Tuesday, October 16, 2012

These Boots Were Made For Walking

These boots were a gift from Mr. Simply shortly after the last time I broke my foot. He gave me a pair of walking shoes for use around the neighborhood at the same time, following a visit to an orthopedic surgeon who'd said my foot would never be the same again. I considered it a vote of confidence, and it turned out Mr. Simply was right and the doctor was wrong.

Today, Mr. Simply took them to Goodwill, along with a pair of duck boots and a beautiful hand-carved spruce walking stick with an inlaid arrowhead.

Last year another doc told me what I already knew, which is that I can't walk for fun any more. And this time it's true: My body never will be the same again as it was.

As I say, this is not news: Those boots haven't been out in the woods in well over a year. Nevertheless, they were hard to let go of. They've sat in a pile of stuff to be donated for months, and I just couldn't seem to get them out the door. I finally figured out that it was because they meant so much to me that the only way I'd be able to do it was if I had a photo to hang on to. I'd been so many great places with those boots: Pine Log, my favorite, and Dawson Forest, Red Top, too, but also all around the base of Kennesaw Mountain, up Little Kennesaw, over the saddle and down the big mountain so many times I can't remember. And so letting go of them is letting go of a phase of my life that I loved, all those long walks in the woods, and admitting that's all irrevocably past and gone. The silence of forests, the quiet rustle of leaves, the soft sound of boots on the path--I will not ever experience those in the same way again. Hanging on to my hikers was hanging on to a hope that had no basis in reality.

I remember once walking in mist and drizzle around an abandoned fish hatchery and coming upon a covey of quail crossing the trail ahead of me. One at a time, each bird peeked out of the weeds on one side of the wide path and then scuttled across. I stood, transfixed, as if my eyes were watching God. Another time there I watched as a pair of hawks courted in the sky over my head, reeling and spinning and calling through a blazing blue heaven. To me it has been as if my boots held all those memories, that I could bury my face in their tops and smell dusty Grassy Hollow Road as if I still walked it with Daisy.

I wish I'd taken a photo of the duck boots, too. I meant to, but in the hustle and bustle of the morning it slipped my mind and now it's too late. I bought them when Daisy was a puppy, and they represented all my plans to train and trial her, and all the hunting seasons of gunning over her that I anticipated when she was born. None of that worked out, but we had some grand times mudding with them, exploring creeks and marshes and retrieving training bumpers. Letting go of those this morning was like letting go of another piece of her.

I understand that this is how hoarders wind up with so much stuff that they can't live in their own houses any more. The Buddhists aren't kidding when they say that clinging is the root cause of all our pain. Mr. Simply has left the building, but the clinging to the memories and symbols of a beloved dog and of good times that are gone forever is a physical pain in my heart.

May those boots and my stick bless someone else's life as mine was blessed for those 15 years.


Friday, February 17, 2012

On Gratitude

When I make gratitude lists, they are usually made up of small, daily items--a sunrise, birdsong, that sort of thing. Then last weekend I was reading Louise Penny's third novel in her Three Pines mystery series. These are very literate novels for the genre, and one of their features is that Penny takes a theme and works it. The theme in this third book, The Cruellest Month, is worthy of a Greek tragedy in which people already have what they always wanted but don't recognize it, and destroy it in the very act of trying to obtain it. She got me to thinking about what I've always wanted, and what I have, and how tragic it would be if I lived my whole life wishing and not seeing what was right there.

So here's my new gratitude list, and I've been thinking all week about how blessed I am.

1. All through high school and my first two years of college, I was desperately lonely--not for women friends, but for a man, god help me. What can I say? I wasn't liberated yet. Be that as it may, I wanted a boyfriend in the worst possible way and my junior year of college, I finally got one--Mr. Simply, in fact. And for the next three years, I wanted nothing more than to be Mrs. Simply, and then I got that too. We still are married. I cuss about it sometimes, but bottom line? I got what I wanted and it's been a pretty good deal for me overall. I haven't been lonely since 1973.

2. Also my junior year in college, I set my heart upon a certain career path, which meant I wanted to go to grad school, too. Eventually I was able to do that not once, but twice (thanks in large part to the aforementioned Mr. Simply), was crowned "Dr. Simply", and entered my desired profession. Thirty years later, I'm still working in the same field. It's hard sometimes, but there's not much else I'd be as happy doing: I got what I wanted, and I intend to keep on doing it until they carry me out of the office feet first.

3. I wanted a house of my own. I agitated for one for years. We shopped for nearly that long (I swear we must have seen every house for sale in three counties), and we eventually bought one. As I believe I've mentioned before, although this was intended to be our starter house, we'll probably die here. We're not moving up to that Buckhead mansion! The bottom line though, is that I have what I always wanted: A cozy, sweet little house of our own.

4. I always thought I wanted a houseful of foster and adopted kids, and so we did that, too--once. And since Simply, Jr. was probably worth six of anybody else's, I consider that I got what I always wanted.

5. I love dogs, always have, and except for one brief span, have never been without a  good dog (and sometimes more) in the house. When Daisy was born, I begged Mr. Simply for weeks to let me keep her: He finally relented, and I can say without hesitation that the fifteen years I had with her were some of the best of my life. Daisy gave me a whole lotta love, much joy, and many happy memories. There's another good dog at my feet right now.

6. I decided back in the '80s or thereabouts that it would be cool to have a parrot, specifically an African Grey, the price of which was well out of our tax bracket. Some twenty years later, out of the blue one was offered to me for adoption, absolutely free, and so once again I got what I wanted. She'll probably outlive us, so she is truly a gift that keeps on giving.

7. I have loved to read ever since my mom first taught me how and in the following 55 years, I have never been without a steady supply of good books. There's one waiting for me on my bedside table right now.

So I've got my man, my son, my dog, my birds, my books, my career, and my house. What more does one woman need?