Everywhere we go, we follow paths. Our cars drive along paved pathways, many of which were once horse or dogsled trails. When we walk, even when we take shortcuts, we follow the same trajectory that others have followed. Over time, these trajectories become physically apparent. Grass wears down to dirt; the streak of dirt widens. Eventually, it gets covered in gravel or concrete. The path has been institutionalized, petrified. It is now a physical reality.
Snow covers our pathways so completely that an outsider would never know there is a path at that spot. A fresh white blanket obscures where we walk, making it difficult to take our normal routes. But humans are obstinate and plow their way through (sometimes literally). At first, a single person plods through the snow, creating a trail of footprints that marks the way. Others follow and soon the trail of footprints begins to blend into a wider, packed path. If it doesn't snow again too soon, the trail widens and becomes more packed (and more brown).
Paths are a collective effort, a group expression of pedestrian travel across a certain distance. We take them for granted and yet we follow them with precision, even when obstacles appear. We are determined to recreate our paths. Recent newcomers are shown the pathways and pass on that knowledge to later newcomers. Paths are engrained in us and yet very rarely do we stop and contemplate the many footsteps, the many single instances of recognition that have gone into creating them.