Footprints: Leading others in the right direction

Published 6:00 am Friday, September 28, 2018

Today was a perfect day to be out and about with a camera and friends. The sun was shining and the first hints of autumn color popping out amongst the trees. Goldenrod was blooming, and thistles have begun to shed their downy seeds.

We were looking for wildlife or signs of wildlife. We saw three deer in someone’s back yard after we had come off the mountain, some vultures picking at what appeared to be a dog skeleton, a few butterflies, and a couple of squirrels. As far as live critters, the day was disappointing.

However, the tracks we found made up for it. There were bird tracks, turkey, rabbit, deer, some kind of canine (maybe a coyote), one front bear track, and different sized cat tracks. All of those are pretty normal after a rain and a muddy road on the mountain.

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What was unusual was the size of one cat paw print in our first location. It was the biggest cat track I’ve ever seen in person. It appeared to be as large as the front part of my shoe, larger than my palm. It was in a rocky place with a thin layer of dirt for an impression, but it was pretty clear. In a totally different location miles away, we found big cat tracks walking in a straight line at the edge of the muddy road. They were deep and clear, looking pretty fresh.

I had left my plaster, bowl, and water at home, but I did take pictures with my foot beside of the imprints. I also took a comparison photo of my car keys next to the big prints.

All of this was exciting as I continue to look for and hope to get a legitimate photo of a big cat in our area, but my thoughts went beyond the animal footprints that were so easy to read from their imprints in the moist earth. We leave footprints where ever we go.

Our footprints are clearly visible across the pages of our lives. We leave our footprints on the lives of others through our daily encounters. Great men and women have left huge footprints across history. Not all of us will leave such deep and lasting impressions as the giants on the pages of history such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Billy Graham, Corrie ten Boom, Madame Curie, or Helen Keller. The footprints we leave, the impressions that are left in the moist soil of another person’s life after we are gone make a difference.

“Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This summer I made two trips to the beach, once to Charleston, and once to Myrtle Beach, after not having visited a beach for about thirty years. I was fascinated with all the footprints in the sand as the waves swept in and washed them all away. I tried to leave deep imprints walking across the beach and into the edge of the ocean, but my steps were never as deep as I thought they would be, not as clearly visible as I had hoped, and eventually all washed away by the water.

The truth is, we all leave our footprints as we go. Some are deeper than others. Some are in sand, which will not last, and some are in the soft soil of solid earth that will endure for a time. But the footprints we leave on a heart are there, as surely as if we have stepped in concrete and walked away.

I hope my footprints will tell more about me than the size of my foot when I have passed beyond, and that always, those prints will be leading others in the right direction.

Reach longtime Enterprise columnist Judith Victoria Hensley at or on Facebook. Check out her blog: One Step Beyond the Door.