Cinderella’s glass slippers failed their owner. Footwear has one paramount duty: To provide a stable base, whether on a romantic evening stroll or a mad dash to avoid midnight’s toll. The slip from a dainty foot belies the slipper’s obligation.
I parked at Tomales Bay wearing wool Mary Jane’s augmented by an $18 pair of semi-rigid inserts. Still, I suffered under no illusions. As lovely and cozy as those clogs might be, they would not serve my intended afternoon pursuit. Taking walking stick in hand, I ventured to the rear of my car, where I seemed to recall having stashed an old pair of hiking shoes in the carefree weeks before the world came to an abrupt halt to serve the whim of a nasty virus.
I pulled the back gate of the vehicle outward and stuck one hand into the flotsam and jetsam of my unusual life. Under an empty box and two or three other assorted articles of debris, I found what I sought. They still had a pair of my son’s thick socks rolled and nestled in one toe. I spent a clumsy five minutes changing shoes, then took the stick in hand and sallied forth.
I met a few people on the trail. A tall woman nodded to me before detouring on a side path. A white-haired man whose age I set at north of seventy held his dog on the lead and gestured in the direction from which they had come. There’s one more of us, he observed. A woman slow-walked toward us, stout pole in either hand. We waited, together, the man, the dog, and I. When she reached our point, she twinkled and laughed, and informed me that she had walked the entire circuit. I congratulated her, then stood to let them pass.
I had no illusions that I would match her feat. A park service sign announced the accessible portion of the trail to be 1.2 miles of packed soil on a 2% grade. I have not walked a mile since I last donned my old boots, and the tremor in my calves suggested that I could not do so now. I heard my mother’s cautionary voice: Only go half as far as you reckon you can travel. Good advice never stales.
Judging merely by my casual study of the trail map, I think I went a quarter mile out and another back to the parking lot. I felt every step of it in my lungs and legs, but my feet kept true and sure. That walking stick did not fail me, nor did the shoes. Back at the car, I regretted only my lack of foresight in failing to bring water. I sat behind the wheel for a few minutes, wiggling my toes within the old leather.
I cannot be certain that these Doc Martens are the same ones in which I made the walk through Devil’s Den, in the early days of my pregnancy, before I knew that the first spurt of life grew within me. I think they might be. Certainly, they have served me well for many years. Now, this new chapter in my life opens and I face the potential that those pesky doctors might finally be proven right about the impending failure of my strength. Sitting in my Toyota, beside the clear blue water of the bay, beneath its pale twin, I smile. With laces tight and high-top padded collar snug, I have a feeling that these old Docs might finally be revealed as the perfect pair of shoes.
It’s the sixteenth day of the one-hundred and third month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.