Thursday, November 29, 2007


I picked up Kate's shoes on Wednesday evening--she brought them with her to the art studio. She told me that I would know which ones Hannah (her young daughter) picked out. Kate is the first person who has lent me more than one pair of shoes. In fact, she brought me three. I only ended up wearing two of them. One is a pair of rubber boots that go up until just below my knee. The other is a pair of backless silver slippers with red satin insides, and silver beads and jewels sewn on the outside. This is the pair Hannah chose.

(This tiny dried rose came in the bag with Hannah's choice of shoes. I was happy to come across it.)

Kate told me that the pair she chose wasn't warm, but she thought I could use layers. When she first said this, I had yet to see the boots, and I found my brain hurting trying to imagine layering shoes. I didn't even consider that she might have meant socks (which I'm sure she did). Hannah's contribution didn't really take the weather into account, but they were great for inside the house. The other pair that Hannah picked are some more formal black shoes that have a bit of a heel, and elastic across the instep. I thought that if I went out in the evening I might wear this pair, but I didn't end up doing so. There was just so much snow.

So I wore two pairs of Kate's shoes.

When I woke up on Thursday morning I felt like I was going to be incoherent for the entire day. My head felt incredibly foggy. You're likely familiar with those mornings where every small task is suddenly a great feat, and any amount of effort is too much effort. I decided that maybe if I wore something incredibly bright, I might wake up at some point. Reva gave me this dress from her costume room, and I think it really helped. I actually found myself with a bunch of energy later in the day.

In the morning I did some last minute finagling with my project that was due later that morning. It came together in the end, which was a huge relief. I also tried to impose a bit of order in my very cluttered room. My feet slid about on the shiny satiny insides of Kate's slippers as I tidied things and packed my lunch. They were at once very practical, and incredibly not so. They were good at keeping my feet warm, and but they seemed almost to fancy to be eating breakfast or peeling carrots in.

I put on a mismatched pair of socks before putting on Kate's boots, grabbing my bag and heading out to catch the bus. I felt somehow cheerful and bold in Kate's boots. I think that I maybe have a thing for rubber boots that I wasn't entirely aware of.

Kate and I have the same size feet, so her boots didn't feel too big or too small. I mostly noticed rubber boot kinds of things--how there isn't much support inside them, the way they are molded to be one shape, and snap back to it as one walks in them, how the make me drawn to puddles (which were sadly scarce), and how my feet are a bit damp and have that particular rubber-like smell when they come out of them.

On the bus I saw a friend of my sisters--they went to nursery school together and used to play "Barbies and trucks" and had fights over whose father had been in more helicopters and / or boats. I only recognized him because Katie had shown me a recent photograph of him. Classes, computer work, and class. I noticed lying down on my stomach the awkwardness of the molded nature of rubber boots--usually I lie with the tops of my feet on the ground, but that didn't seem possible. (I should perhaps explain that I have been doing lots of lying on my stomach because sitting is so difficult for me right now. I happen to have very understanding profs, for which I am thankful.)

We had the rest of our critique, during which we also had some pot-luck snacking. It was great to see more of what other folks have been doing, and also great to have WALNUT CAKE! I realized that I haven't had any of this ever so tasty and delightful (and cute!) Korean dessert for about two years. Diane brought a box of them in from Toronto, and I felt like I'd been reunited with a forgotten treasure.

Throughout the day several classmates who had heard me present on Tuesday asked me if I was wearing my own shoes or someone else's.

When I told them that the boots weren't my own, they said, "I thought so." This struck me as interesting, because some of the shoes I've worn I have felt relatively at home in, and Kate's is one of them. I felt like I would like to have my own pair of rubber boots--they felt fun and kind of playful and attractive, and like something I could incorporate into my repertoire of things that I wear. Plus, we wear the same size shoe. So I wonder how it is that people could see that they obviously weren't mine when this wasn't so obvious to me. I suppose it's entirely possible that they were saying, "I thought so," to have something to say. Hmm...

Heading home, it was already dark. I was so surprised to find myself not only awake, but happy and with energy, and I wasn't quite sure what this was about. The night before was spent setting my alarm in 35 minute intervals while I attempted to convert files on my computer while also addressing my need for rest. Usually the results of inadequate sleep are disastrous for me (sore throat, colds, extreme fatigue, grumpiness, and general incoherence). But instead I was kind of bouncing along feeling bright and happy and not sure why. I decided to walk home from downtown. The snow was coming down at an impressive rate--great big flakes floating their way down to the ground. I found myself itching with delight. It all seemed so beautiful. I was glad for the extra pair of socks...rubber boots aren't too warm on their own.

I made dinner, and headed over to Tara's to return her socks and shoes. Kate's boots were adequate until I was about a block away from Tara's and I was certain that my toes would soon freeze. I ended up hanging out at Tara's for a time, warming up, chatting and seeing the great Christmas decorations Finn had made, and the stuffed rabbit Tara and Becca had made. Tara agreed that rubber boots can be attractive. This made me feel less alone in the world. I headed home and to bed.

Kate's boots are practical, and yet I found my experience of them to be overshadowed by a quality of fun, which seems a bit surprising given the ubiquity of black rubber boots. I felt really happy in them. Interestingly enough, yesterday Kate was telling me that she thinks of those boots as her happy boots, how she puts them on and feels energized, and like she wants to find every puddle. I thought this was pretty neat. Coincidence, perhaps...but lovely all the same. When Kate gave me her bag of shoes I found myself thinking about how many of us have more than one pair of shoes, and how different these pairs of shoes can be. Maybe to really put myself in other people's shoes I need to spend a day in at least 3 pairs of someones shoes to have a sense of the variety of experience that is contained in a life. Kate's slippers looked and felt different than her boots, and her heels looked and felt different than both. It made me think about how a person's choice of what pair of shoes to lend me, and how they come to that choice is really interesting. I also found myself wondering if there is some essential "Kate-ness" in each of her pairs of shoes, and if there is more in some than others. And if so, does that have to do with how often she wears them, or what she thinks about them, or the stories around them, or....? I also found myself thinking about how my experience of Kate is of someone who is generally quite energetic and enthusiastic and fun, and how interesting it was that I found a bit of that in myself when I put myself in her shoes on such a snowy day.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I found these boots in the University Centre on Buy Nothing Day this past Friday. There was a great "stuff swap" that was organized, as well as a bunch of other great things (free coffee! free lunch! music! zines! knitting!). So yes, these boots seemed appealing to me as the snow was beginning to fall.

They are size 9 insulated hiking-type boots that seem hardly worn to me. I have no idea what their story is. I wonder if they were left behind when someone moved, or if someone found something better to keep their toes warm. There is something on the outside side of the left shoe, which looks to me a lot like dried up pancake batter. I don't know that that's what it is, but I find it to be somehow a compelling thought. It's pretty much the only indication that they have ever been worn.

Although the boots are a size and a half larger than what I would normally wear, they feel pretty comfortable on my feet. I was especially happy to be wearing them when I ventured out into the world this morning. It was exceedingly cold. The boots felt like a warm, forgiving layer of protection between me and the ice and cold. I also feel like my step is a little more bouncy in them. Kind of like what has happened with other shoes that are large on my feet, where the bend in the toes kind of makes the shoes move in an interesting way in relation to my walk.

Today I got up relatively early and began school work stuff right away before heading out for an appointment downtown. Along the way I appreciated the river and all the sculptures the snow and ice had made. The shoelace of the right shoe didn't want to stay tied up--it came undone three times during my morning excursion. Only slightly problematic due to my back stuff and the mitten factor. Although the boots didn't look or feel familiar on my feet, and even though they are larger than my own shoes, I didn't feel so strong of that feeling of disconnect. Perhaps they aren't so far away from something I might choose to wear of my own accord.

The way home was less enjoyable--with the sun hiding it was suddenly COLD. I did, however, run into Earl and Wendy, and it was nice to exchange smiles and hellos. I was really tempted to go into the yarn store (so close...I walked right by it on my way home), but I told myself that I could do that after I finish the piles of work I have to do. I am currently still chipping away at those.

So yes, home and more computer work, and more computer woes that I thought weren't so woeful, but actually are. I realized that I haven't taken a nap in about a month, and took one for 10 minutes before heading to the Wednesday art class. This morning I knew how much I had to do, but felt pretty okay with it, and not my usual anxious self. This afternoon was a different story. I think I got very tired, and hungry, which makes me easily confused, overwhelmed and teary. I think the final straw was me realizing that I had forgotten to pack my medication, and thinking about the prospect of a night spent in serious pain. Luckily I'm managing alright so far.

In art class we experimented with colour mixing and talked about snow, and how to make brown, and how kissing on the lips is gross (not a subject of my choosing, though it is interesting to note that the majority of seven year olds seem to be in agreement about this). I left the art studio early to try and catch the computer technician before he headed home, which I managed to do. Currently I am in the computer lab waiting for the last hour or so (of four hours) of audio to bounce to a different (accessible) format, and crossing my fingers that the computer doesn't flake out on me again. Unfortunately, the audio is converted in real time, which means that this may be a late night. I am considering napping on the floor.

It's interesting how light I felt in the boots this morning, and later this afternoon as I walked outside, and how in this moment, my feet feel heavy and sweaty in them, and that they are more cumbersome than protective. I guess that like people, shoes are not one thing all of the time. It all seems to be context dependent. I expect that whenever I journey home, I will be very glad for the warmth that I am now irritated by.

The computer just flaked out. Again. Ugh.

I was just thinking of Brad, a friend of Evan's who like to go barefoot as much of the time as possible. I don't remember what he did about snow and ice. But I do remember that when he was at the University of Waterloo, the cafeteria staff refused to serve him unless he wore shoes. He took a pair of old converse shoes and cut out the soles, and wore these to both appease and spite the cafeteria staff. I thought it was pretty clever. And extreme.

I wonder what it means that Brad doesn't want shoes between his feet and the rest of the world.

I also wonder about what the story of these boots are. Somehow their anonymity makes the wearing of them both less complex, and also more curious. But only when I try to think about it, because I feel like their anonymity makes them easier to ignore. Maybe it has to do with the fact that they seem almost brand new that it is difficult to think of what their story might be (and difficult to remember to think about what their story might be). Their newness may also be part of why it's easy to see them more as physical objects, unattached to any particular person or history. Maybe that's why it doesn't seem gross that my feet are sweating in them right now. And yet I don't feel like they belong to me. How much would I have to sweat in them for that to happen? I'm not sure.
I think I might see about that nap...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


I picked up Tara's shoes from her house on Sunday night. She told me that I could have them on one condition: that if the shoes weren't to small or difficult to put on, that I wear them with the socks that she had in her hand. I said sure, and asked her why. She told me that the socks are soft and warm and that she wants me to be warm and cozy in her shoes. Such a lovely sentiment.

Tara was right about her socks--they are probably the comfiest socks I've ever worn. They are grey, and came folded in a proper sock bundle. The insides are full of little loops of fabric that account for the softness and warmth of the socks. On the instep they say, "wigwam" in red, which I am supposing is the brand name. My toes are very happy in Tara's socks.

This morning, as I was getting ready to leave, I took of Victoria's shoes, and put on Tara's socks and shoes. The shoes were actually very difficult for me to get on. I believe I've mentioned the back injury stuff that's been going on for me...this actually makes reaching my feet a bit of a challenge. So I found that the easiest way for me to wrestle with Tara's boots was to loosen the laces, and then lie down to try to wiggle my feet into them. This worked relatively well. As I tied them up, I could see little motes of dust puffing out from the laces. This made me smile.

Tara's boots are brown leather 8-hole doc martens. They are well worn--they have hardly any treads left, the laces are kind of falling apart, and there's a hole forming along the seam of the right shoe. They are also soft. Tara told me that her boots are 10 yrs old, that she bought them second hand for $12 at the Attic and wore them for several winters as winter boots, that she's never treated them other than with mud and sleet and snow, and that in them she's planted a few hundred trees and dug garden beds and kissed in the bushes. How lovely is that?

Once my feet were successfully in Tara's shoes, the first thing I found myself thinking was how soft it was at the ends of the shoes where my toes touched the leather. It felt somehow a bit like home. But once I was standing I noticed that this at-homeness was threatened by the fact that Tara's shoes are on the verge of being impossibly small for my feet--my toes go right to the end of her boots. I found myself wishing, not for the first time in my life, that my second toe wasn't so long (I have the variety that sticks out past the big toe). Shucks. It also felt a bit like the tongues of the boots were bunched up, or somehow awkward against the tops of my feet. This feeling didn't last long, though.

Outside it was sunny and bright, and there was still snow on the ground. I managed to catch the bus to school, where I did some more audio editing, and once again consulted with Nathan about various computer woes, which turned out to not be so woeful after all. This is a great thing. I brushed my teeth--I couldn't remember whether or not I had already done so today, which was in and of itself concerning.

Walking through campus I found myself feeling quite light hearted and happy for no particular reason that I was aware of. I noticed how interesting it was to feel those qualities at a time when I am also feeling under pressure, and more busy than feels sustainable. I saw a snowman by Mackinnon, and I found myself playing with sliding along Winegard walk and the ramps by the library. When I saw Tara as I left the Waldorf fair on the weekend, she and her kids were sliding outside the school. She told me that if it was icy when I borrowed her shoes, that I had to try sliding in them. It was fun. Sometimes it happened unintentionally, which was startling, but still fun.

I did a short presentation in my sociology class, which somehow went well. My teacher encouraged a bunch of us to publish our work, which is kind of nifty. More computer work between classes, and me noticing that I wasn't experiencing much of that (now familiar) feeling of disconnect when I caught glimpses of the shoes, but more of a fascination. I actually at one point had to remind myself to look up when I was walking because campus was so busy and I seemed at risk of bumping into someone or something. Part of my happiness I think came from my excitement at wearing Tara's shoes. I love the stories they have, and I love Tara.

Today was our first day of final critiques in my studio class. It was great to see what everyone has been working on. Heading into it I felt excited. And then nervous. I got up the nerve towards the end to volunteer myself to go. I found myself with a lot to say, and I don't even know if I said what felt most pertinent to me, or even really did justice to the things I've learned in other people's shoes, but that's okay. I also got to see the video (the higher quality version) projected large on the wall. It was still dizzying, but less so. Urszula was kind enough to take some pictures so that I could post photos of me and the blog and Tara's shoes. There are a bunch of them. I think that I am kind of intrigued by the way I seem to use my hands when I talk / explain things. I wasn't aware that I did that. And perhaps I don't usually. I also guess that I stand pigeon-toed and in awkward positions when I am presenting.

Some thoughts and comments about the project that came out of the crit (that I can remember):
Some students in my class wouldn't feel okay wearing anyone else's footwear. It had to do with a bit of a grossness factor. I hadn't really thought about this before. My teacher talked about how it is really a kind of intimate act, having your feet become warm where another person's feet have become warm...
That shoes demand a lot--what to wear with them where to go / be in them, how to walk...
How the entire day, the entire past 17 or so days, is a performance in a way--art in the studio, art in the kitchen, art waiting for the bus, art doing laundry...I have trouble with the label "art" for my own endeavors. Though I suppose it does seem like wearing other people's shoes has taken up a bunch of my life lately, and yet it is also just there as I do everything else.
Just now it occurred to me that this seems to be to be such a warm exchange--someone being willing to lend their shoes, and another person being willing to wear them.

When class was over it was dark already, and I met Chris at the library briefly before heading home. Outside the wind was gusting so strongly that it was difficult walking in a straight line. I found myself exceedingly grateful to Tara and her socks, as my feet managed to stay toasty as I walked a little way to wait for the bus outside the MacStew. I missed the snowfall--Ben described it as a squall--earlier this afternoon, but had fun trudging through the results of it, and sliding on some of the icy bits.

My back was pretty sore from the sitting I'd done earlier today, and walking from downtown with my bag. At home I asked Ben if he would mind untying my shoes and loosening them so that I could take them off more easily. Thankfully, he complied and told me that he was glad I could ask him for things like that. So was I.

Tara's shoes seem like they've been well worn and loved. I liked how soft they were and how they were almost falling apart at the same time that they were sturdy and useful. And I really enjoyed the story that came with them, as well as Tara's thoughtfulness and generosity in lending me her ever so warm and lovely socks. I found myself today smiling when I glanced at my feet and thought about all the things these boots have been up to; I just found myself delighting in the adventures they had been on, and the person they belong to. It crossed my mind that I wanted to be able to contribute more to their story, something great, but at the same time it felt like enough just to wear them through whatever my day turned out to be. Although my day (unfortunately) didn't include any kissing in the bushes or planting of trees or scientific discoveries or artistic achievements or personal breakthroughs or great acts of daring, generosity, or kindness, it included a lot of just being in the world, just noticing...and just being happy to be in Tara's shoes.