Footprints By Annie Dillard: Reading and Meditation

October 18, 2020  • Todd Breyfogle

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A momentary pause, walking in the rain. How grand it is to think of footprints 3.75 million years old. Grand and commonplace. Pedestrian, in fact. It is striking that the word we use for mundane, or lacking in excitement is the same word we use to describe the one who walks along the street.

Annie Dillard recounts Mary Leakey’s discovery of a trail of two hominid footprints on the Tanzanian plain. The image is anything but mundane. Ninety feet of walking side by side until….What do we leave behind? In what medium is it preserved? What care is taken, or not, to safeguard others’ footprints, against the erosion of time, the insinuating tree roots, or the wind that blows them to obscurity? The vestiges of our efforts are just that. Vestige, from the Latin vestigium, meaning footprint. Our footprints are traces of something left behind, fading, or perhaps no longer existing at all. But everything gains in grandeur every day, becoming more beautiful and more remote. There is grandeur in the walking, side by side.

Todd Breyfogle, Denver, Colorado

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