I walked where the cows walked, wondering from time to time: Who made the first path? How did that one decide? Why did each cow follow along?
These questions came to mind again when I threaded my way through the prairie this week, stepping along invisible paths known only to me, pointing out plant after plant to a friend. My friend held back, hesitating to follow for fear of crushing a tender prairie plant. "You need paths so people can come in and not be afraid of stepping wrong," she said.
Pioneers crossing the prairie followed the paths made by trappers. Trappers followed paths made by Native Americans. Native Americans followed paths made by animals. Almost always, some one or some thing came before. Found the easiest or most expedient way. Intentionally or not, that first traveler left a trail that others could follow.
I took my friend's suggestion to heart. Yesterday I hauled wheelbarrows of wood chips to the prairie and marked paths for others to follow - curving around plants, weaving in and out and around. The result is a bit of a maze.
It is seldom that any of us gets to be the very first at anything. My little prairie may be the only opportunity I get to be the very first to mark a trail in uncharted territory. What a responsibility - but what fun - to mark the way for others to follow.