Do you ever long to make your mark? A sign, a signature, some kind of message that says with a flourish, “I was here! I did this! "
Have you ever made something, expressed a brilliant idea, shown your artistry in your vocation or other passionate pursuit and thought, “this is my legacy, this is what I leave behind, this shows I made a difference.” ?
15, 000 years ago, deep in a cave, filled with shadows broken by a small flickering light, a woman drew charcoal horses marked by large round dots. She loved to see these horses on the plains as the clan made its way to summer lodgings. The horse she drew is powerful, sacred because of what it provided the clan. We know very little about this artist. Was she a shaman in her clan? How did she find the cave? Why did she paint there in the dark? Was she alone? What we can see is that after she finished her art-making, she placed her hand on the cave wall and blew dark pigment around each finger to outline her hand, the artist’s hand. She made her mark on the damp limestone wall, for some unknown future visitor, to see and know of her life.
The cave was lost for millennia. Located in the southwest region of France known as the Lot, la Grotte du Pech Merle, with its drawings and intricate natural formations, was discovered again in 1922. It is one of the few remaining Paleolithic era caves where visitors still have access to the original paintings. Wandering through this beautiful limestone cave, I sometimes found myself within three feet of ancient markings. Lifting my eyes as I rounded a curved passageway, I actually gasped at the sight of the dotted horses. My eyes riveted on the outlined hands appearing above the horses, and I saw that the prints were about the size of my hands. I held my hand in the air in an echo of the gesture, as if I were about to paint a similar silhouette on the cave wall.
I thought of the woman who stood there millennia ago, and how, like me, she yearned to make her mark, to take note of this moment in time and her unique passage through it.