I just walked up to our nice independent trail shop and bought a new pair of hiking boots. They’re plenty nice and they’ll take me where I want to go. I tried on several pairs before I made my purchase. I tried on a bright-blue colored pair which usually I like bright blue? But I rejected them. I don’t care for too much whimsy in my boots. I have been known to wear sort of a lot of polka dots, and also tights with flowers on them, and also bloomers, so this is all just to say that I’m not afraid of dressing like a clown. But hiking boots? No. Hiking boots require a sober, can-do, undistracted kind of attitude. Bright blue will not cut it.

flowered-fishnet-tights (1).jpg


After I selected my new boots, I gave the old ones to the kind trail shop sales-person and I asked her could she throw them out. She agreed to do it.

There were several reasons I left them at the store rather than tote them home.

Reason First: Recently, I’ve been “helping” (read: shrewishly cracking the whip) my husband clean out his workshop. His workshop is spacious, fairly well-lit, and absolutely inaccessible. This is because he collects stuff and then he puts it in there.

everyone ought to have one

Now that he’s retired, I think it’d be good for him to have a room of his own and also a place to put together birdhouses and play with stamps and sort through old camping stuff and deal with his dad’s collection of woodworking books from the 1960’s and keep the old computer keyboards which he feels like he ought to plant with alfalfa seed to make high-tech chia pets and store a bunch of old crutches with disintegrating armpit rests and keep his old bus-driver work shirts which I recently learned he hopes to make into a sail of some sort with them and keep his hiking boots from 30 years ago when he walked on the Appalachian Trail.


Which reminds me that I just unearthed a blank book which we’d entitled: Stuff Dave Found Which We Kept and which listed such things as “a jar of mayonnaise” and “2 mops” and “ionic column later used in Addams Family play.” In the play, the column held a vase of fake long-stemmed roses which our Morticia arranged by snipping off the buds and arranging the stems, a la the tv show. originalThe column now resides in our living room and is currently holding a straw boater my dad bought for me in Key West 30 years ago. You can begin to see our problem with holding onto stuff. 




We rent a room in our house via Airbnb. It’s listed as “Cluttered in Carrboro” because that pretty much tells it like it is though recently I’ve begun to realize that with the non native-English speakers, I often need to define “clutter” which that’s pretty easy as all I have to do is gesture around the house.

Anyhow, this is one reason I didn’t want to bring my old boots home—the clutter problem.

Second: I’m getting old and my back hurts and I didn’t want to put them into my little daypack and carry them home.


Third, and related to above: last year, Dave and I spent a long hot July week along with his brothers and sister and various assorted spouses cleaning out his mother’s house. We went through three industrial sized dumpsters—the 30 foot kind with the open top—and the house isn’t really all that big. It’s just that Dave’s mom had this marvelous combo of optimism (she wanted to do, and perhaps did do, All The Hobbies), and fear (there might never be another recipe for oatmeal cookies as good as that one in the 1971 Ladies Home Journal (so you’d better keep the whole canon) and if you don’t keep your bank statements from 1966, the bank might pretend they’ve never heard of you, and etc).

prize-winning recipe

Due to the sheer volume of stuff we unearthed and threw away, I came down with a serious case of PTSD and I promised my own children that I would not make them go through what we’d just gone through.


Thus, I didn’t bring home my old boots.


I loved those old boots. They took me east to west across England, and from south to north in Scotland. They got taken off and put back on a whole lot in Japan, like every time I entered a house and then left same. They took me from my home in Carrboro to my job in Chapel Hill, and then they walked me around as I shelved books.  They squeaked some. I wore them as I walked with my beloved dog in the mountains of NC and also on piedmont sidewalks. I wore them on the Appalachian Trail, and in cities, and to the movies, and with skirts. They weren’t terribly stylish, I never thought, but they were friendly, and they did what they were supposed to do. They got me, is how I felt about them. So RIP, old friends. And thanks.




download (1).jpeg

Hadrian II

In my witty little English guidebook, the Hadrian’s Wall Path is deemed an “easy to moderate” walk. At 84 miles, it’s long but not so long that, as with the Appalachian Trail, you have to stop your life and get off in order to walk from end to end. In other words, you can do it “on holiday” as they say up there in Northumbria.


Henry Stedman, amusing author


Now: to me, “easy to moderate” means an amble down a nice flat trail punctuated now and again by a gentle slope. Perhaps, as one trips lightly along, one finds oneself on a highish ridge, o’erlooking beauteousness, but as to how one ascended the ridge—well—the guidebook said “easy to moderate” and so how rigorous could it have been?

Rigorous enough, my friends. Rigorous enough.

More than a few times, I was forced to use my hands in conjunction with my feet. I’m not saying that slacklines and carabiners were necessary, but there were moments during which I didn’t dare look down. Also: the British aren’t as freaked about litigation as we are here; a couple of signs indicating that you may wish to watch your step lest you fall into oblivion, but that was it. No guard-rails, no danger tape, no fussing about.

blue carabiner


Not that I’m complaining. I’m a grown woman and I enjoy my freedom. In fact, as I walked along (and up) (and down) I felt a sort of glory and power: my short little hobbit legs are strong, my shadow was straight, I was vital (in an of-a-certain-age kinda way). I strode along, my backpack on my back, my step firm, a song on my lips. (Probably Barbara Allen, for propriety’s sake.)

not my shadow, but a nice one wouldn’t you say?


It is important to say this: most visitors to HWP don’t walk the whole thing. Most visitors drive up to the most interesting parts of the HWP: for a school field-trip; a weekend picnic; a robust hike in the merry month of May when the green buds they are swellin’.

What all this means is that most of the people who walk the Hadrian’s Wall Path (or parts of it) are British. And the Brits, when they feel like it, are hella walkers.



Following: an example of Brits walking.

At one point, as I left the apparent top of the world to descend a very steep very long flight of rock steps down a practically vertical slope, I was reminded viscerally of the secret path to Mordor. The difference was that Frodo and Sam were climbing and I was descending, all the more terrifying for me.  I was taking it easy—step by step, the longest march, can be won, can be won—and trying not to hyperventilate so much that I fell headlong into nothingness only to be found later, my lunch on my back, a sock tan-line on my ankles.

not really as bad as this


Step. Hyperventilate a little. Rest. Repeat.

Suddenly, I heard a voice.  Holding my breath so as not to plunge downwards, I looked further down the precipitous flight, and there I beheld a foursome scrambling towards me.



These were them:

  1. A jolly 80-something grandmother with a cane;
  2. A sweet-faced, plump young mother holding a leash connected to
  3. her over-excited whippet puppy;
  4. a flaxen-haired four year-old lad, his tee-shirt emblazoned with a cartoon picture of Baloo. 





I gaped, stopped, and stood aside. It wasn’t courtesy that made me give way; it was more like dumbfoundedness. They smiled at me, each one, (except the whippet) and said “mawning,” (that’s British for “hey”). Even the little kid told me “mawning,” after which his mother pronounced him a good lad and brightly urged him up the next of the perilous steps.

I hope I was stunned into some small humility.

You will be glad to know that later that afternoon, I saw the quartet of them again, safely ensconced in a dog-friendly pub, the little boy lustily drinking something orange.

yes, it really looked like this