We were deep in the wilderness of Central Pennsylvania. On a Saturday morning hike. Shingletown Gap. A path besides a pleasant creek. Or is it a crick? Or a stream? I’m not sure. But I do know this. It ate my son Solomon’s shoe.
We were resting at a clearing. Because my other son Samson gets tired very, very easily.
“I’m going home!” He’ll shout after a relatively short hike. Then he’ll turn around and start walking home. We always try to coax him a little further. But, unlike his father, the boy knows how to set boundaries. When he’s done he’s done. Like a pair of shoes that is finished serving their master’s feet.
About shoes being finished serving their master’s feet:
Solomon was throwing rocks into the crick. Or the stream. Maybe the creek. One rock after another. Sticks too. He has having a blast as Samson sat pouting on a rock. That’s when it happened. The creek opened its creek mouth. Chomp chomp. Solomon jumped back. And his shoe was gone. Thank God his foot was still there. The crick was hungry that morning, friend. The stream too.
My wife Katie and I spent nearly half an hour looking for that shoe. It was gone. Like so many of the hairs on my head these days. Talk about being 40.
Here’s what happened. Solomon stepped into a pile of leaves. The pile of leaves was covering a hole beneath the roots of a tree. That hole led down to the crick. Or the stream. Solomon shoe got caught in this hole as he stepped back.
“My shoe!” He called out.
I reached my hand in. Nothing. I peered into the hole. Nothing. Used my cell phone as a flashlight. Still nothing. We grabbed a long stick. Poked around. I couldn’t believe it. There was no sign of the shoe anywhere. Had the current swept it away? More confused than anything, Katie and I searched and scoured and searched. Solomon sat with his brother on a rock. They pouted together, albeit for different reasons. Solomon was devastated.
“It’s okay, Solomon,” I told him. “It’s just a shoe. We can get another one.”
“I want to go home!” Samson howled.
“We’ll leave in a little bit,” Katie said. “I want to find the shoe.”
Our search for the shoe proved fruitless. It had disappeared. Like so many hairs on the head of a man in his forties.
We made our way back to the car quietly. Solomon wearing only his socks. The soles of his feet braved sticks and stones. Rocks too. We got into the car and left.
Shingletown Gap ate my child’s shoe. I hope it is happy. And full.
Summer is here. You’d think I’d be enjoying a stress free life free from work or obligation. Think again, my friend. As I wrote about last week, we’re opening a theatre. And the academic tasks are endless. I’m still in Zoom meetings. Still presenting or leading workshops or writing papers or revising papers or whatever. And that’s not even mentioning the trials and tribulations of parenting a 7 and a 5 year-old.
I need a vacation, friend. Some time away from my phone. Away from screens. Away from work. Away from the anxieties of adulthood.
Hiking is a nice reprieve. And there are some beautiful trails out here. Shingletown Gap is one of them. So being in the woods with my family is a good thing. Even without shoes. I think I need more of that good thing. More of a disconnect from the onslaught of tasks and work that has made up the previous 14 months. I’m tired. This pandemic did a number on me. I need some time to recharge. To grieve the passing of a strange year. I’m not sure how to find this respite yet. But at least I know I need it.
A vacation. A beach. Some nature. Something like that. Shoes or no shoes. Ravenous creeks be damned. Streams and cricks, too.