Monday, December 04, 2006

The Hawk's View

We had a big snowstorm that kept me from walking a couple of days. When it did get warmer again I trekked out on my usual path on the golf course though now it was covered in about eight inches of snow. I struggled along the path thinking how snow shoes might be interesting to try, or even my cross-country skis, but already the snow was getting sticky. That's the thing about our winters, the snow rarely stays long.

The next day I walked again. This time I carried my camera hoping to catch a shot of a large hawk I'd seen out the window. I headed out on my path, but there were lots of icy patches from the melt. I found myself concentrating so hard of my footing that I rarely looked up to find the bird. I also found my footprints from the previous day. It seemed smart to try to use them again so with every step I tried to place my feet into the pre-cast footpath thus avoiding snow up my pantlegs. This seemed to work fair enough for awhile until I realized the flaws in this plan. Apparently, the day before, I walked with a lot more gusto; my strides were greater, probably due to my delight at finally getting outside. And now, the concentration and effort to match every footprint was becoming tedious. Wait, was that the left foot or right?

So I'm forging ahead, eyes honing in on the next step, the next step, never developing my own rhythm because I'm following my own footsteps of yesterday. I try to perfect my stride, to aim for perfect touch-down into each footprint mold thinking I'll catch the rhythm. But the aim for accuracy reduces speed making each next step a harder reach, and I'm getting tired and even a little dizzy, but I keep on, now in a determined trans-fixed state. Step, next step, oops, missed that one, where's the next? I'm pinning my camera against my body with one arm, so there goes my balance.

Somewhere halfway around I finally become aware that this is all very unpleasant. Not just the effort, because I secretly welcome physical effort, but the sensation I'm now aware of: the sensation of the unnatural. I'm intensely focusing on footprints made by me, by the me who walked here yesterday. I'm struggling to follow the footsteps of my ghost. I've walked this path a dozen years and the sameness never bothered me. A person may drive the same path to work, walk the same hall year after year, but never so precisely the same as what I was attempting to do--walk my exact footsteps. There was something unnerving in that. It made me feel like I was an echo of yesterday's self, following my yesterday self down this path. Which one is more real?

It gave me plenty to think about the rest of the way back, after I abandoned my old steps and crunched in the new. In the end I reduced it to this: If you could go back in time you wouldn't like it because of the creepiness factor of looking ahead at your old self. Better that all your steps are fresh.

Here's the hawk.

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