Comfortable Shoes and Well-Worn Paths

By MARIANNE Wood

I’ve arrived at that age: the comfort-first stage. 

A long time ago, creamy white leather pumps completed my wedding ensemble, though they proved too tippy for continued use after that special day. I briefly wore a pair of really high-heeled Bandolinos. Gee, they were pretty. And they made me feel that way. And always a fan of red, a photo of me in my teens reveals that I once owned a pair of stack-heeled red Mary Janes that added sophistication to my outfit. I had help from Abilene’s famous Bootery that carried a zillion choices displayed in tantalizing tiers of curated counters. Its owner, Earl Williams, recently died. He knew how to sell shoes, as did Cuin Grigsby at his Rag Doll clothing store that originally carried Red Goose Shoes. Remember pulling the goose’s neck and receiving a golden egg full of treats? Mr. Grigsby sold “Moxies”– soft leather loafers that were all the rage when I attended high school. They would work for me today. Wish I still had a pair.

But now, if I cannot comfortably dance, exercise, or work in a pair of shoes, Out They Go! Fortunately, most styles now offer sneaker-like comfort. Some footwear companies even add cushions for high arches. Foot care finally meets fashion.

Comfortable shoes now take me down comfortable paths. 

Finding one’s sense of person, place, and time can take time. For some like me who crave novelty–a bit of edge to life–paths of purpose and pleasure have come on gradually and lately. We try new shoes, new countries, new Bible studies, new makeup, new books and magazines, new apps and computers, even new routines– seeking the best. So it takes a bit to settle into what we love and where we like to go. 

While one person might arrive at elementary school knowing that he wants to become an admiral, or another might tell her mom at age nine that she wants “to live an extraordinary life,”* many of us need a bit more time to move groovily into our place. And giftings appear early in some: a sense of rhythm, a concentration in creating paintings, verbal understanding, or extreme compassion. For others, the dawn of remarkable ease with tools or numbers or geography or words appears a bit later. But we all have something inside us useful in God’s economy at every stage of life. Discovering these natural and spiritual gifts can lead us to delightful well-worn paths.

Harkening backward in time again, I sometimes ate bologna sandwiches next door with my pal Mary Beth in her collie’s doghouse. I noticed that “King” had a six to ten-inch wide dirt path that ran to the opening of his home. It meandered around the yard in semicircles and curvy lines, so we knew where he went. There was a pattern to his day. And he kindly shared his home with two hungry girls on occasion. 

I had a steady path to Mary Beth’s house. I liked to meet her at her parent’s bedroom window, facing our house, to plan our day. You can see us chatting in the black and white photo taken by my mother, a great observer.

Marianne Wood visits her friend, Mary Beth.
Submitted photo

While Mary Beth’s backyard provided a dog, a doghouse, and a swing set, her front lawn served the neighborhood as a diamond for baseball games with many well-worn paths. Thankfully, her parents were not overly concerned with their lawns though Edith, Mary Beth’s mom, kept immaculate flower beds. 

Comfortable paths are best when they leave room for ambiguity. So it’s good to get off the beaten path from time to time. Stretch a bit; maybe try a new pair of shoes.

So, while I now have my comfortable paths to work, to church, to dance class, and more, and I have a good idea that my kitchen is sometimes better used as a studio than an eatery, I try to keep my heart and mind and eyes open to variations in the routine. The next best thing may still be out there in footwear and more. So I’m always learning but grateful for comfortable shoes and well-worn paths. 

*I know these people

Marianne Wood works as an editorial assistant and researcher for Bill Wright

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