A View from the Top
They were good shoes, I was sorry to see them go
They weren’t my first by a long shot, not even that brand or model. But when I tried them on, something clicked in my head. Or on my feet. They were gray and green and white, and just like me, nothing special. Steady. Nothing flashy. Dependable, I would say. They never came untied on the run, never. That is important.
They ran with me through rain and shine, light and dark, hot and cold. They knew the neighborhoods so well that I learned to trust them to follow their own path and together we never failed to find our way home. They knew the little back streets where we would invariably come up on the old German Shepherd who made a big fuss, but really only wanted a pat on the head and a scratch under his chin. They knew the quiet neighborhood where the race of black and white cats has persisted for as long as we have lived here, watching us with suspicion, while on their silent vigil under cars and on front porches.
They knew every nook and cranny of the golf course we ran at dark o’clock, 3-4 times a week, greeting the geese, the great blue herons, the two little Jack Russell Terrors who liked to think that they owned the place, the crowing rooster on the back nine, and we often shared a laugh at the complaining cardinal at the first water stop, who acted as though her home and nest had been invaded as we drank cold water and sucked down a Gu or a Roctane in the dark under the brightest stars.
They probably could have circumnavigated Lake Overstreet and most of the Phipps single track by themselves, we ran together there so often. They loved the sandy trails of the Munson Hills, and detested the improvements that made those trails into something harder than concrete. Progress, I explained. They still complained.
We ran the Heritage Trail and the Cadillac Trail and Ho Chi Minh east and west. We ran the Forbidden Trail despite the chiggers. Those shoes were tireless.
That wasn’t nearly all of it. We ran the Atlantic beach many times and for a change of pace, the Shut In Trail in Asheville. Sometimes the Mountain To Sea Trail, too. We took a long trip out west once, and ran together in the majestic Rockies near Boulder, then in New Mexico through table top mesas and into quiet forests of juniper and mesquite. Or St. George Island and Destin, but neither of us really liked that too soft sand, so we stuck to the beach roads instead.
We sat for a long time together in wonderment, on the high forested bluffs overlooking the Apalachicola River near the Jim Woodruff Dam, south of the confluence of the Flint and the Chattahoochee, where north Florida officially begins, and then we ran past local shops and shrimp boats and the hump backed river otters who frequent the dilapidated piers in the tiny hamlet of Apalachicola, where the big river greets the Gulf Of Mexico, 106 winding river miles south. We ran trails in the Garden Of Eden in Torreya, and sat for a spell on the very top of Logan’s Hill, where we marveled at the folds of the skin of the earth as far north as we could see, and realized that we were sitting on the tiniest of the southernmost foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains.
Proudly, we ran with sons and daughters, and with a grandchild or two, and pushed a loaded baby stroller without any complaint whatsoever. We ran many miles in Chicago and dipped a worn out toe box into Lake Michigan just to say that we did it. We once made a stop over in Sarasota to visit aging parents and ran on a little gravel trail around a lake (Celery Fields?) where the bird life was simply unbelievable. We decided that day, that wood storks were our favorite. But tomorrow it might be herons or egrets or eagles or osprey or vultures or . . .
I could go on. If you ask me, I just might. But all good things come to an end, it is said. I could not bear to put them in the trash or even the recycling bin. They are buried in the good earth behind the house, under the garden. I gave them a hero’s honored burial with a short ceremony, and thanked them for their miles of service. It was, of course, much more than that.
They sang this to me as we said goodbye:
“I knew a man Bojangles and he danced for you, in worn out shoes.
With silver hair a ragged shirt and baggy pants,
The old soft shoe.
He jumped so high, jumped so high,
Then he lightly touched down.”
Mister Bojangles, Mister Bojangles,
Mister Bojangles, dance.”
(Mr. Bo Jangles, Jerry Jeff Walker)