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Soul searching (10/26/2008)
By Janet Lewis Burns

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” –Simone Weil

One can hardly be a player in life if they aren’t experiencing it. Personal thoughts, disconnected and rambling, soon melt back to where they came from and begin anew. Nostalgia feeds on the sentimental mind. Recollection is good for the soul. To keep in touch with where you’ve been can be the best guide to where you’re going.

Fingerprints of our mothers identify our souls. Even when life is one dance after another, in the end we take leave through the one who brought us. The womb eternally harbors its own. It’s been said that a girl doesn’t become a woman until her mother dies.

Each autumn leaf falling, that gets snagged in the vortex of a passing glimpse, is a late relative, friend, lover, acquaintance, or stranger. The swift memory of someone captures our regard in a maelstrom of emotion…facial expressions, silhouettes, scurrying shadows, the timbre of a voice, or the stimulation of a touch is etched in our psyche.

Like a child – what I admire I must have. I was strolling along a path in Prairie Island’s entangled jungle when I thought of that. I can never venture into forestland without picking, gathering, or bending for a closer look. No longer summer, not quite fall, colors have been slow to peek through the green and the drab this year.

Parcels of public land, the backwaters of the Mississippi echo with footsteps of those who came and departed before us. Explorers meander along earthen trails with their crunchy carpet of death, the dismal hope of next spring brought home on the soles of scuffed, beaten-up shoes. Somehow I feel the need to come away with something tangible from each visit, that which has been entrusted to memory for a time when journeys become stationary.

That last trip to Prairie Island was brief, the wind bitter and birds noisily scattering at the sight and sounds of a paleface. Nothing enticed my camera. The most prominent feeling at that time was hunger, a Big Mac kind of hunger, which I haven’t given into in years. Winter hibernation had not given me the go-ahead to gorge.

I went with salad, its appeal waning with colder weather. Opening the tablet I had brought into the restaurant, I wrote, root beer tastes like a long time ago…chubby, little hands tipping frosty mugs. That image gave way to flashes of Dad handing me a swirled, white cloud of soft ice cream in a cone; his working hands raking a pile of autumn leaves which he would set ablaze against a beaming, golden, twilight sky; hands that never lashed out in anger folded beside a steaming cup of morning coffee in the first light of day.

Today we are overcome with choices, an overload of desires and a false need for instant gratification. Mothers don’t take their kids shopping – it’s the other way around! The money never seems to run out! Sooner or later the bills come due.

I’ve often thought, Dad would turn over in his grave if he knew we spent that kind of money! Pat’s folks sufficiently and cheerfully raised twelve children on their Wyattville dairy farm. The hard work was an accepted way of life. Our mothers didn’t have any household conveniences; yet, compared to their ancestors they lived on easy street. It’s hard to imagine further advances in technology our offspring will experience in their lifetimes. Already the young cannot be satisfied or fulfilled.

Death follows birth…farewells follow relationships…wisdom follows seeking…life follows life…generation follows generation. Time left nudges each of us to consider what we’ll be leaving as a legacy for our descendants.

Sooner or later, we’ll have to ask ourselves, “Where have I left my fingerprints along my earthly journey?”

Janet Burns roams the countryside for nature’s serenity and splendor.

She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com.  


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