We live in an affluent enough society that we don't give a lot of thought to the basics. We have food and shelter, clothes on our backs and more in the closets and dressers at home. And unless you are a person who really pays attention to them, we own lots of shoes that come and go without much thought. Dress shoes, athletic shoes, barn boots and flipflops. I usually don't pay a lot of attention to mine, and I usually get them second hand, wearing them out as time goes by. But this pair was different. As I look at them I feel nostalgia. There are memories of miles walked that scroll by. These are the shoes I wore most of the summer and fall, over hill and dale across the entirety of Camphill and back again.
These shoes protected my feet from rocks and sticks, enabled me to stride along hillsides without sliding, helped me balance on humps of moss. They were often wet. Either the dew or rain on the grasses. Sometimes from slogging through a swamp or bog. They clung firmly to my feet.
Now they are done. Holes in the soft fabric, elastic laces broken, sole peeling off. It is time to retire them. There will be no keeping them as a memento. No holding on to the past. But the memories of where they took me will remain.
Speaking of feet, and what is under them, there are now boots. Warm boots. Waterproof for those days when the snow is wet, well insulated for the bitter cold. As I walk in them, the world offers up new things every day. With little to see in foliage, there is time to use other senses. First the world seems quiet, the call of crows in the distance, cars on a road. Then the awareness of the noise I am making. The swoosh of nylon, heavy breaths. Then the snow. The squeak under foot with each step. As it gets colder, the higher pitched it seems to get. People who don't spend time out in it don't realize that it makes these sounds.
When the temp drops below to 14F the snow starts to make squeaks under our feet. Before that the really thin layer of liquid (quasi-liquid layer) makes the snow slide almost soundlessly under the pressure of our feet. But at 14F, it loses the war with winter and suddenly the ice grains are finding it harder to slide. Crunching, squeaking, the snow is no longer silent. The voice of winter follows us everywhere.