Wednesday, November 14, 2007


November 10, 2007
Sharleen left me her shoes in a clear green plastic bag under the lean-to at the bottom of her driveway. They are an old, scuffed up pair of Nike tennis shoes, about size 8 or so. The inner heel of the left shoe is worn away where I imagine her feet have brushed past each other.
As I carried them home, a man drinking beer on the bridge asked me why I was carrying a pair of shoes in a bag. I told him I was borrowing them. He told me that he is just a curious guy. I wished I had the nerve to ask him if I could borrow his shoes too.
Putting on the shoes felt strange. It seemed like they almost fit well--just a little bit too big--and yet they seemed so foreign. It surprised me that perfectly good shoes that fit well enough would still feel so strange. Every time I looked down at my feet (which was often at first), I experienced a total disconnect. They just didn't seem to
belong. I also noticed how I felt like they altered the way that I walked. I felt like my usual gait didn't fit the structure of the shoes. As I wore them for longer, they felt less and less strange. Although I felt like I wanted to tell everyone that they weren't mine, just because they felt so strangely out of place. As I left my friend Tara's house, I mentioned that I was wearing someone else's shoes. Tara told me that when she saw me come in she wondered what was with my shoes because they just didn't fit with what she knows of me. I found this interesting.
Sharleen's shoes came with me on a walk through the arboretum with Yehuda, a visit with Tara, to the Saturday morning art class that I teach, the farmer's market, where I met my dad, and Elora, where we walked around. A woman told me that she liked my outfit.
I don't know how much of it had to do with the shoes. My dad talked about fluvial processes, and all the reasons he worries about me, and it was actually a bit of a tough afternoon.
I was thinking about how approaching this project, I assumed that I would fail at really learning about a person through the single act of wearing their shoes for a day, and it is true that I can only gather so much information this way. But I am wondering if there is perhaps something more to the sayings that direct us to put ourselves in other peoples shoes.
Also, I was thinking about how really me wearing other people's shoes is a bit of a compromise. Because I'm still going about my day as I normally would, not really altering any of the things that I do. Just wearing someone else's footwear. In their shoes in my life.
And yet, I didn't feel quite myself. I felt like myself stifled or something. I seem so obviously not me when I'm wearing someone else's things. I didn't realize how attached I am to my shoes and clothing. This brings to mind my conversation with Yehuda about his parents living on a kibbutz where they had communal clothing--each week all the clothing would come together to be laundered, and then each community member would come and choose clothing for the week. I wonder how that would feel.
Sharleen's shoes are practical and comfortable. I meant to mention that they came with bits of dried grass and such. I think she uses them in her garden (she has a large and beautiful one).
I decided to keep a journal to record my shoe-related observations during the day.

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