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.