We had been planning to find snow for some time now. There was hardly any snow in Vienna during the holidays, even in the beginning of the year which everybody is hoping it will be a better one. But It is hard to be overly confident when you are still going through a lockdown and the future looks uncertain.
As a photographer and an enthusiastic traveller, it is hard to stay put. I crave for a change of scenery. Austria is such a beautiful country but being limited by what you can visit at the moment, you tend to seek nature as an escape from everything. In forests, among trees, you know you can breathe freely and walk like before without any worries.
When I am among the trees, I think sometimes about the Iranian photographer and filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami. His love for nature and his photographs of trees became one of the famous symbols of his work. I love his book Snow White. It is a source of inspiration when I photograph trees.
But how many trees can you photograph?
It was snowing when we arrived in Zwettl, finally! I thought. Walking on the almost empty streets, we soon encountered the Medieval walls of its past, still standing and protective.
We saw a path down bellow and decided to follow it. It was snowing steadily now. The path looked empty, not a soul in sight, just us and our breathing. Suddenly we hear water running and came up to a small lake. Such beauty and calm. There is no crisis here. Nature is doing her thing, oblivious to everything else.
I hear footsteps coming faster behind me. She says something, I move away. She passes us fast, like she was late for an appointment. All I see is trees but the path may lead somewhere else. She wore no winter hat, nothing in spite of the snow. Good for her, I think. I look down at the imprint of her footsteps. Another couple approaches from the opposite direction, they say hello and move on. They too leave the imprint of their footsteps behind.
Once the snow melts, the footsteps we all left behind will no longer be visible.
I think about all the footsteps I left behind in different parts of this world. The ones in the African savannah in Kenya or those in the deserts of Saudi Arabia long time blown away by the sand. My footsteps in the pink hills of Petra in Jordan or those in Palmyra in Syria erased along with the ancient Roman pillars blown up by ISIS. Or even those I left in Balbeck in Lebanon where the oldest pagan temple was still standing or the ones by the wailing wall in Israel along with the wishes I left in the crevices. And of course all those markets in Mexico where I explored its rich street food. I could go on and on. Fact is, they were all fleeting footsteps. One moment you could see them, the next they were gone.
Even in the places I stayed longer.
Like the 4 years I walked in Iran or even the first 28 years of my life strolling by the sea in Portugal. Hardly any trace left.
The footsteps are fleeting but our footprint in this world is preserved and will be preserved even when we no longer walk on this earth. It will be preserved by our family first and then by all the people we encountered on our path. Those special ones, who stopped and took the time to get to know us, who shared, laughed and cried selflessly without expecting anything in return. Those who are still there for us.
In these difficult times, those are the ones we need to preserve and cherish.