Friday, October 31, 2008

Mender of Soles

Alfred M. Jole (known as A.J. to his coworkers) worked for the U.S. Forest Service for most of his life, and in his retirement years repaired boots at Drew's in Klamath Falls, Oregon. He's kept Doug well supplied with boots, the most recent being a tri-tone pair that he'd rebuilt.

Doug (who is occasionally given to fits of verse) wrote this last night:

Boots: 10 inch packers

The last thing we talked about
Father to son, before he died
Was boots.
If a man works with his hands
And his feet
Balanced on fir roots, sweating on the fire line,
Raising sons out of the forests
he needs tough skin
good boots
to protect the tenderness
of the sole of the foot
of the soul.

The vamp–a dull color of blood and dust together,
the blood of his veins
the dust of the wild places he loved
Buffed and waterproofed
to keep my feet warm and dry,
I am wrapped tightly
by the work of his hands
embraced by his arms.

The 10 inch upper–black as Cascade duff in the snow-melt,
high to support the ankle
and keep me upright as I walked,
Upright as he walked and I followed,
10 inches high
he walked firm and strong,
and I followed him through the trees.

The laces–black leather,
earth tones and primitive
–he knew that woven laces wear out too quickly
in the wilderness
when you need them the most
so he wove thick, square laces
as long as my life
of my boots.

The heel counter–rawhide,
to protect against spurs
I will never wear,
rawhide white and strong as tough sagebrush country
sprinkled carelessly over basalt rimrock
the color of semi-arid soils.
The color of his face, worn as the seasons changed around him
faster than he could walk.
I was his spring, and his summer,
and I knew he would be my winter,
death under snow, waiting silently for rebirth.

The soul is eternal–
the sole is mini-Vibram,
not caulks for traction on the logs
not cowboy for ease in the stirrup
not deep cleats for muddy trails;
chosen by him
not for the dirt
the soils
the rock where he worked
but for my easier, paved trails.
He could re-sole them for me, he said.
And he has re-souled
I am his soul living in me.
These boots,
his loving hands reach out
practical, strong and rugged
built to take me into wild places
and even the wild places
he never knew
the untracked wildernesses
of college corridors
library carpets
worlds beyond his hillsides.

These are not new boots–
New, they would have been too dear.
Discarded, they became dear to him.
He re-crafted them, re-built them
turning waste into care
building leather into love,
using tools and hands and materials
a love for craftsmanship and raw, animal material
life and death crafted into usefulness
One thing, at least, that we shared
Deftly stitching a welt where none existed before
Because in his art, his craft,
he knew quality boots can be re-built.

He knew–
His own boots had passed through the years,
forward through my childhood, tattered and worn,
patched and replaced–all but the uppers were new,
but they were the same boots.
The supple texture of boot leather,
the smell of hides,
thread and glue
stitched us together in his heart.

My soles can be rebuilt
My soul stitched together with his,
father and son
His soul goes onward,
tattered and patched
to be rebuilt, vamp, upper, sole and counter
Into beauty and usefulness
by the Maker.


nadine said...

Wow, Doug that was great. Of course it made me cry. Since it was funny, the last we talked about was if Andy was taking good care of his boots, and he was planning on having him make another.
Helena that is a nice picture of Grandpa.
We will see you in Oregon hopefully on sunday.
love ya all

Heather T. said...

That was beautiful--powerfully male and deeply emotional too. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

That was beautiful, Doug. It made me cry too. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Pam said...

What a beautiful poem. I am so sorry for your loss. He seems like he was an incredible man and made the world a better place.

I will continue to keep you in my prayers.


Kathey said...

Dear Doug,

What a wonderfully expressive tribute. It touched my heart in some very tender places. I'm so sorry he had to be taken so young. Perhaps there are other Souls in need of rebuilding with his special touch. It's comforting to know that someday you will be able to ask him.

Love, Kathey

Expatriate Buckeyes said...

Doug,what an amazing tribute. Thank you for sharing something so powerful and personal.

Being Mrs Miles said...

POWERFUL - just wonderful.

I am sorry of your father in law's passing.

Thank you for allowing us to share in the value of his life.

~ Barb from Canada

Mimi said...

That's beautiful! May his Memory be Eternal.

Laura Call said...

Thank you for sharing... incredibly powerful and heartfelt... made me cry.

skgberry said...

A very moving tribute. It touched me as I too lost my dad in July of this year.


Carin said...

thank you for being willing to share with us Doug, You and your family are in my prayers. It is so nice to know that this seperation is only temperary. HUGS!

Dean and Ida said...

that was beautiful and what a tribute to your father, it made me cry. I am glad you talked about him in the last talk you gave in church it was in that same spirit and it was with the spirit.

Ernie said...

Sorry to say that I hadn't been keeping up with your blog, so didn't know about this news. Please pass my condolences along to Doug - it is difficult losing a parent at any age.

Very touching words in tribute to his father, and their relationship. Not many men would be willing to share this. Thanks Doug.

cami said...

Wow, what a wonderfully moving poem. So sorry for your loss,