Ballad of the Old Boots

Hiking_DSC8043First, the Background
     1) My New Boots:

It was 1987, and we were bound for vacation in the French Riviera and Austria. I splurged on a pair of expensive (albeit on half-price sale!) sturdy, yet light and airy hiking boots. Not “my colour,” but the last pair in stock in a difficult-to-find size, they had to be mine. We fast became good buddies on many hikes.

For us, hiking means day trips only, taking our sweet time (weather permitting, usually allowing double the time noted in tour books): we stop a lot to consciously breathe the fresh air, look at scenery, rocks, flowers, and trees, and take lots of photographs. (One overnight backpacking adventure carrying heavy packs with tent, gear, and food for several days, trekking constantly with a group, without time for photography, cured us of that mode).

     2) Foot in Boots:

Later, dealing with painful neuroma, I gave up hiking for a while. I tried again with orthotics and special shoes, which helped, but even so I was never all pain-free. I tried bigger boots, and bulkier socks to soften the impact on my feet, but that seemed worse. Next, I also acquired neuropathy as a souvenir of chemotherapy. In spite of that, it seemed odd that I could walk for hours and many kilometres with practically no pain when “barefoot” in sturdy sandals. My friend indicated the difference was the surrounding airflow. Hmmm. However, sandals don’t work too well on stony trails!

Trip planning: My orthopedic shoes were worn out, and I dreaded another frustrating buying process for something new that might not work anyway (result: procrastination). At the last moment, I pulled the old faithfuls out of storage, aired them out, and simply inserted new liners. Using thin liner socks only, I discovered I’m able to walk almost pain-free for one or two hours at a stretch. I take breaks to air out my feet en route, and I’m good to go for another round. My feet and boots are “aging gracefully,” together again! So, here’s my light-hearted “ode” to my old hiking buddies:

Hiking_DSC7118Ballad of the Old Boots

These boots were made for walking,
And they’ve hiked here and there:
Along our own Grand River
And coasts of the French Rivière.

They’ve strolled through alpine meadows,
And clambered rocky trails
on Austria’s high mountains
And gentler peaks and dales.

They’ve slid on alpine glaciers
Where the sun on ice sheets gleams;
Stepped gingerly from rock to rock
Across cold rushing streams.

They’ve hiked up red-rock mesas
In Sedona and surrounds,
And stepped between the cacti
On paler desert grounds.

They’ve crunched the cinder pathways
On old volcanic lands,
And walked on recent lava
Hardened into swirling bands.

They’ve trekked on the escarpment of
Ontario’s Bruce Trail;
They’ve stumbled through a wilderness
And emerged to tell the tale.

They’ve stepped around the stalactites
In deep Gibraltar caves;
Stood on Hawai’ian ridges
High above the ocean waves.

They’ve ventured into canyons,
And across a hanging bridge;
They’ve sloshed through mud and mire,
And soared from a mountain ridge.

They’ve caused me pain and anguish
When neuroma plagued my feet.
But as my boots and feet get old,
Their compromise is sweet:

They’ve settled on a gentler pace
That lets me view the scene
With breaks to air out and refresh!
My enthusiasm’s keen

To see more beauties of this earth
As God may give me grace.
So where these boots will take me next?
Just simply: pace by pace.


5 thoughts on “Ballad of the Old Boots

    • Thank-you, Carol, for your comments, and for sharing the link to your story, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Interesting how personal objects like old boots can be a point of connection with others because of the experiences and memories they trigger. I definitely admire your ability to live and survive/thrive in those rustic conditions you described!! I can see those qualities in your new house & garden accomplishments!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Chris McDougall, in Born to Run, debunks the Nike Myth that we need to encase our feet in thick padding. The opposite holds true to allow our soles and muscles down there to enjoy circulation and exercise. Hence the whole barefoot running epidemic. My friend’s mother suffers neuropathy. She lives with constant excruciating pain. So sorry you endured that.


    • Thanks very much for this information, Diana! I’ll read that book. So the padding is a myth after all! I’m so untrendy, I didn’t realize we had a barefoot running “epidemic”! 😉 As a child, I enjoyed running all over our farm fields barefoot. Open sandals work well for me now. I’m sorry for your friend’s mother, and would encourage her to see if going barefoot as much as possible would make a difference for her. (If she’s in a hot climate, ignore my other usual advice to wear just loose warm socks, since freezing cold feet from neuropathy’s poor circulation is no fun either). I’m grateful I only have discomfort, and can minimize the pain – that’s my wish for her too. Thanks for reading, and your helpful comments!


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