Cruel Boots

Vasque hiking bootsNo, my boots aren’t cruel on purpose.  It’s my feet.  Over time they’ve become more and more opinionated about the footwear that I force them into, until now it’s become a full revolt.  My feet have non-negotiable demands.  The primary demand is no pain.

Do you know how hard it is to find shoes that don’t hurt these days?

I’ve worn high heels.  There was a time I thought they were really wonderful, though in fact I rarely put them on.  I remember I had a pair of strappy black platform heels that I wore dancing once in the early 1970s.  One time.  I think I threw them out when I got home.

Once I moved out of the city and got involved with horses, high heels were simply out of the picture, though I did have some nice, expensive cowboy boots with two or more inch heels that I wore when I wanted to dress up.

As I got older, my shoe heels got lower.  I became more interested in function and comfort than in fashion.  Not that fashion has ever been high on my list.  Me?  Fashion?  I tell you, when burning of bras came around I didn’t have one to burn anymore.  You think shoes are uncomfortable?  Bras!  ‘Nuff said.

After I hit the mid-century mark, though, my feet started getting serious about what they were willing to put up with.  They got serious about the comfort thing — function and fashion be damned.  Shoes and boots are made for some idealized, non-existent concept of human feet, I think.  Or maybe for beings that hang out in Roswell and Area 51.

Photo of Statue of Liberty's foot with a man standing next to it

Statue of Liberty has Greek feet

One thing my feet were pointing out was that  my second toes are longer than my big toes.  This isn’t all that uncommon a thing – something like 20-30 percent of the world’s population has beautiful toes like mine.  Some say these kind of toes are an indicator of greater intelligence… okay, I made that up.  But seriously — longer second toes, medically called Morton’s Toe, were an idealized form in Greek sculpture.  Even the Statue of Liberty has a Greek foot.  Notice that Greeks and the Statue of Liberty wear sandals and not shoes.  There’s a reason for that.

But wait, that’s not all.

My pinky toes are curled to the side and under.  It’s genetic.  Thanks, Dad.  The risk of having pinky toes that curl rises when there’s a long second toe on that foot.  Why that should be I don’t know, but I do know that my curled pinky toes were the first to complain about shoe abuse.  Shoes that aren’t wide enough squish those pinky toes under even more and after a while toes that are being stepped on by the rest of the foot start complaining.  Loudly.

Then there’s the heel bumps.  I believe that my bumps are called Haglund’s deformity, bony enlargements on the back of the heels.  Why do these things always have such ominous names?  Stiff  backed shoes , boots,  ice skates, etc.– all of which I’ve worn in my life – will rub on them.  They’ll blister if there’s too much rubbing and enough pressure could result in bursitis there.

extreme flexion with high heels

High-heel flexion makes my non-bunions hurt

Oh, and bunions.  I don’t have bunions.  No, I do not.  The word comes from the ancient Greek βούνῐον, meaning turnip.  There are no turnips on my feet. But I confess, my big toes do point a teensy bit toward my second toes instead of straight ahead like they used to.  And yeah, there is this bit of a bump at the joint.  But surely that can’t be bunions!  Whatever, I can tell you this:  my non-bunions will not tolerate pressure anymore.  They don’t want it from too-narrow footwear and they don’t want it from having to flex in the wrong place or to over-flex because of higher heels.

The Statue of Liberty knows.  Sandals make for happy feet.

Fine, but anybody who works around horses knows that not only do sandals make for icky feet, but horses give themselves extra points for stomping on naked toes.  If you wear sandals or soft-toed shoes (like the Skechers that are soooo comfy and that make my feet happy) you will drop logs and such on your toes. Not to mention I’m going down the Grand Canyon in January.  Believe me, the hike is hard enough without cold, wet feet.

So boots.  Hiking boots.  But not just any hiking boots.  I need boots that will not squish, rub, flex in the wrong place, or allow my toes to bang up against the front of the boots when hiking downhill (resulting in black & blue toenails that eventually fall off).

This is why early last spring I went online and bought a pair of  Vasque Coldspark UltraDry Winter Boots.  I bought them then because winter gear was being discounted so spring and summer gear could be sold for the maximum the market would bear.  Plus I bought them then because no matter that the reviews claimed no breaking in needed for these boots, I would definitely have to spend many hours in them before heading off the rim and down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Note that the two other times I did the Canyon I went in Merrell summer weight trail shoes.  They weren’t perfect — while my feet didn’t hurt (much) they were really cold and wet.  Every so often I still put them on and go for a hike, hoping I could get a few more miles out of them but alas, that is not to be.  They’re broken down and falling apart and they really need to be thrown away.

So – my new boots.

They fit fine in the house but of course the true test would be hiking in footwear for many hours up and down steep trails.  But I wouldn’t know how they’d do for a while.  It was simply too warm at that point to wear insulated boots.  Hiking with hot feet is as miserable in its own way as wet, cold feet are.  Maybe worse, because hot feet are likely swollen feet and swollen feet are feet that get squished, rubbed, and otherwise tortured.

So, with the recent sudden change of weather from summer to fall I’ve decided to start breaking in the new boots.  First I just wore them around the house for a few hours.  Then I went for short walks.  Today I hiked up and down the mesa sides to see how much sliding forward my feet might do.

So far so good.  They’re not perfect, mind you.  After a summer of Skechers that are super flexible and don’t weigh a thing, the boots are clunky and the tops hurt my lower leg.  The balls of my feet are somewhat tender.  Maybe an insert would fix that.  But as-is these boots provide excellent traction, my feet don’t slide, my toes aren’t squished, and my not-bunions are not complaining.

Let’s hit the trail, feets!

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the whole story so far

Grand adventure

Colorado River, Grand Canyon, at dawn 2018 Lif Strand

I took this photo of the Colorado River in January, 2008. I was with my friend Laura, starting out not long after dawn from the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It would take us till mid-afternoon to hike up Bright Angel Trail to the rim.

In January, 2019, Laura and I are hiking the Grand Canyon again. It’ll be the third time for each of us. In the days/weeks to come I’ll be talking about getting it together for this next adventure. That’ll include conditioning, packing, worries, triumphs, and pleas for advice.

Your comments are most welcome!

PS — I’ll be adding the posts I write about my Grand Canyon Adventure all in one place on this blog. Just click HERE or on the Grand Adventure tab above.

Sometimes it’s good

Moon rising in evening skyI write all the time

I don’t mean all the blabbery on social media.  I’m talking real writing — at least by my definition of “real”.

Stories.  I stopped writing them a long time ago but now I do again.  Why?  Don’t know.  I write the occasional poem.  I’m no poet, believe me.  I journal and have done so since I was a kid.  I wrote my first novel-length manuscript nearly 40 years ago and nowadays I’ve always got a novel in the works.  Two at this time, with a third that I’m poking at.  I write scenes for what I’m working on or for no reason at all.  I jot down ideas about character motivation.  Sometimes I just spew words that have to come out and because I don’t know what I’ll do with them I email them to myself and then forget about them.  In November I commit to NaNoWriMo and drive myself crazy keeping up.  I wake up in the night and record my dreams.  I scribble phrases, sentences, paragraphs, scenes on scraps of paper or I text them to myself.

It’s kind of embarrassing, actually.

I mean, if I was a published author — which I am not, having just today received yet another story rejection — what I write would be Important.  It’d be MeaningfulSignificant.  It would Matter.

But I’m just another wannabe writer.  Um. By wannabe I don’t mean I’ve never been paid to write, since that’s how I earned my living for the past two decades. I mean I want to get paid for writing what I want to write, and for me that’s fiction.  In other words, I don’t want to write about what’s out there but what’s in here.  In me.

So yeah. I have this burning desire to be paid for writing what I want to write, not what somebody else wishes they could write but they can’t so they hire me to do it.

I want to make stuff up.  To transform possibilities into reality by writing them. That’s a kind of magic that has always attracted me.

I love writing.  Good thing, because I have to do it.

I love writing but I have to do it?  Hah!  That’s kind of like saying I love being high and oh, by the way, I’ll go into withdrawal without that drug or drink.  Ahem.  So what.  I have nothing against drugs or alcohol (but remember — don’t drink and drive, my friends).

I love writing.  I love the process and challenge of making a direct connection between the inside of my head and the outside not-me world.  I seek to capture the words that express precisely what’s percolating in my brain.  I call it flavor — the fullness of what I’m trying to convey.  Not just description but the wholeness of it.  When it’s good it’s as close to psychic sharing as I can get.  That quality of writing gives me the shivers.

It’s a kind of magic, that, and I love letting that power flow through me.

But whoa — just like a drug addict  I need more.  I can’t just write in the dark.  I can’t just write for me.  I’m compelled to wreck the sublime joy of capturing my inner imaginings by exposing the writing — and myself — to the world.  As scary as it is, I have to risk it.

Because oh yeah, I need the audience.  I crave applause.  I want outside validation that my writing is doing what I want it to do.

I wanna get paid

And there’s the rub, isn’t it?  I want to get paid for what I create — in today’s world, payment being the functional mark of approval.  So it’s not just about writing for myself, is it?  I have to write stuff other people want to read.

Do I write for me or do I write for you?

Obviously… the answer is yes.

 

PS You can become a patron of mine, yes you can!  A buck a month will get ‘er done!

 

Getting plastered

Next month I will have lived in my straw bale house for twenty years. In all that time I haven’t managed to finish it — specifically, I have barely started the plastering. That would be the step that makes the straw bale house so incredibly insulated and worth the effort of going with straw bale in the first place.

So for just about twenty years I’ve been living in a structure that is basically not much more insulated than a tent. Wind blows right through the spaces between the bales, no matter how much I stuff those spaces with more straw and (lately) plastic bags. The exterior end walls have one coat of plaster, but the plaster doesn’t extend all the way up to the tops of the walls where they meet the roof. Wind blows through the gaps between the rafters so that when the wind blows hard the house becomes well ventilated. The long side walls are just straw.

The stuff holds up remarkably well in this dry climate but really, it’s time.

Problem is, I always seem to find something better to do than plaster. Writing, for instance. Or making fabric art. Or messing with the horses or walking or reading. Becoming enraged by Facebook, Googling all kinds of nonsense… so many things.

Even if I decided to get a move on, twenty years of living in a house means that there’s furniture against the walls and artwork hanging from them. And that means that in order to plaster inside, everything has to be moved away from the wall being worked on. In a tiny house it becomes a challenge to figure out where things can be stashed out of the way, and that means the plastering gets put off.

But then I started hearing people talk about what was coming this winter. If forecasts are accurate (and that’s not a given) this winter is supposed to be snowy in the southwest. I decided I had better get on with it. Wood is expensive and I don’t have much stockpiled whereas I’ve already got the cement and lime and sand.

I figured to start with an inside corner of the house where my fabric is stashed, because certainly I could live without working on wall art for a while. I started by moving the plastic tubs of fabric out to the barn, though since I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about doing so it took several days. Then I started on the boxes of stuff on shelves that had been hidden by the fabric… and that took longer because there were treasures in those boxes that needed examining.

Old photos. Books I had forgotten I had. Art supplies. It was like Christmas and birthdays all at once — great fun, but very time consuming.

Finally I got the corner emptied except for a chest of drawers, but I was not about to move furniture to the barn — so that just got pushed out of the way. Not very far away as you can see from the photo.  Maneuvering is a challenge in small spaces and I don’t like small spaces, but we gotta do what we gotta do.

I spent a whole day plastering this past weekend. Well, okay, most of a day. All right, about half a day. No matter, I worked till my arms felt like wet noodles and my back ached. One wheelbarrow load of mixed sand, cement, and lime yielded a discouragingly small amount of plaster on the wall: a section of about 4′ x 6′. Plus a section of wall outside , maybe 3′ x 3′, that used up the last of the plaster in the wheelbarrow without my having to go in and out of the house. Because there were now lots of flies in the house because I had to leave the door open so I could go in and out.
Out out damn flies!

In the big scheme of things house flies (or in my case, more likely manure flies) have brief lifespans. When they are in the house, however, they are around way too long. I swatted some but that’s icky. I put up fly paper and within hours managed to get it stuck on my sleeve. With flies on it. Ewwwww! I think I will resort to vacuuming them up when the house is cooler and they won’t want to move. Meanwhile, I have to accept that I’ll be driven crazy by them for a while longer.

Does that mean I can’t plaster any more till it’s too cold for flies outside?

Bad idea. Stay tuned to see what I do about the plaster/fly dilemma.

Meanwhile, I have a burning desire to do fabric art, now that everything is turned topsy-turvy. In fact, I woke up in the morning having dreamed about new techniques I could use. So today I have decided it’s much too cold out to be messing with plaster, and much too warm out to discourage flies from coming in through the open door — but it’s just right to play with fabric.

Let me throw some more wood on the fire.

 

PS: For those who are actually more serious about straw bale construction than I am, I do plan to use wire mesh on the corners by doors and windows. That’s a project for another day.

 

Farewell fish

Horse drinking from water trough "After the heron" (c) 2018 Lif Strand It didn’t have to happen but what did I expect?  I knew if I didn’t take defensive measures I’d lose them. There would ultimately be no escape because they were besieged by an enemy that had the patience of one who had felt hunger before and would feel it again.

But still. It was hard to imagine being consumed alive.  Down the gullet. Inevitable, yes, but still.

Years ago in a science fiction book I read this one line that has stuck with me ever since: all things eat, all things are eaten.  I wish I could remember where I read it because it is a concept I have to remind myself about all the time.

When I saw the oily slick on the water and when the mare went to drink and no fish congregated around her lips I knew all were gone. Last night they were there, this morning, sometime before I went out to feed, probably while the gentle rain fell through the gloom of dawn, a great blue heron had paused on its way south to fortify itself for the rest of its flight.

I could not begrudge the bird, and it was my fault that there were no survivors. I could have put screen over the center of the trough but I didn’t. Some of those fish were ten years and more old. Now they were calories fueling a bird.

PS — 10/16  Good news!  There are a couple goldfish left.  Understandably, they are unwilling to come up to a horse’s lips in search of food right now.

Coming home

Welcome to New Mexico and ta-ta Texas.I suppose I’m not a good traveler.  Maybe I’m defective that way.  But I like where I live.

No.

I love where I live.

I just got home tonight from a road trip.  Back in the day I thought nothing of hitchhiking across the country.  Now driving from New Mexico to the east coast and back is an exercise of endurance.  Aside from the fact that my body is not what it was half a century and more ago, my emotional comfort is more important to me now than it was then.

Back then I just wanted to do things.  Everything.

One time back then, back when I lived in Boston, my roommate’s boyfriend who had visited her over the spring break announced he had to get back to college in southern California and that he was going to hitchhike.  Understand, back then we did those kind of things and it was no big deal.  It was also no big deal that I decided I’d go with him.

Why?

Why not.

It didn’t occur to me that I had only met the young man a few days before, and to go on such an adventure might be ill-advised.  It didn’t occur to me that I needed more than the few dollars I had to travel so far.  Or to tell my family I was going.  Or to have a destination to go to.

I just went.

It was an adventure, you see.  I was up for adventures at at the drop of a hat.  The story of that trip — which was accomplished fairly easily with only getting busted once in Buffalo and which ended up with my meeting the man who was to be my first husband at the other side of the country — is for another time.  My point here is that it was an adventure.

It wasn’t all fun and games, of course.  Spending the night in a police station right off the bat was a drag.  Standing in crappy weather with Robin’s boyfriend (sorry, man, I’ve forgotten your name) for hours on end waiting for a ride was a drag.  Some of the rides were a bummer but there was good stuff, too.  The semi-trucker apologized for the bumpy/jerky ride (shocks problem?  I forget now) but let us take turns crashing in his sleeper.  I missed the midwest – too stoned because the people in the VW bus insisted we share their smoke.  True, I froze in Colorado, but then there was that guy who treated us to lunch in Utah because he was so entertained by our account of our trip so far.

And when it was over, it was just one more cool thing I had done and I looked forward to the next adventure.

Nowadays it’s harder to drum up that feeling of excitement about adventures.  Then I was free of responsibilities, now I have many anchors, all of which I love and want to keep.

I live in a beautiful place.  An enchanted land.  My soul soars and my heart sings, and my creative self is fed by my home — and by home I don’t mean my house, I mean the critters, the house, the valley, the county, the state.  The magic of this place.

And that makes it hard to leave here.  But that’s not all.  Back then I was about gathering experience.  Now I’m about using my experience to flesh out my writing.  Back then I was all about the outside.  Now I’m all about the inside.

Even so.  I’m greedy.  I want to have it all.  I want to go and stay.  I want to be out there and dwell in here at the same time.  I want to live forever so I can savor deeply and slowly, and I want to plunge into the unknown and flail about

How is it that I could be this old and feel like an adolescent?