I pass them in airports -
The men who stretch their legs onto the brass foot-holders.
They hardly look at the man brushing and polishing their boots to a slick shine.
Often, they gaze into their cell phones, fingering to the next entry and the next.
Do they notice what is happening at their extended feet?
I doubt it.
Do they connect with the other man who’s often black as the shoe polish?
And I walk on to my flight’s gate, and think of all the generations
Of shoeshine boys who give luster to the lives of their customers.
Today, I polished my own boots.
The boots, black as beetles, I chose from a catalog a decade ago.
In this valley, with our warm climate, the boots sit on their shelf, ready to serve,
But yesterday was different.
As I dressed for the drizzly morning - sliding on long wool stockings and the leather boots -
I knew the grass would sog underfoot during the March along Napa River.
I considered all who have marched in boots into the dust, into the muck, into the battles of time.
Our call to walk came from gentle women, not militant men.
And we answered – three thousand of us walked the rainy morning to hear the calls to action.
We smiled at each other, speaking words of wisdom and peace.
We offered encouragement and knew we were weaving our stories with history.
Children bobbed around along the Veteran’s Park, delighting in the mellow power of the group.
Women waved to friends, delighted to know they shared inner strength.
Speakers spoke. Singers sang. We all bonded.
And on returning home to our treehouse,
I removed these boots, noting how muddy they were, for the first time.
And so, this bluesky morning, I polished my boots in the kitchen,
First brushing off the caked mud, then rubbing away tan vestiges of yesterday.
With a small damp cloth, I washed off the physical remainders of the walk.
No polish for noir boots in the house,
And so, I chose to use the lip salve that kept me from a crackled mouth as we marched.
Why not? I thought.
My mouth is skin. And some animal yielded flesh to cover my feet.
The salve would do the trick.
It worked well, as I smoothed it into the clean leather.
These boots will never be the same.
They are rubbed with memory, with history, with hope.
And with the exhilaration of yesterday along the river.
A.A. - January 22, 2017
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