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Boot Soles

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,

If you want for me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean, but I shall be good health to you nevertheless, and filter your fibre and blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged, missing me one place search another,

I stop somewhere waiting for you.

-Walt Whitman

As I prepare to say goodbye to the mountains and the trees and all the beautiful things around me here that touched my heart, I feel afraid. I worry that I will forget the people I met, the feeling of trekking twelve hours in the rain, or the taste of coca. But in Andean cosmovision, the past and present and future exist together. Each living thing has a spirit that exists beyond its material self. In all things, there is life and death, good and evil, beginning and end. This reminded me of Walt Whitman´s Leaves of Grass. Everywhere I go, they follow me. They are made of the same soil. In my hiking boots, still soaking from the rain, lies billions of tiny particles of dirt from everywhere they´ve been. My mom wore them when she was my age at Kilimanjaro. Collectively, we´ve worn them on Grandfather Mountain at least a hundred times. They´ve walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain, along the red canyons of Zion, in Colorado, California, and my home state of Tennessee. On our first trek here in Bolivia, the sole of my boot split completely, and we had to tape them together. They were stitched back together by a Zapatero in Cochabamba. When I put them on, walking with me is a multitude of spirits, the soil of a hundred places, and the memory of different mountain ranges. I know when I go home, I can keep encouraged. When searching for Bolivia, I need only look at my boot soles.