Last fall a good buddy of mine from Grand Marais, Michigan stopped by for a few minutes on his way to a friend’s house. He had spent a miserable night and driven through blinding rain which put him in a rather questionable mood. Roger’s my age, and it doesn’t take much to set off either one of us. We’ve been friends for 30 years and are used to each other’s idiosyncrasies, but sometimes enough is enough.

Roger is an excellent gardener and wanted to share his prize potatoes. He had rinsed the dirt from them prior to leaving his home. He put the spuds in a plastic bag and put the bag in a cooler. When he got to my place, he removed the potatoes from the cooler and brought them in. It wasn’t until he dropped the bag in my kitchen sink that I noticed the black trail he left behind on my carpet.

I forgot my manners and yelled a few choice words. Undaunted by my barrage, he suggested I get out the vacuum or a rag and wipe up the mess. After all, he said, it was only water and dirt and that’s no big deal. And my carpet is almost 20 years old so it probably needed a good cleaning anyway. In other words, in the eyes of my bachelor friend, the disaster he created was a good thing. This observation got me thinking about all the stuff people track into our lives and how that affects us.

Throughout the years Roger has tracked happiness and laughter into my daughter’s life and my own. He’s also tracked in an appreciation for wood stoves, birch bark Christmas cards, homemade wooden signs, and plank fish cooked over an outdoor fire pit. Not once in all the years I’ve known him has he tracked in anything negative which is a remarkable testimony to his character.

Some people are like that. The tracks they leave are pleasant ones. Unfortunately, not all folks are agreeable and their tracks are best forgotten. You know how some animal tracks are linear and others zigzag all over the place? It’s the same with people. Some enter our lives and we find their linear company delightful because we know what to expect from them. We can depend upon their consistency.

The folks who zigzag into our lives create tracks impossible to follow. We never know what mood they’ll be in or how they will greet us. Sometimes they’re jovial and other times we wish they had driven by our door without stopping. Often they track in gossip, ridicule, envy, and a whole list of other undesirables. When they leave, we get out the air freshener.

Tracks are amazing things. We decide which kind we’ll leave behind.

Sharon Kennedy

Sharon M. Kennedy is a freelance writer from Brimley, a small town on the shores of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Sharon writes a general interest column for a number of local newspapers. She admits she’s a late blooming “Boomer” and tends to forget that most women her age are enjoying retirement while she’s embarking on a new career. After teaching English Composition at a local university, Sharon turned to her real love. Writing stories that tug at your heartstrings or make you chuckle is her hallmark.