Smiling down to my very soles

Forget fashion, this Mainer learns that happiness is a pair of boots to take her through rain, slush, and snow

The new boots not only expanded my walking range, but brought me a childhood delight that I had long forgotten. But first let me tell you how I came to buy this particular type of footwear, calf-high, waterproof, laced boots. Yes, waterproof, a very significant point.

My neighbors, two outdoor ladies, shift a dizzying array of functional footwear, depending upon their activities for the day. I am deeply impressed, being a relative newcomer to the outdoor life of Maine. What type of footwear should I buy that will take me through snow, ice, rain, and mud season, but be attractive enough to wear to a concert or church?

I have given up on the attractive aspect, but snow, ice, rain, and mud season are still something to be reckoned with, especially when getting to one's car requires navigating a fair portion of driveway that is easing (read "oozing") out of the grips of winter.

Back in my childhood, I had boots that dipped, boots that left rings around my Iegs. And the very first boots that I remember, a tiny pair of L.L. Bean's traditional boots, looked like golden-brown leather attached to a pair of broad galoshes.

Others from adulthood included translucent plastic boots; high spike- heeled boots that, when zipped, firmly encased my calves; high leather boots with chunky heels that I wore not only to work, but all day at work; and boots with fur trim around the top that I soon discovered, to my dismay, were not waterproof when submerged in ankle-deep gutter slush.

Of course, I have long outgrown those L.L. Bean boots, but in recent years I had a keen desire to replace them. I nurtured that desire as l do so many of my desires. Then one day at a garage sale, I found a pair that duplicated in style, if not in size, my L.L. Bean boots of long ago.

They had belonged to the young man now selling them, but being the right size for me and a unisex boot, I struck a bargain right then and there, and for $2 became the proud owner of my second pair of L.L. Bean's original boots.

I might add that, when I recovered my car from an illicit takeover, I was more than delighted to find that - although the radio was missing - my boots remained in the back of the car, right where I had left them. Apparently the urban purloiner had not recognized the true value of a pair of Bean's boots.

But, to get back to my more recent boot purchase: With calf-high waterproof boots, you guessed it, I can now tromp through the overflowing brooks and resulting puddles that each spring and fall occupy the "Interval" (as we call it in my town): the expansive stretch of fertile land that runs from the foot of the hill behind our farmhouse to the shores of the Saco River.

It's great fun to wade right through the stream crossing the dirt road and stride through the mud puddles with nary a worry. I can hardly believe my good fortune. I no longer have to wait for dry weather to traverse the terrain of the Interval. Fearlessly I approach each water-filled recess, watching for polliwogs or an occasional frog before crossing it.

Sometimes I drag one foot slowly behind the other, relishing the freedom of wading. Other times I walk resolutely along the submerged roadbed to the accompaniment of spring warblers twittering from the alders and sumac. Ducks, hearing my noisy approach, quack and fly from the marshy area that is spawning this overflow of water.

A friend, upon learning of my efforts to find footwear that would serve a multitude of purposes, passed along two pairs from her supply of boots. They are fur-lined, fancy, thick-soled, but - most important of all - are they waterproof?

I'll probably never know. They're much too dressy to wear down to the Interval, even when there's no water to splash through.

Anyway, I have already found the quintessential footwear for wet walks. My boots have not only opened my early spring days to hikes heretofore inaccessible, but they have also rolled back the years to childhood, when plowing recklessly through a puddle was the ultimate in youthful delight.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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