Footprints on the pavement, dark shoe-shapes etched into a thin, fresh layer of 3 AM snow. Someone passed this way just now, barely before me. The tiny falling icicles haven’t even half-way covered the tracks.
Awake and alive in the cold of the night, I follow the trail. This was how we knew nature back then, back before prime-time TV or even before fancy Victorian drawing rooms, before urbanity and before books. There were trails to follow, fish to catch and herbs to pick.
This is how we learned – footprints, too small to be human, the snow just starting to cover the trail, a lone deer heading south. Footprints, human, but wearing strange foot coverings, running, just before me, following the deer trail – another tribe’s hunter out tonight. Footprints, light and small, in four rows, leading to the river, maybe women out to fish.
A door slams shut in a house up the street. The trail hadn’t lied.
I follow my own scent back home. I think, I could have made it. We all could. If the TVs and the drawing rooms and the street lights and the books disappeared, we’d remember what it was to watch for tracks and follow trails. We’d remember about hunting spirits and river wisdoms and how to build shelter in the woods. We’d remember to pray to the wind. We’d never again doubt ourselves and our made-up worlds and wonder whether Kant or Descartes or Nietzsche or Jesus were right.
We’ll rise, awaken, follow the trail. The stars hold enough answers; nature’s rules are as simple as life.