This is a saying that represents the desired wilderness practice of not leaving any of your presence behind. Nothing. Visiting the wilderness and taking all that you bring with you back out. Garbage, toilet paper (used and unused), poop, any waste products at all. Leave no trace of your presence so that the wilderness is preserved, nature can continue on her way, and we can insure future generations will have wilderness to enjoy.
This philosophy also applies to the storage and packing of my items. There are times I swear that I cannot fit one more thing in the Jeep, NOT ONE! I feel like I am full up. There are times when I cannot image how I got all these items I see at camp into that little vehicle. I know I did, as they did not walk here on their own. But, as I perform my exit and packing rituals, it does all fit and I leave my campsite unspoiled and pristine. I have left no trace. With one exception – firewood. If I have collected or purchased wood it will stay. I cannot pack or carry firewood, I have no room and it is messy and dirty and forest folks do not want us taking wood species out of their natural area. It is a courtesy to leave your firewood for the next person, and in turn, one can take advantage of wood found at a campsite. I will do that, but nothing else. Leave no trace.
So what happens if I obtain new items? How do I continue to record and track and enjoy myself when presented with a gift of an item? If taking on that gift of a coffee mug means I have to let one go? If adding one shirt means I have to get rid of two? This is my new dilemma. I was graciously gifted a travel cup from one of the BJJ places I trained. A very heartfelt and generous gift. This cup makes the cut! This cup has meaning. Now, what to do with my other cups. As fortune would have it, the answer presented itself.
I was at the local library in the new town I was near getting information on services and resources from the friendly staff. I had on one of my many WSU shirts. As is customary, she says GO COUGS and I invited conversation about her affiliation. Whereas I only worked there, she and her husband both have degrees and are alumni. I immediately went out to the Jeep and got a travel mug with the WSU logo. I mean, at this point, it has more meaning to her and I would rather keep the BJJ cup, which has more meaning to me. Leave no trace. One item in and one item out. That worked great! I set a priority, honored my limited space, and she was thrilled. I will have to remember this approach moving forward. One item in and one item out. Even. Leave no trace, in a way.
The other thing that keeps happening is I am finding pennies all over the place. I think I have found a penny in the dirt nearly every place I have been. Sometimes a dime or a quarter, but generally speaking at least a penny. Someone did leave a trace. Someone was not paying attention. Yet, this is wildly significant to me. This has meaning because of Debby. Let me explain.
I met my friend Debby around 20 years ago. We both worked at EWU and shared the same supervisor. We were both into fitness and we started walking together during lunch. We got to know each other, had daughters around the same age, and became fast friends. Our lives have taken many turns. Well, OK, just mine, but we are still friends and she is still there for me and I appreciate that. Debby also comes from humble beginnings. Lots of kids and not a lot of money as she grew up in rural Minnesota farm country. This background explains her absolute joy and delight whenever she would find money during our walks. It could be a penny or a dollar and the response was the same. She squeals with delight, holds the item up to the sky, and praises the find. If the penny was heads up, even better, as she swore she would buy a lottery ticket. I do not think she has ever bought that ticket, but it is fun to dream.
Here I am, present day, traveling all over the region. I am camping and hiking and biking and exploring. I now find change all over the place. Some of the items are in the bathroom and some buried in the dirt and some at my feet in a parking lot. I found a $20 once, but that is not the norm. Every time I find a penny I hear Debby squeal with delight. Every time I find any amount of change I smile, hear and see Debby, and lovingly put the item in my change purse. After I clean it off, of course.
These folks have left a trace, but their trace is a special gift to me. Their trace is like my friend Debby letting me know she is here and she is watching over me. That small act of finding and picking up the penny reminds me that I am cared for, loved and that Debby will be thrilled with all the change I am finding. Perhaps I can buy a stamp and send her a postcard to tell her all about it. I will need more pennies first.
Leave No Trace. While in and of itself this is wilderness instruction and a credo to live by when outdoors, this is also a tenant of my life. One item in, one item out. Living even, no trace. One penny lost, one penny found. Even. Debby happy, message received.
Accept the small gifts as they appear. Leave no trace. Or, leave a trace, but only as a gift, a memory, or the remnant of a connection. Or, firewood. That is always good. Even out my belongings. One in and one out. Leave memories, good will and firewood only. Be even. Leave no trace.