhere and having extensive walking-in-snow experience I know they won’t gain much by using the ski tracks. Yet, what they do causes considerable inconvenience to skiers. I’m betting most don’t know.

Of course, given the modern self-centered America, if you’d call this to a tromper’s attention, you’d likely get some defensive and hostile tirade about no one owning the snow, it’s a free country and worse.

Even without stamped out tracks though, the ephemeral nature of tracks in the snow is that clichéd reminded that we are passing through and may leave no lasting trace. Given that, let us:

  • Revel when we find tracks left by ourselves or others that ease and mark our journey
  • Gladly cut trails for the benefit of those who follow
  • Be in the moment of the journey, whether following or making tracks


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