|| MARK OF THE ancients ||
He had lived in the desert all his life, but for me it was all new. "See
that footprint in the sand?" he asked, pointing to a spot by the cliff.
I looked as close as I could. "No, I don't see anything."
"That's just the point." He laughed. "Where you can't see a print, that's where the Ancient Ones walked."
We went on a little farther, and he pointed to an opening, high up on the sandstone wall. "See that house up there?" he asked. I squinted hard. "There's nothing to see."
"You're a good student." He smiled. "Where there's no roof or chimney, that's where the Ancient Ones are most likely to have lived."
We rounded a bend, and before us was spread a fabulous sight thousands upon thousands of desert flowers in bloom. "Can you see any missing?" he asked me. I shook my head. "It's just wave after wave of loveliness."
"Yes," he said in a low voice. "Where nothing is missing, that's where the Ancient Ones harvested the most."
I thought about all this, about how generations had once lived in harmony with the earth, leaving no marks to scar the places they inhabited. At camp that night I said, "You left out one thing."
"What's that?" he asked.
"Where are the Ancient Ones buried?"
Without reply, he poked his stick into the fire. A bright flame shot up, licked the air, and disappeared. My teacher gave me a glance to ask if I understood this lesson. I sat very still, and my silence told him I did.