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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Two Landmarks

Landmarks. Marks in the land that help us navigate or show us where we’ve been. Hard to imagine being a child traveling by wagon on a weekly or monthly foray into town asking, “are we there yet?” when all one has to do is survey the scenery for that old oak tree or that rock formation. Davey Crockett was a familiar face on the way to Zuni from Gallup. His profile (Coon skin cap and all) could be clearly seen in a rock outcropping along a bluff just off the roadside. His nose pointed the way, a clear indicator you were on the right road. If you pass Shiprock and see Sleeping Ute Mountain, you are heading north from New Mexico into Colorado.

We have landmarks in our lives, too. We personify one the moment of our birth. Our parents mark this significant time of their lives by remembering our birthday. The paths of our own lives become clearly identifiable by landmarks, significant and personal moments that stand out in our memories when we look back. Did you know groups of people who refuse to use Facebook are called “Resisters?” While many simply don’t want to connect, others would rather not because of what lies in the past.

Two landmarks stand out in my mind and the first actually lies at the very end. It’s called a tombstone. We all will have one. Well maybe not a stone per se, but definitely a grave. There are some magnificent tombstones out there and some fairly plain ones, too. A very significant landmark whatever it’s form. I remember hiking in the Rocky Mountains and walking into an Aspen grove somewhere on some mountainside came upon a fence surrounding a solitary grave of a small child. The family had moved on long before my grandfather was born.

I would like a very small stone, if one at all. I want no epitaph on that stone because nobody will see it. What is important is my mark on the world. Each person has no choice but to leave one, so it does not matter what is cut into stone about a person. What each person cuts into the world says more about them.

Think of it: where is Mozart buried?  Nobody knows. What do you know of Mozart? Only by what he left behind.

This leads me to the second landmark: trophies.

I don’t understand them. A trophy is a decoration that marks success. In my mind, the achievement is cheapened by the decoration. What I mean is to ask “what is the goal?” I will always remember the year I played football and we won every single game—except the last one. I can’t tell you for the life of me where the tarnished piece of plated plastic and marble is today that carries the engraving of the occasion. I remember catching my first fish. I can’t tell where the stuffed thing is. The memory is greater than what sits on the mantle—that (incidentally) I do not have. I believe I have some medals . . . in a box . . . somewhere.

Would I like a trophy for anything? No. I have a huge collection of trophies all wrapped up in the landmarks of my memories. But that is only half of my collection. I have living landmarks that I would not exchange for anything: my family. My wife and kids are my trophies. Know why? Because we experience life together. And we win. Even when we lose in an incident, we are victorious in the end.

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