Deer tracks are the easiest to spot on the shore when I am walking on the beach. The sharp hooves cut deeply into the sand when the deer pass through. As a result the tracks last much longer than the tracks of other animals.
I think daybreak is the best time to see what animals have come to visit the shore. They visit to get a drink of the sweet fresh water or to check out what can be eaten of the things washed up on the shore by the waves. It is the mammals that come at night. The deer come to drink. The possum and the raccoons visit to scavenge. Also, the mice come out of the dunegrass and woods to check things out. Especially the hard wet sand near the edge of waves holds the evidence for the longest time-as long as the waves are quiet. I have only rarely actually seen the deer on the shore. I have never seen the other animals. Only their distinctive tracks tell the tale of their passing.
The daylight hours belong to the fowls of the air. They rely primarily on the light to spot potential food and watch out for enemies. In fact they follow each other, often using the behavior of other birds to zero in on dinner. It is most common to see the seagulls wheeling around an area that has food. One exception to this is the vulture, which can smell carrion from over five miles away. These Turkey vultures and even hawks or eagles leave heavy claw marks in the sand. All of these birds leave confused patterns of tracks in the sand like designer prints in the sand in groups, or singly, near dead fish.
Long legged shorebirds leave a zigzag trail along the beach or estuary. Ducks and geese leave much broader webbed tracks especially around pools after a storm or near the moving paths of streams that run across the beach into Lake Michigan.
The smallest creatures leave tracks too. When conditions are just right the tracks of ants, beetles and other insects can be seen crisscrossing the beach. These harder to find tracks can only be found in the morning after an early rain and before the sun dries the sand so that it crumbles and fills in the holes.
Often we walk down the beach not understanding or even noticing the many signs of passing that are there. How many people walked down the stretch of beach today? Were the people young or old? Large or small? Were they strolling, jogging, or beach combing? Maybe the people had a dog and were throwing a stick for it to fetch. At times it may be evident that they were riding a quad or a horse (Wow, does that ever sound like fun!). Maybe, a father was holding the hand of his child so that their tracks were always parallel to each other.
What would your tracks do on the beach? I have to admit mine wander and pause a lot as I check out the different things I see. If you would look closely you would see the flat resting spots of stones and driftwood where my tracks stop and I lift my discovery out of the sand and put it in my pocket.
What do you see as you walk in the creation?
Better yet, consider the tracks you are leaving for others to see. Of course, from a physical point of view, do your tracks wander in different parts of the creation looking at its wonder? Have you ever closed your eyes to imagine the actions of the animal whose tracks you are following? We should pause now and then to view the Creator’s handiwork. Hopefully, we are not too consumed with our daily cares to pay attention to God’s glory revealed there.
Let’s look at “signs” in a different way. Are your spiritual tracks in the same path as the pilgrim footsteps of Christ? Often we wander about “beach combing” the temptations of the world. Our steps are hesitant, pausing at the pleasures of the world rather than striding down the paths of spiritual virtues like worship, prayer, devotions and hospitality.
What can others learn about you looking at your tracks in the sand? Are you leaving tracks you would be proud to have someone follow?
March 2, 2002
Jesus left tracks as a little Lad,
Making twin hand and knee prints on the ground,
When He crawled from Mom to Dad,
From their knee level looking at the word around.
A little older, His five toed prints we read,
Left as He helped His Mom with chores.
Or, wandering He saw the wonder decreed,
By His Father in the world out of doors.
We see the young Teenager working with His hands.
With the rhythm of a carpenter’s steps He saws and sands.
With His friends and family He did laugh and play.
He babysat, studied, and did chores each day.
A Man, grown up, at His work He stood,
Earning a living for His mother, working with wood.
Till His call came from His Father true:
Son, “My beloved Son”, You’ve My work to do!
Each day His tracks paused here and there,
As preaching and healing the lost was His care.
Encouraging and helping with a kind word,
From healing the sick He had not demurred.
Our Redeemers tracks were straight and true,
When, unwavering, He walked to the cross for you,
Whom His Father had given to seek and to save
Whose sin’s price by His blood He paid.
His feet He dragged, scrapping in the dust,
As He carried His cross upon His torn back.
Our heavy burden of sin, carry He must,
That we, blessing and forgiveness, may not lack.
Today, beside us, He walks from day to day,
As we bear our cross on our pilgrim’s way.
At times, two tracks, at others, one,
As He carries us through the trials that come.