Beauty, wise men say, is in the eye of the beholder. The memories stored in these shoes make them beautiful to this beholder. Imbedded in the stitching are traces of dried muck, a reminder of sinking in a Scottish bog. Faded, water- stained tops remind me of numerous housings to wash away caked sand dust from hiking in the Sonoran Desert. Anchored firmly between two treads are two pebbles from the top of Mount Vesuvius. I refuse to remove them; they are my badges for reaching the summit. Green stains along the shoes' sides speak of west coast forest moss. Aggressive scuffing on the toes reminds me of Newfoundland's rocky shoes. With each turn in my hands, memories surface.
Although my aching legs would beg to differ, my beautiful uglies have guided me painlessly and accident-free over terrains ranging from pebbled beaches to pulverized lava to cobblestoned streets, from rocky shore trails to desert terrain to rain forest. The one time I wore running shoes and not my beautiful uglies, I badly injured my left knee in a fall. Am I now superstitious. You bet! My walking shoes and I - we are a great team. Where I go, they go.
Shoes now in hand, I can feel excitement and anticipation gurgle up inside me. And so I ask, Where to now, my faithful friends? They whisper their answer.