From the middle of August until this past Sunday I was wearing cheaply made running shoes as my main footwear along with an acceptable pair of sandals. I had forgotten my boots in Halifax and my sister and her boyfriend were holding on to them for me until I could make it into the city. Having them back now, I have a much greater appreciation of their comfort and value.
I put on those big black boots yesterday, laced them up tightly and took them on a short biking and hiking adventure in the afternoon. I ventured a league (3 miles, I’m told) or so on various roads before finding myself on a dirt road I hadn’t explored very far. I of course headed along it, following it into the hills of Newton Mills, past a cottage and a wreck of a car. The road had a strong feeling of being an old lane used by farmers. It was lined by trees and a brook flowed at the bottom of a cliff to one side. These are not things suggestive of farming, but somehow it felt as though farmers surely travelled that road for decades.
As I walked along I with my bike on a hilly stretch I was surprised by how different this place felt than where I had been not many minutes earlier. It felt older, somehow preserved from a time when human community and nature thrived. It was a moving feeling, bringing clearly to my mind a lot of the memories I have and stories I’ve been told of the rural life lived by my ancestors. I felt closer to those times than I have in quite a while. My journey proved to be through time as well as the space covered by the smooth dirt.
One of my favourite books when I was a child was based on the folk element of Seven-league Boots. I’ve sadly forgotten the title, but I do recall that it told of a young girl who travelled through her world with seven-league boots of her own (each step taking her seven leagues) before fulfilling her wanderlust and quest, returning to her family. The freedom the girl possessed was inspiring to my young mind, perhaps planting some of the seeds that would eventually grow into the strong sense of wanderlust I feel now.
My boots influenced my decision to travel down an unknown path. As soon as I laced up the boots I felt adventurous and curious in a way I hadn’t while wearing the shoes I was stuck with for several months. I felt my need to wander freed by the security of boots that would not fail me, that would hold my feet in the comfort needed to take on any trek that became needed or desired. I felt a greater confidence in my step and a lengthening in my stride. I felt more completely myself. I am a man who needs to be able to travel in any circumstance, over any distance. I need my own seven-league boots even though I’m not leaping over hills and streams.
Are your boots granting you what you require from them? Do you have too many shoes to discover the ones that will take you into the forests of your heart? Is it time you invested in some spiritually valuable footwear?