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My Achy Breaky Heart


5000BC. Bones litter the pockmarked route of the wooly buffalo, a depression worn by the hoofbeats of millennia, tracking back and forth along a ridge in search of the savory. The decadent. The singular.

Salt.

That tangy burn on a lolling pink tongue after days of rising and falling, climbing and descending, walking and running. Weaving through fat trees, looming higher than sideswiped mammal eyes can discern. Shifting along hard, flaky rock and soil seeped in red, tinged with the blood of the untold ones who fell, slipped through a gash in the Earth to remake time.

Somewhere.

Their symphonic breathing makes the wind flutter the leaves on the trees. Unseen bones mingled with crushed stone to form the heart of the soil. Traces of them remain in the burst of a flower. The fan of a leaf. The trickle of water running over rock.
The buffalo passed it all on its tear through the forest, its lazy up and down over miles. Over bones. Over acres. Over whole domains.

********

Did the buffalo and their need for salt make the Natchez Trace, thousands of years ago? Legend believes they ran in herds, craving the brackish bottoms around present-day Nashville. Their fix of white powder procured, they pounded back along the spine of the Trace to fan out around the undulating plains of Mississippi.

I saw their remnants in a bleached cow skull.

A scattered set of deer bones.

A skinny white piece of decay that popped from the muck and the rock along the Old Trace.

Their syncopated exhale cooled my sweaty face. Blasted eons across the top of a rise. Made the metronomic pace of the steps my feet took.

Walking in their ghostly footsteps in the shimmering shade.

40 Comments Post a comment
  1. We often forget how our land was forged, also the impact of our actions for future generations. Beautifully written.

    April 7, 2012
    • Helen, this is such a spiritual journey for me. I can’t explain it. Thanks for your lovely comment today.

      April 7, 2012
  2. Very nice, Andra. There’s nothing like being in the great outdoors, and really feeling part of creation. Great post! :)

    April 7, 2012
    • Thanks, Tom. Now, if only I could fly over some of it……..

      April 7, 2012
  3. I feel like I was riding along on the back of those woolly mammoths.

    April 7, 2012
  4. Aguess #

    Jealous! You know how I love bones! What a great meditation on deep history.

    April 7, 2012
    • MTM actually asked me if we should pick up the cow skull and bring it back for you……….Since we already have a thrown horseshoe in tow, I decided a skull might do the TSA folks in.

      April 7, 2012
  5. Well written. Reading it, I wish I could return to some of the places I’ve walked over the years and “see” more of the depth and breadth of their history.

    April 7, 2012
    • It is always fun for me to try to imagine places as they might’ve been. This was the interstate of ancient America. It exudes holiness in the footsteps.

      April 7, 2012
  6. Hey Andra,
    Nice article, I lived in Montana until I was 25, as a boy we would wonder all the old creek bottoms where most times there were sure to be a buffalo skull or two. My parents did not enjoy all the treasures that I would bring home, nearly as much as I did. Your story brought back those wonderful memories. Thanks.

    April 7, 2012
    • Ah, Montana. I love that state and have only scratched its surface. It’s amazing what we can find by wandering, isn’t it? Glad this post reached back into your memory.

      April 7, 2012
  7. “Unseen bones mingled with crushed stone to form the heart of the soil.” Wonderful. Very poetic indeed.

    April 7, 2012
  8. And I forgot to check the comments box

    April 7, 2012
  9. I love your imagery Andra!

    April 7, 2012
    • Thank you, Valerie. Please keep me updated about your potential agent. I’m really excited for you.

      April 7, 2012
  10. Your words are rich and edible. You make me want to walk in a place without concrete. Impressive.

    April 7, 2012
    • We’re in Alabama as I type my response to you. (Wave!!) One stop planned. Perhaps it will be the post tomorrow. :)

      April 7, 2012
  11. Sounds like you’re enjoying your walk in the woods . . . traveling back in time.

    April 7, 2012
    • Today’s been more driving than walking, but we’ve stopped a bunch.

      April 7, 2012
  12. Stunning writing, Andra, which brings us to walk beside you. I lobe the thought of the bones there beneath your feet. Prehistory is distant yet ever present. Wonderful piece.

    April 7, 2012
    • Thank you, Kate. I hope you are savoring your birthday weekend.

      April 7, 2012
      • Nope :-( Phil’s sprouted the toothache from hell. Had to come home and put him to bed with all speed…ach, well. I am planning to move celebrations into next week sometime when Phil can actually sample some of my cake.

        What an amazing write though….just sweeps you away today!

        April 7, 2012
      • Happy Easter. I hope Phil’s tooth is feeling better today.

        April 8, 2012
  13. I am just delighted to read your response to this legendary trail…you took it in and imagined it beautifully. The history is there to be discovered, but only by carefully breathing it in. And I would imagine few people today pay much attention. You make me want to visit again! I loved reading this Andra. Debra

    April 8, 2012
    • The Trace is inspiring. We did enter Mississippi yesterday to see a series of caves and an ancient mound. I thought of you, Debra, when we crossed the state line. :)

      April 8, 2012
  14. I do believe the elders have captured your spirit and inspired your voice, Andra. Your prose is mystical and flowing; we travel as you travel, though sadly, we cannot smell the earth beneath our tracks ~

    April 8, 2012
  15. Andra, beautifully written.

    The US is crisscrossed by these trails, some people built, some just reclaimed from the building of others who were there before people.

    April 8, 2012
    • Thanks, Sidey. It was humbling to walk on one that has been around for millennia.

      April 8, 2012
  16. The vanished vast herds of the buffalo have always fascinated me. They shaped so much of our country, and now — gone. You evoked them beautifully.

    April 8, 2012
    • Thank you, Annabelle. I hope you had a lovely Easter weekend.

      April 8, 2012
  17. Andra,

    I’m absolutely loving going backward and reading the blogs I missed. Beautiful. It’s like coming home.

    April 9, 2012
  18. So, are you camping? Or doing daily walks along the trail and returning to the modern world for the evening? And, most importantly, have you been good and not talked on the trusty iPhone while out doing your own version of Bill Bryson’s “Walk In The Woods”?

    April 9, 2012
    • I don’t do camping. :) We stayed in a b and b on a farm. It was actually the best b and b experience I have ever had in my life. But, it was in a valley, and cell service was marginal. Along the Trace, it wasn’t much better. I ended up having to catch up on a lot of reading when I returned.

      April 9, 2012
  19. Love, love, love your use of language in this.

    April 12, 2012

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