A Twist on Impressionism

Avid walkers, Len, Willa, and I tend to rack up multiple miles per day and we never fail to see tracks of other various creatures who’ve been out-and-about enjoying nature too:

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During our walks I oftentimes think of the famous adage — Take nothing but memories; leave nothing but footprints. It reminds me to respect Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants.

Both tracks and memories leave impressions:

  • Tracks in the earth
  • Memories in the mind

What kind of impression have you made?

© Laurie Buchanan

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65 thoughts on “A Twist on Impressionism

  1. The ground has been a bit frozen to leave tracks as of late. Yet we have been exploring our new surroundings, lake and parks.
    Many seem to think leaving litter is their tracks in life. One would hope that good memories are what is being left behind by my walk through life, as I try to capture it’s essence in photographs!

  2. Love your questions Laurie 🙂
    My first thought is that I’m okay with impressions that are made in the moment and then fade with time.
    Although I see myself more as a bird than a raccoon!

  3. I love seeing animal tracks–they remind me that world is filled with more creatures than we know. As for impressions, I have probably left every sort of impression on every sort of person. Positive and negative, depending on the aperture of each of our awareness at the moment. And those impressions were constantly changing as our awareness shifted moment-to-moment. Tracks in snow show this, too. One minute the track is clean and crisp; the next moment snow melts and it’s totally different. A tiny rabbit can impress like a Big Foot with enough snow melt! I love that every impression has something different to teach if we’re open to it. (Your blog will leave an impression on many, I’m thinking.)

    • Kathy — Your impression on me has been positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing. I enjoyed reading your take on the fact that tracks left in snow change shape and size as the snow melts 🙂

  4. I’ve known that flowers, precious stones, and other memorabilia are taken from our national parks. But you and your readers take the high road – right?

    You make lovely tracks with your footprints and photos, and of course good memories, the best souvenir of all!

  5. When I lived in Vermont I loved nothing better than to put on my cross-country skis and head out to see who had walked through the meadow at the break of dawn. Deer, mice, Mr. Fox always made their presence known in the snow. That is how I wish to leave an impression.

  6. I like to think that I am leaving an impression about the value of the ordinary – the things that we have the best chance of giving and receiving freely and in abundance like listening, laughing, kindness, caring, helping, sharing, observing, being present and being thoughtful.

    • Terrill — yes, Yes, YES indeed! I love the consistent impression you make about the value of the ordinary with personal core values such as: “…listening, laughing, kindness, caring, helping, sharing, observing, being present and being thoughtful.”

  7. Such beautiful photos of the animal tracks in the snow. How lovely to witness such complex simplicity. Rare that we get to stop for a moment and capture such perfection.

    As to your question, it has displeased me to no end that I feel that perhaps my impression on others has had more to do with pain and displeasure than I would prefer. As much as I consistently make an effort to re-write that story, I can’t deny that I find myself mired in the muck from time to time. Thankfully, the story is still being written.

  8. I’ve always liked to track — not to hunt, but to solve the mystery: who goes there?
    Here’s my guess to accompany your photos…
    goose
    deer
    dog
    raccoon
    I wonder if I’m right?
    What kind of impression am I leaving behind?
    I’m not sure if I can answer that. And it’s in the eye behold — not only who sees you when, but also what kind of mood they are in.
    I know what I’d like people to think…
    deep thinking
    fun loving
    supportive
    kind
    talented
    determined
    I wonder if I’m right?

    • Leanne — You’re absolutely right about the types of tracks: Canadian geese, mule deer, dog (Willa – Irish Wolfhound), and raccoon! And I can say with certainty that in addition to the attributes you hope you’re leaving (which you are), you’ve also made a positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing impression on me 🙂

  9. Years ago I was asked to lead a reflection for my women’s spirituality group. It was entitled in part “tracking your passion.”
    In preparation I actually read several books on tracking. One was purely about tracking animals to understand and appreciate them. Another book was partially entitled “point last seen”; about a woman who had experienced domestic violence and learned how to identify the unwelcomed observations of her ex-husband and finally her eventual work as a park ranger … tracking lost children and other people in large western national parks.
    I learned that tracking was also about quieting oneself, being present, attentive to the small “tracks” and in the case of lost people … starting at the point last seen. I also explored passion from many points of view. And found that we might also re-connect with our passion by going back to that “point last seen/experienced.”
    At my mom’s wake this past week … we were witness to her decades of service (service tracks) in several organizations. And the many people who came (lines out the door for hours) … people often said … you’re mom was the first to welcome me. Another track uncovered … that of the welcoming heart.
    In my own life I have left small tracks in the world for social justice (women’s rights; good nutritional food for all children; stopping hunger) and ensuring we have those wild places to observe the tracks in the snow.
    It is also true that … many of our tracks in life are not visible to many. Still, the path we take does make a difference … one way or the other. Peace.

    • Audrey — I loved reading your thoughtful comment, especially the part about your mother. Clearly she was a woman who touched (impressed upon) the lives of many. Clearly, the “nut doesn’t fall far from the tree.” 🙂

  10. Laurie, your comment and photos remind me the 9 years we lived in Mammoth Lakes, California, the hiking we enjoyed in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and our home on a forest preserve and fen. All these experiences have left a lasting impression on my heart and my brain.

  11. Laurie, love the photos! Here in Georgia we seldom get the sort of snow that would hold a foot print. I know that I have left plenty of them, in fact, I’ve worn a trail to my vegetable garden. I have spent years reconstructing and revitalizing the soil there. From rock hard red clay, I have engineered a bio-system of Living Soil, one full of all the little plants and creatures that give such vitality to the Earth and the food produced there. I have tried to influence by example, my garden is a study in soil reclamation. Nice question!

    • Sandi — I know well the love you have for your garden, and the gardens of countless others. I also know the positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing impression you’ve made on each plot of soil that’s been fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of your Master Gardener’s Touch! 🙂

  12. Love the photos Laurie . We really must get back into nature walking again . Our three quarter house ( yes you heard right three quarters not half … wood burner fitted tomorrow yeesss) has took up a lot of our time physically and mentally but hey ho soon be there .
    The impression I would like make is for everyone to see the joy in simplicity .
    Cherryx

  13. I like to smile and laugh — a lot. That is the one thing people seem to notice and remember about me. It used to make me fell that people weren’t taking me seriously. But now that I’ve learned a little more along the way if what people remember about me is a smile and a hearty laugh I’m good.

  14. I love your photos, Laurie! And I love your question… such an important one. I rarely think about my presence as leaving tracks, so I need to think about it more…both before I answer your question and in general. Its so easy to get caught up in daily life that I don’t consider how others around me are left in my wake… thank you.

  15. That’s a very good questions, but very difficult to answer. I like to think that my legacy would be a happy and positive one, but I am sure I haven’t always got it right. I do have a temper… Don’t ask!

  16. Some days I make the impression of doing everything on “tiptoe” being kind and good, and then other days I just slog on through anything and everybody, heedless of the lumbering destruction of hurrying through everything heedless and without inner and outer sight…these are my days of behaving without graciousness. On these days, usually I find I’ve left a terrible impression with my words most of all. Most days, I’m just another human leaving my footprints everywhere, and finding in hindsight, I’ve just spent the day running around in circles.

  17. Those tracks made me smile today because I should be making some tracks here in Pittsburgh in the light snow. I haven’t taken my usual walk due to the schedule combined with footwear combined with weather (excuses). But what I have been doing with my daughter is very exciting. Sometimes the daily exercise routine has to make way so that we can “take nothing but memories.”

  18. That is always a question to ponder Laurie. What kind of an impression indeed? As a veteran teacher I’d like to think I’ve done some things right, and I do occasionally get the former student on Facebook or at my blog to check in and tell me exactly what they learned, and about the books they read and the films or music they experiences at my suggestion. Yet the feeling of dissatisfaction is also there, and maybe that’s a good thing. One day I must take account of the ways I thought I made some kind of a difference. The snow metaphor is a terrific one, Laurie!!! 🙂

  19. Ah, excellent question. I want to make an impression of intelligence and light, love and giving, but to do so, I must not worry about what impression I leave, right? In other words, we should aspire to ‘do good’ and leave a ‘good’ impression, but if we only act in order to ‘leave a good impression,’ then we’re not being ‘real.’ Somehow I’m making your question complicated, but I realize that the bunny and the squirrel who left these impressions did not look back at the indentations they left on the ground (or life) – they just lived.

    • Roughwighting — Me thinks it not so much about DOing good, as BEing good. Like the animal’s whose prints I captured, they just let it BE (and in so doing, left their beautiful impressions) 🙂

  20. Laurie, you’re critters are leaving their footprints in the snow whereas mine are leaving theirs in the sand. It’s summer time in Australia and I’ve spotted duck feet and in the mudflats outside and there are also ribbons in the sand left by snails and loads of crab holes. It’s so healing to focus on the minutiae of our world and appreciate it in all it’s glory.

  21. Hi Laurie,

    I really question the “take only memories and leave only footprints” approach.

    I agree that our thoughtless leavings, the trash we often leave unthinkingly in our wake (physically or spiritually), can do a lot of cumulative damage. Often our societal systems give us the illusion of being responsible, by effectively hiding the real impacts of our actions. Having trash picked up at the street, then only to have it barged out to sea and dumped, is far from responsible. Having police keep the homeless out of site may be necessary to maintain the illusion of “market freedom”.

    I applaud the sort of leavings that Audrey and Sandi wrote of, where conscious persistent effort has left their environment in a more life sustaining state than they found it.

    It seems to me that part of the problem is the persistent illusion that nature is in some sort of grand balance, when the reality is far from that. Certainly cooperation has evolved at many different levels, and homoeostatic systems (systems that tend to push some parameter toward some sort of optimum level) have also evolved at many levels, and there are also many aspects of nature that are in a constant “arms race” at some level. Often these things happen at very different time-scales to our normal human existence, and thus can only be seen clearly after careful study.

    So I am more of a persuasion to make such improvements as I reasonably can toward the ability of our environment to sustain both life and liberty (and generally speaking the higher the level of sapience the greater the value I give to both life and liberty).

    So I tend to spend quite a bit of my time exploring largely unexplored “spaces” (in terms of paradigms, abstractions, technologies and systems), and bringing back such maps as I can to assist us all to explore whatever responsibly interests us (responsibility in this sense meaning respect for life and liberty, with an imperative to take such actions as we reasonably can to support life and liberty generally).

    One of the greatest impressions is the fundamental uncertainty that is clearly present in reality, in our understanding of reality, and in logic itself (Kurt Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem, and the idea of infinities). So while we can become very confident of some things in some domains, we must each also accept that there are many domains that are uncertain to the point of randomness, and it is very dangerous indeed to become overconfident in such domains.

    It seems to be true that all major advances in complexity of evolved systems are characterised by the emergence of new levels of cooperation, stabilised by attendant strategies that prevent cheating. We seem to be living in an age when awareness that cheating and deception have come to dominate our political and economic systems is growing exponentially, and with it a willingness to transcend the political and economic realities of our time, by the expression of cooperation and the conscious choice by individuals of freedom at all levels of existence (with responsibility, as above).

    So for me, it is important to be making making small ripples of cooperation, constantly. Be it by carrying extra buckets of sand on the golf course and filling the divets of those who don’t do it themselves, or breaking off encroaching branches when hiking trails, or planting trees, or picking up other people’s rubbish, or working on new recycling technologies, or working to expand awareness of our impacts on waterways and water quality, or a host of other persistent conscious actions.

    It seems that intellectual understanding is an important aspect of who we be, and it only makes a difference in reality if the understanding expresses as actions that actually make a measurable difference.

    So I’m more of a pick up the rubbish, and make constant small improvements kinda guy – anywhere and everywhere in life.

    And sometimes it takes some fairly harsh lessons to shock us out of established habits of action and thought, and to bring some distinctions to awareness.

    • Ted — I like your approach: constant, consistent, regular, steady, and unfailing. By the way, if I haven’t told you so lately, it bears repeating: you’ve made an unforgettably positive impression on Len and I. Thank you! 🙂

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