And scattered here all around us—going away this way and that, across moist and dry land—are traces: footprints of things big and small. You can figure out what they might have been, by that which they have taken away, by what has gone missing, and how.
Here, these must have been flip flops, and those over there, tennis shoes. They have come and gone, leaving behind them dents in the sand, clear, neatly arranged dents, pressed in by some rubbery bumps, within the perimeter of each sole.
There, a barefoot child must have passed; farther out, an adult. Five toes and the ball of the foot, then again, five toes and the ball of the foot, boring round, shallow hollows, little basins, where water starts welling up now, in the wet sand.
And here, tiny webbed feet must have hopped and landed, hopped and landed, opening sharp, three-pronged holes in the sand, where a gull has sunk in its claws. Each set of footprints is distinct. Each is stamped, you see, with its own design, each with its own sole.
And all of them seem to be traveling with a certain purpose, which is unknown to me, criss crossing each other, forging ahead towards some unclear target, pressing on steadily—but in a zigzag fashion, left, right, left, right, as far as the eye can see, until all of a sudden, a high crested wave breaks ashore, rubbing out part of their path; and thus, erasing from the surface—and soon from memory, too—that which only a minute ago was still here, could still offer some clues, and let you jot down some notes of the journey.
“I wish,” says the old man, “we would never forget this hour.”
And I think, Why, what a grand sentiment! I wish you could just be quiet.
And he says, to himself this time, “Winter is coming. The day is shorter, it seems. And the shorter it is—the more precious each minute.”