It must be way cooler to use a staff rather than a walking stick, but outside of Middle Earth staffs are harder to find than hobbits.
Gandalf the Gray had a staff that was simply magic in his hands. It didn’t appear to be much different than a walking stick, and that was the charm of it. As Wormtongue found out in “The Two Towers,” you were playing with fire if the old wizard entered your hall without first leaving his staff at the door.
Thunder erupted from one end of Gandalf’s staff while lightning shot out from the other. In the entire “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Gandalf was something like 64-1 when fighting with his staff. His only defeat came at the hands of his then-boss Saruman the White, who was pretty nifty with a staff himself at the time. Of course, Gandalf scored a first-round knockout in the rematch once he had been promoted to Gandalf the White.
Sort of like earning a black belt in martial arts.
At first glance, it would be easy to mistake Gandalf for an old man with a walking stick. Almost as easy as confusing me for an old man in need of a walking stick to move about.
You see, I do not require the aid of a walking stick; I choose to employ one when accompanying my dog, Jake, through the woods behind my home. It’s a lifestyle decision I’ve made.
Not long ago, my 11-year-old mix of yellow lab and weimaraner gave me a scare. After a visit to the vet, in which he was given some meds and had his diet changed, I’ve increased the amount of exercise Jake receives daily. Longer and more frequent walks has helped him to drop some pounds while he confronts the ills that come with advanced age.
I’m no spring chicken myself, as I’m reminded every day by an assortment of aches and pains that take longer to disappear than they used to. And since I can afford to lose a few pounds myself, we walk. Me and Jake, who also answers to The Christmas Puppy or Crazy Dog, depending largely upon the mood I’m in at the time. If you spot us on our daily walks, say hello. I’m the taller of the two of us, and Jake is the one getting by without the walking stick.
The woods behind my home may not be Middle Earth, but there’s some magic in the air whenever Jake and I get out there. The two of us may not move as quickly or as fluidly as we once did, but like Gandalf before us, underestimate us at your own peril.
Let me leave you with a true story. Not very long ago I told one of my daughters that all I wanted for Christmas was a trip to the Shire via Isengard. The Shire, I explained, is only accessible by horse-drawn wagon, but nearby Isengard is now home to a world-class airport courtesy of the redevelopment project made necessary by the furor of the Ents. My daughter – a huge Lord of the Rings fan herself – understands me better than most and delivered, as I knew she would.
Obviously, she’s inherited my sense of humor as well.
I went through the pile of gifts one by one until I reached a long, thin gift-wrapped box. Inside was the long-awaited plane ticket to Isengard. I’ve long since forgotten my other gifts that year, but I still have that printed ticket stub: Round trip from Newark to Isengard; Isengard to Newark. Business class.
That’s right, business class. Not even in my fantasies do I rate first-class accommodations. It’s one of the ways my kids keep me in my place.
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