Small Wonders:

If the shoe fits, wear it

June 06, 2009|By PATRICK CANEDAY

I love a good pair of boots.

About a month ago I went to the Red Wing Shoes in Magnolia Park and purchased a new pair to replace the beaten ones I’ve had for more than 10 years. This made me think about that dreamy, weepy book “The Bridges of Madison County,” which made me think about the author, Robert James Waller. This made me think about romance and the fact that I was not asked to speak at any commencement ceremonies this graduation season.

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I am not so proud as to hide the fact that when “The Bridges of Madison County” came out in the early ’90s, I fell for it hook, line and sappy sinker. Didn’t everyone? I let it carry me off to the idyllic backcountry of Iowa, and I wept when it became clear that these lovers could never be together. If you are new to this column, exposing the most embarrassing moments of my life is what I do here.


In his book, Waller describes the rugged main character, Robert Kincaid, wearing well-worn Red Wing field boots. This stuck with me because there’s always been something nostalgic and trusted about Red Wings for me; I picture the red-winged symbol in small towns all over America.

The shoes (like their wearers, I imagined) are strong, long-lasting and sturdy; comfortable and made with great care and attention to detail by people who appreciate good footwear. They aren’t cheap, but they’re worth it. If there is one thing in your wardrobe not to skimp on, it’s your shoes. You will do much walking in your life, and it’s crucial to be comfortable and confident where your feet hit the ground.

So taken was I with this book, I searched for anything else that Waller had written and came across a speech he gave to a graduating college class. The speech was titled “Romance” and fairly well summed up a worldview that I happen to agree with.

Waller talked about romance as something that can’t be directly defined. But it’s that which “makes all the living and doing you are so anxious to get on with worthwhile.” It’s not exactly the same thing as the sense of love between two people, but it’s certainly present in that. Romance “fuels your life and propels your work with a sense of vision, hope and caring.”

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