Footprints Left Behind

Did you ever wonder why people carve their names or initials on tree trunks, benches, and other objects? And did you notice that more significant places often have more of those markings?

That strong desire to make a statement “I was here!” is as old as the human race—a desire to make and leave behind some sort of sign, a “footprint” of existence.

The mysterious markings and images pecked or painted on cliffs and boulders in the West, known as the pictographs, are messages from the past. Similarly, the boot print of the Apollo 11 crew member and the American flag left behind on the moon in 1969 are our message to the future stating, “We were here.”

Bootprint left on moon by Apollo 11 astronaut (from NASA)

Boot print on the moon – NASA photo

I probably would not have thought about this at all if I had not found an almost forgotten photograph of my footprints, or rather boot prints, from several years ago. I was sorting through piles of my photographs in preparation for the recent art exhibit and there it was—the photograph of my boot prints in the Grand Canyon! And there also was another photo showing the boot prints of my Canadian friend, Joan, with whom I had undertaken the challenge of hiking that incredible canyon – down and up in one day!

Alicja Mann shadow and footprints at Grand Canyon

My boot prints and shadow on the Grand Canyon trail

These footprints in the dust of the trail were a short lived statement of my presence there. Short lived, but definitely a bit longer than the bare footprints I make at the edge of the ocean each time I walk on the wet sand of Silver Beach when I am on Cape Cod. There the very next wave smooths out the footprints and the following one makes them disappear totally. I never had an impulse to take a picture of my footprints there— maybe because that beach is so familiar to me. Similarly, I did not have that desire on any mountain hikes around Tucson, even though the mountains here are very beautiful.

Just being at the Grand Canyon evokes an unforgettable feeling of awe and humbleness, but hiking it, measuring myself against its giant scale of space and time is indescribable. That’s right—the magnificence and hugeness of the Grand Canyon was so overwhelming and the sense of my minuteness there against the background of the rocks formed through the millennia of time, made me feel like shouting, “I am here! I am really here!” Hence the footprint photo and many other photos that captured that adventure.

Now these photos seem flat and very one dimensional, and can’t adequately illustrate the beauty and power of that place. Still, I will share a few of them with you. If you haven’t been there, I hope that you do go—after all it is one of the wonders of the world, and was not man-made, but created by nature over millions of years!

Grand Canyon morning from South Kaibab Trail

View of the Grand Canyon in the morning light

Alicja and Joan at the Grand Canyon, morning

At the South Kaibab trailhead – 7 AM

Grand Canyon textures and colors by Alicja Mann

Textures and colors of the Grand Canyon

Alicja Mann at Grand Canyon

Alicja and view of O’Neill Butte

Footbridge at Grand Canyon

Silver Bridge over the Colorado River

Grand Cayon walls seen from Bright Angel trail

Going up the Bright Angel trail

Alicja Mann and sign at end of Grand Cayyon hike

At the end of the trail – 7 PM

My boot prints in the Grand Canyon disappeared almost immediately while the boot prints on the moon probably remain unchanged. There are no winds on the moon to erode them, so they might be there forever.

Here on Earth our physical presence is fragile and temporary, but we humans are clever and capable of making different, more permanent “footprints” to mark our short time of existence. No one wants to be forgotten or insignificant. So we often strive in a variety of ways to make “footprints” of our lives. One way is through creative work: writing, painting, composing…. As a result we create books, paintings, records, and photographs that can live on after we are gone.

Framed painting, music CD cover, book, another image

Different types of “footprints”

I was reminded of this just a few days ago. Lou Colombo, a jazz musician whom I knew from Cape Cod and whose trumpet playing I love, died last Saturday in a car accident. That was terribly upsetting. However, his music will stay with us. I know it will stay with me.

Lou Colombo CD cover with personal notes from musician

Lou Colombo’s CD jacket

Click on Lou’s picture below and listen to his musical “footprint” titled “It all depends on you.”

Lou Colombo and his trumpet (Cape Cod Times file photo by Ron Schloerb)

That is right, it all depends on you….

P.S. To learn more about Lou Colombo click to read Cape jazz legend Lou Colombo dies in the Cape Cod Times.

* * *

Boot print on the moon photo from NASA. Alicja’s photo by Joan Agnew. Lou Colombo photo by Ron Schloerb/Cape Cod Times. Text and other photos copyright © 2012 by Alicja Mann.

Explore posts in the same categories: Arizona, Essays, Feelings, Kudos, Memories, Photo essays, Photo stories, Places, Thoughts, Travels

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13 Comments on “Footprints Left Behind”


  1. Footprints — lovely metaphor — and lovely photos! Thank you…

  2. Bill Breisky Says:

    Hey, Alicja — that’s a great piece of work: you, the Grand Canyon, and Lou’s horn.

    A particularly fine piece of writing. A nice footprint.

    –Bill

    • Alicja Mann Says:

      Hello Bill.

      I am sorry to be late in responding to your comment. Your words mean a lot to me. – Thank you!

      I was away for a few days from Tucson, my desk, and… the Internet. At times it is nice to be detached from that media!

      Speaking about footprints – you preserved your “Granddaddy’s Baer’s” – William Jacob Baer’s – footprints so beautifully in the form of your book! I am proud of having one of them. Thank you again – Alicja

  3. Valerie Says:

    Alicja,
    Reminds me of the footprint Mid left, her Memories…
    Valerie

    • Alicja Mann Says:

      Oh yes, Valerie! Indeed, Mid left her footprints and… we are supposed to preserve them.

      I imagine how busy you are now, but when you are ready, please get in touch.

      Alicja

  4. Vince Radzik Says:

    Beautiful insights Alicja…and a reminder of the impact of others “footprints” have upon us personally…perhaps a kind word, gentle touch. Ah life…the journey is the destination.

    • Alicja Mann Says:

      Hello Vince,

      Thank you for your comment and sorry for responding so late.

      You are absolutely right – there are so many forms of “footprints” around us!

  5. Pam Says:

    Every day I look at the Grand Canyon through one of Alicja’s beautiful photos from that day of the footprint. Thank you Alicja.

  6. Alicja Mann Says:

    Dear Pam,

    I am so happy to hear that you still have one of my photos from the Grand Canyon!

    Thank you for following my blog, I really appreciate that and I like the feeling of your presence, even though there is a huge distance between Tucson and North Falmouth.

    Love to all of you and see you this summer!
    Alicja

  7. george shriver Says:

    Thanks for those beautiful photos of the Grand Canyon. I can’t believe I’ve been living in AZ for nearly twenty years now, and haven’t gone there myself. So the vicarious version is a real treat

    The theme of “footprints in the sands of time” reminds me of something Gandhi said — no, actually, he didn’t, but he ought to have said: “One small step by one person can be a giant step for all human kind, or alll kind humans…


  8. […] Sometimes they live a lonely life, like the tree I met on the Kaibab Trail while hiking the Grand Canyon. […]


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