Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I visited Janet and her two-year old son Caleb last Wednesday. I rang the doorbell, and the door opened quite suddenly--I didn't see or hear anyone coming. It turns out that Caleb is really excellent at opening doors, and short enough that he can do so very stealthily. We had a nice visit--Janet and I chatted a bit, she showed me her latest project, Caleb and I read a couple of books, we danced and played. When it was time for me to go, Janet pulled out a pair of shoes--black Fluevogs with red flames licking the bottom of them. But Caleb wouldn't have any of it, "Mommy's shoes!" he said, and didn't want me to have them. Janet then pulled out these boots. Caleb didn't want them to go, either, but was less insistent. So I took the boots.

Janet's boots are red leather ones that go up to about mid-calf, and zip up on the inside of each leg. The insides are a beautiful saffron colour that doesn't seem to photograph well. They have a chunky sole, with a bit of a wedge heel. They seem like they've been enjoyed a lot--Janet told me that they are her favourite boots, but that she hasn't worn them since Caleb was born. They were a bit dusty on the top of them, and I didn't want to wipe the dust off.

When I went to get dressed this morning I noticed that without being overly aware of it, I had already decided exactly what I wanted to wear with Janet's boots. The main reason I realized this was because my orange tights that were intrinsic to my already formed decision of what I was going to wear today were still outside on the clothesline, and decidedly soggy. This was interesting, just noticing a moment of genuine disappointment over such a thing as tights. I chose different ones.

Today I did my usual morning stuff before heading off to school. It was beautiful outside today--pretty mild, and a bit of sunshine. I waited at the bus stop and thought about the feeling of wearing Janet's boots. They supported my feet differently than any of the other shoes I've worn so far have--something about the arch, I think. It tended to make me feel taller, and more like I was growing up from the ground.

I also really like the colour of them. And they fit me pretty well. And yet through much of the day there was still that feeling of disconnect when I looked down at my feet...this really strong sense that they weren't quite my own.

I took the bus up to campus. Ken and I chatted during the ride...mostly about Buddhist meditation and approaches to pain and illness. We talked about the quandary of equanimity with pain while working to escape it. It was neat to be able to have a conversation like this during a short ride on a full bus. I also ran into a prof of mine. She gave me a puzzled look, and asked me what I was carrying. Funnily enough, a few people have given me similar looks after glancing down in my direction, and I had somehow assumed that they were looking at my feet and could tell there was something strange going on. But Susan made me realize that it was more likely the camera stabilizer, which looks like a big steering wheel, that people have been reacting to. Here's a picture of it.

I returned equipment and went to class, where I was thinking about how unfortunate it is that school often seems to end up being about getting things done in order to get them done instead of really feeling immersed in and excited by ideas. The prof I have for this sociology course is really engaging and brilliant and inspiring, but somehow it all just feels like a scramble right now. I visited a prof, ran into a few friends, had a chat with Natalie, and went to my studio class. We watched two videos from the PBS "Art: 21" series--one on Andrea Zittel and another on Pepon Osorio who are both really intriguing. Andrea Zittel's bathroom has cabinets labeled "Tools and Implements," "Subtraction," and "Addition." I don't know why I am writing about this, except that her categorization of things was interesting to me, as well as her Seasonal Uniforms, where she wears one article of clothing for four months. Just in the context of thinking about how set I can become on what would feel just right to wear, and how because I'm taking pictures of my feet and myself so frequently now, I feel like there's some rule that I can't wear the same thing two days in a row...which, admittedly, I normally do when feel like it.

A girl in my class who helped take pictures of me in Cecilia's shoes was surprised that the boots I was wearing today weren't my own. This just made me think more about how some of the shoes I've worn seem so obviously not "aislinn shoes" to others, whereas other shoes can more easily pass as my own. I don't know what it is about Janet's boots that are more me than other things...the colour? the size? The strange thing is that I still get that not-quite-me feeling when I see them as I walk.

I decided to walk home, but first went to fill my water bottle and have a snack. As I was walking, swinging my waterbottle, eating my apple, I felt kind of confident in Janet's boots. They were holding me up well, I felt almost taller, and also something else...determined? excited? bold? I wasn't sure at the time, and I'm not sure now, but I felt somehow more knowing and purposeful. Strange, I guess. Maybe it had something to do with the way that hips swing when taking big steps in heeled boots. I don't know.

The walk home was beautiful with the sun setting--an interesting combination of mixed industrial and residential landscape and the pastels of the sky. I didn't enjoy it entirely-- I actually was really quite sore by the time I got home. Likely a function of carrying my bag all that way. Wearing Janet's boots was a lot like wearing Christina's shoes in noticing the fluctuations between confidence, excitement, tiredness and pain.
The laundry was mostly dry. I made dinner and such.

Janet's shoes are bold and fun, comfortable and well enjoyed. Caleb's reluctance to let me borrow them made me wonder if this was due to the sometimes defiant tendencies of kids his age, or if it was more of a these-are-really-a-part-of-my-mom-and-therefore-
no-one-else-should-use-them thing. I still have no answer myself about how much of a person is in their shoes, or how much a pair of shoes is a part of a person. I don't think I ever will. But Caleb's strong reaction was really interesting to me, and made me wonder how much Janet's shoes are a part of his experience of her, and what it means to him that she let me wear them.


Natalie said...

Could it be that being so much closer to the floor Caleb was more attached to a pair of his mom's shoes than say, a shirt or pair of gloves?

Tara said...

i got a sense of what this is like for you on tuesday! i wore new-to-me footwear (that i'd scored for $3 at the VV 1/2price day) and everytime i looked down i didn't know whose feet were attached to my legs ... i'm sure it didn't help that the floor beneath said feet was the tiled walkway of the stone road mall (a place my feet have not been in for a long time ... where's zellers?) i was there handing out GIG kits and felt like a bit of a fraud ... hmmm. not sure if it was the boots or the kits.

aislinn thomas said...

Natalie, that's an interesting thought...it makes sense.
And Tara, what are GIG kits? It's a funny feeling not recognizing ones own feet, huh?