The Woods Await

Most days, I wear ballet flats or high heels. I step lightly, because it’s feminine. I step quiet, slim, moth-like, pretty steps that are the opposite of fat. I compensate for the size of my body, and the space I take up. It’s one way to prove I’m not too heavy: light, ladylike footsteps. Not always, just sometimes.

But on Sunday, we hike, feet and ankles wrapped in wool socks and sturdy leather.

The forest drips. Midnight’s rain slips from plant to plant. We pause in the bright golden room of a ginkgo grove. Our boots sink into soggy leaves and smack the muck beneath. We jump in puddles. In the pine grove, the needles calm us like lavender, or snow.

Who needs to be lovely and light in the woods? The forest just observes. It silences human striving. A different reverence reigns: for oxygen, water, mud, slopes, critters thrushing in underbrush, valleys, fire, cold streams, clots of chunky moss on fallen trees. The five-year-old of my body leaps high. Swims in clear water, sunbathes in high trees, walks with warm bare feet. She’s never heard of lovely and light.

Lovely and light. Hiking boots crush both. A woman in hiking boots can’t be stopped. She’ll love the trail, and how her hunks of muscle, pounds of strength, and boulders of bones love the trail, too. Hiking boots pull her up, out of her own way; you, too. Put them on. They reverse the signs of an aging will. They speed you swiftly backwards, before you knew how to correct your flesh. They urge you forward, through the forest.

When the hike is over, we drive home. Work awaits. Emails, Tupperwear, garbage pails, waistbands, Victoria’s Secret catalogues, Splenda, ballet flats, and heels. Pick them up where you left off, if you must.

But put your hiking boots on again — soon. Go to the woods. Revere the weight of the world in peace.

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