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The Observer paper 12/24/14

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Stray socks on Main Street, and being in sync with nature

A friend asked me last week, “Could you write a column about the stray socks I find on my morning walks through Enterprise?”

Before I was a reporter I would boast that I could talk to a brick wall and evoke a conversation. Now I’m pigeon-holed into being able to write about anything, even stray socks in the middle of the city streets.

As a young adult living on the Rocky Mountain Front Range of Colorado I taught and coached gymnastics. There are few jobs that were a better fit — a 7 year old told me, a grown-up of 24, that I was “weird.” I think being a lifelong child is a good trait when working with children...

One day after a preschool class a 4-year-old student struggled to find one of her socks. I said, “It must be on the Planet of Left Socks.” She exclaimed, “REN AND STIMPY!” Her mother, overhearing our conversation looked perplexed. Apparently she didn’t know what her urchin was watching on TV...

And so anyone who has ever worn socks knows that when one goes missing it is simply chalked up to one of the great mysteries of the universe — along with, “How do they get in the middle of Main Street?”

The last couple weekends I dove into the woods for some much needed nature-inspired refreshment. There’s nothing quite like experiencing a thunderstorm with just a thin layer of nylon between you and the elements. We stayed dry and untorched and awoke to the freshness of the forest after a good rain.

There also isn’t anything quite like a private soak in a natural hot springs to make me feel ridiculously spoiled by Mother Nature and her nyads and dryads. The two pools had been modified by hot spring enthusiasts with plumbing to adjust, drain or fill them and a bridge to cross the creek. They were gentle modifications that didn’t spoil the woodsy experience, yet on the slope above us was an abandoned shirt someone must have forgotten in the dark — a reminder that these pools are frequented by humans.

After a reasonable amount of private time a car door slammed, indicating more hot springers, and my scout and I gathered our things and went back to camp. That afternoon we sidled up to a make-shift pool bar along the Payette River for a cool soak and watched the rubber rafts float by.

This weekend we ventured into a different forest and along the trail we found only two objects: a small, clear, plastic fishing bobber and the insole of a boot or shoe. We wondered how one loses an insole. Typically they are well embedded under a socked foot in a tied-up boot or shoe ... until my scout started having trouble with his own insole; so much so that he took it out and tucked it into the day pack along with the bobber. We felt the abandoned insole had been foreshadowing.

The rest of the walk was uncomfortable — my scout’s foot hurt with the lack of padding, we were both soaked to the skin, and intermittently too hot or too cold, prompting many stops to adjust clothing. During one stop to change out a shirt I poked at the ground and asked, “What is this?” I had asked that question about a dozen or so times that day as we were looking for a particular type of fauna. That stop in search of greater comfort opened up a world of gathering and brightened up an otherwise soggy and fidgety hike.

As I stumble through this thing called life I lose and find many things along the way — socks, insoles, friends, the fruit of the woods. The refrain of an old song comes to mind when nature and I are in sync, “We will discover the wonders of nature, blowing through the rushes, down by the riverside.” 


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