Transition Café – Markings

–William Mutch


I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert…near them in the sand
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive stamped on these lifeless things.
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings,
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing else remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

-Percy Bysshe Shelley

I have been admiring the markings of Coyotes on the land I live on and steward, of late, scrapes and scats. At least, I believe the markings to have come from Coyotes. Scat placed carefully, to draw attention to it, either visually or through scent. One pile placed exactingly in the center of the intersection of three driveways on our hill, another in the center of the path down from the house onto the rest of the hill, in a similar placement to multiple scrapes which have shown up, lately, a couple of which I watched being scratched into the mulch of the path. The second pile is placed in such a way that the scent is barely noticeable near it, but it fills the living room, powerfully.

Some of the furred peoples are somewhat more particular about where they place their scat than others, leaving it carefully in places where it will communicate clear messages to others of their species, or to other species alert to such relationships. Ephemeral, not intended to be anything but, yet with their own beauty, to those with attention which takes in such things.

How dare I associate Coyote scat with a sonnet of an English Romantic poet? I will leave you to your own feelings on that, but will ask…what markings do you leave on the world? All of us leave tracks of some kind, of course: footprints in mud, dust, or sand…or in relationships or social groups…or the fabric of history…

These things are ephemeral, at best, fading quickly or slowly, but not always predictably. Footprints made in clay can be clear for far longer than a statue of a long-forgotten king or queen, or even their descendants or culture. Thought forms can be around for long, as well, though, and some say that they bubble up from a dynamic ground of being, somehow, long after they have been forgotten by mortal memories (not just in Star Wars, although that was neat how they did that!).

What markings do you leave upon the world? Are they the same as the markings you think you leave, that you want to leave? What are the shape of the footprints you leave on your relationships with those who love you, those who do not love you, those who may feel completely differently about you someday than they do today? It is easy to think that we will not be remembered, after we are gone, or that we will be remembered long into the future, but who knows? Perhaps your journal, your mad musings, ends up in a cave somewhere, to be found by the survivors of whatever our generation has wrought, and will be interpreted as the words of whatever divinity a future society worships (or else they would not have survived for so long). Archaeologists and anthropologists learn a great deal from analyzing toilets, latrines, and scat piles. What do yours say? About you? About your culture?

How would you feel if your great sonnet were to end up in an essay with a couple of piles of scat? How about if your carefully-considered, exquisitely-placed scat piles were to end up in an essay with a sonnet composed by someone so crass as to consign your artistic medium to an outhouse or toilet?

Who knows? What do you want to happen? Is it ever too late to change that? What if it isn’t too late, however old you are, however close to the end of your mortal life? A good friend of mine left her physical form behind a few years ago, and the ripples of her state change have created benevolence, understanding, and good works in the world that she likely did not anticipate, in her time as a mortal. Still, she lived a life that many of us would envy, and folks are realizing that they could emulate. She certainly would have had a less-pleasant side, too, most of us do, but folks aren’t talking about that. No monuments, no vast and trunkless legs of stone, just ripples of good will, stirring hearts long past her mortal life, and perhaps long past our mortal memories of her.






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