Life's Inspirational Valiant Endeavors
~ These Boots ~
Around these parts people know our place as, Barefoot Acres. It’s a little bit o’ land, barely five acres if you count the parts that serve as playground to the deer, squirrels, birds, and a mess of kids let loose to scout for trails, tramp through the creek, and swing like the von Trapps from the trees. You won’t find a nicely manicured lawn or meticulously landscaped trees and shrubs here on our place. Wildflowers, cedar saplings and the occasional ant hill pop up where the tractor doesn’t reach, and like I holler back to my husband when he’s called out of the garage to see what the ruckus is all about, “I swear, that damn rock wasn’t there yesterday!” It’ll never make the cover of Better Homes and Gardens, but it is (almost) perfect in our eyes.
When I was little we moved *a lot*, but Kentucky, the place where I was born, and more specifically, my grandparent’s small farm just outside of Bardstown was always home base. I’ve spent the better part of my grown up years trying to recreate my memories there, like missing puzzle pieces; solid, steady puzzle pieces that gave me something to hold onto and a better sense of who I am. I see now I may have grown a little too enthusiastic in my search, just a little bit.
Our place here is where family and friends gather around the campfire to play music and roast hot dogs and marshmallows on cool autumn nights. It’s where the kids gather in the summertime to catch lightning bugs in the tall grass across the road, ride ponies and chase chickens. It’s where Matilda and Flopsy bunnies were paraded around in a stroller and doll pajamas when our daughter was a little girl, a rat, named Daisy was taken outside for tree-walks on her leash and our dogs play search and rescue with the kids (not cops and robbers!) in the woods. We don’t keep a milk cow, pigs or goats, though it has been suggested we should more than once. We do keep a small garden, which may or may not produce anything of substance from year to year, depending on whether Little League season takes over. And we do, occasionally, gather in the pool on a starry night and lay on our backs searching for constellations and satellites.
The cousins call it, Barefoot Acres Camp. We call it, Home.
But what I really want to talk to you about are these boots of mine.
I. Don’t. Wear. Shoes. (Much) I bought a pair of men's work boots in a thrift store, roughly ten years ago when we picked up our brood and moved them further out into the country. Two bucks. They were everything I hated in a shoe; laces practically to my shins, heavy as bricks (when they’re caked with mud and god knows what), and ugly as sin. How’s a girl supposed to breathe in shoes like these? I’m a slip-on, flip flop, sandal kinda girl, when I must wear something. My brother asked me many years ago when he noticed my footwear, “But what would you do if you *had* to run from an assailant?” I’d never thought of that before. I wondered, what possesses a person to dwell on questions that only raise one’s blood pressure thinking about it. I think now though, if I found myself in such a predicament, I would probably calmly unlace my boots, hand them over and tell them, “Hey, I hope they bring you the happiness you’re searching for.” I might also kick them in the shins first, for good measure. They are the proverbial shit kickers, after all.
These boots of mine do serve a purpose, I realized just last week, though I finally see them now as more of an old friend than as that albatross around my neck. Despite the fact that I’ve experienced heart palpitations and slight nausea, on more than one occasion, upon discovering that warm, furry, and somewhat squishy mice are drawn to that place where the toes go. These boots, in fact, have protected my beloved digits from frostbite, snake bite, playful Shetland temperaments, old horse Alzheimer’s, mower blades, hot campfire coals, sticks sharpened into spears… a la “Lord of the Flies”, errant holes dug in unsuspected places by unsupervised children, dogs chasing fly balls and Frisbees and cats, shovels and rakes left blade up in the garden, blood-thirsty tiller’s tines, and poo. Let us not forget the poo; chicken poo, horse and pony poo, and bunny poo (that's Bunny POO, not Foo Foo). These boots have seen some poo in their day. They’ve trudged through it, slipped in it, been practically bathed and baptized in it. When I was little, I wanted to talk to the animals. What I didn’t know then was how often I would find myself in lively conversation with their poo.
In this place, and in the small petting zoo that’s grown up around us here, our family has fought bravely… in our boots… through some of the more mundane lessons LIFE has to teach us. Loving a home is hard work. Loving the life it supports is harder. It’s in our daily feeding chores, the back-breaking work of barn building, ditch digging, fence erecting... and even in the graves we’ve had to dig for those we’ve loved that have passed... that these boots, and theirs, have helped us through the real work ~ of Living.
Last week we buried another beloved family pet. I thought, as I pulled my boots on and then slowly laced them up, in the early morning before the frost had disappeared, just how much I was not looking forward to this part. The hardest part. The real work. As many times as I have cussed and cried in these boots, I reminded myself then that I have also laughed and loved, lived and learned in them. Our journey is a difficult one. If it came too easy, what would be the point?
These two dollar boots have taken me farther than I ever thought possible, even when I sometimes find it slightly hard to breathe in them. Who would have thought I might actually have been running from myself? I *have* learned many things along my journey, but one of the simplest lessons I have finally come to accept is, sometimes it’s easier just to lace ‘em up and get to work. Before you know what hit you, it’s time again for starry nights and search and rescue. At least, that’s how it works around these parts... in these boots.
Be Brave My Friends!
"The best way out is always through."
~ Robert Frost