Wednesday, December 19, 2007


I've really been missing wearing other people's shoes.
So I finally asked Ben if he would lend me a pair of his. I live with Ben, so it seems like he would be an obvious person to pester. In November I slowly filled his living room with other people's shoes, and despite the fact that he never once complained about this unsightly inconvenience, I felt shy about asking if he'd like to participate. But when I think about it, I've been hoping he'd offer for a while.

On Tuesday night Ben stood in the doorway of my room holding this pair of boots. He told me that they were from Tony, the contractor he worked for until recently. He explained that Tony had received them from his cousin's husband, who is a mailman. Since they didn't fit Tony, he passed them on to Ben. Apparently they are special postal worker shoes (!). Ben explained that they are incredibly light. Ben told me that he wanted to lend me something that I would be comfortable in trudging through the snow. I asked Ben why he was lending me his boots--wouldn't he need them tomorrow? But I answered my own question--Ben wears steel-toed boots to work.

(The bottom of Ben's shoes came with inexplicable gunk. It wore off during the day.)

So yes, Ben's boots are size 11. They are black and tall and lace up past the ankle. And he is right--they are incredibly light. When I put them on it actually felt like I was wearing slippers, except for the tightness at the top of them, where I had tied them securely to ensure that they stayed on my feet. Ben's boots were laughably large on me...each time I spied my feet it made me smile to see how out of place they seemed in their size.

(Believe it or not, I actually had a lovely smile in this picture. My hands give it away--those are I-am-trying-hard-to-smile-for-the-picture hands.)

In the morning I woke up at 5am. This was not planned occurrence. My sleep has been strange for several nights now. Lately I've laid in bed awake enough that my head is spinning, and asleep enough that I don't always realize that I'm doing it. The spinning isn't all bad--last Friday night's spinning resulted in the bones of a relatively coherent and surprisingly lucid essay. Saturday's spinning was amendments to the essay. Yesterday I spun a bit and had some kind of revelation, which I now forget. This is one of the dangers of generating ideas when half asleep. But at 5am I decided to knit a Christmas tree ornament for Tara's tree, which is fabulous and also in need of more decorations. When I dropped in on Tara on Wednesday she was drilling holes into a modified version of what had been Finn's gallows on wheels for his Hallowe'en costume. In the holes she was placing pine boughs that her kids had scavenged from a Christmas tree sale. I think it's a brilliant idea for a way to have all the benefits of a real tree without cutting one down. And without having an artificial one made of who-knows-what. It is really quite charming. Finn came in when the lights were up and said, "Wow, it's so bootyful! It's not at all normal, which makes it so cool!" It's great to find other people who equate lack of normalcy with coolness. Tara's family is the kind of crowd I fit in with.

(Before felting.)

So yes, I knit this Christmas tree, and slept about 20 minutes more before sewing on the ornaments. I felted it in the afternoon. I feel like it needs some additions before it's finished, but we'll see.

(After felting.)

After breakfast I set off for the morning in Ben's boots. It's kind of interesting that I happened to be borrowing his footwear on a day when I running some errands that he might otherwise be doing. In early December I told Ben that Christina and I were looking for a place together, which is sad news, in a way. "You're the ideal tenant," he told me. It feels like a bit of the end of an era. Anyhow, Ben is super-busy at work right now, and working extra days and long hours. I told him I could put up posters this week, since my time is way more flexible, and also because I'd really like to help him out. He's a nice guy.

So I walked to the Kwik Copy downtown. I marveled at the boots the whole way. They were both light and warm. All week I've been feeling frustrated by the ineffectual plowing of Guelph sidewalks--the plows come by, and the sidewalks look easily navigable, but it is simply not the case. They seem to move some snow off the sidewalk, but there is always a 10 or 15 cm layer of snow that is really hard to walk in--every footstep slides backwards. This might sound like I've just kvetching, which I guess I am, but it just began to occur to me this week to feel frustrated with the preferential treatment that drivers get over pedestrians and cyclists. I have yet to find a productive outlet for my frustration, so for now I am just venting.

But it comes back to the shoes, because I realized on my walk downtown that all the trudging that I associate with winter time walking and snowy weather actually has a lot to do with what I happen to be wearing on my feet. Sure there are the poorly cleared sidewalks, and the sometimes deep snow to contend with, but what about the boots that I usually wear on blustery days that make my feet feel like two chunks of lead? I figure that they account for at least 50 % of the trudging equation. So while the sidewalks weren't exactly convenient, I was totally happy in shoes that felt like warm pockets of cushiony air around my feet. It was great. If I were delivering mail, I think I might be smiling all day.

So I went to the copy shop, and made 20 copies of Ben's poster. It should be noted that Ben is a lovely person to live with, that our house has a new roof and a clean bathtub and a parrot that is a great conversation starter. If you are looking for a place to live, you should come take a look. I wouldn't have stayed here for years if it's wasn't so swell. I was telling Tara about how I was sad about leaving at the same time as being excited about making a new home, and she said something like, "I don't blame you, that Ben's such a pumpkin seed." (Ben, I think this is a really special complement.) But I digress...

(Lambsquaters grow (and die) everywhere, it seems.)

I hung posters up downtown and swung by Christina's place to pick up our application to drop off at the apartment we can imagine ourselves living in. Walking there Ben's shoes were especially good, since all the side streets are more difficult to navigate in all the snow. I noticed that the neighbourhood is filled with big trees and beautiful homes. The mailbox has old letterpress blocks attached to it, and it is across the street from a park where someone has fashioned an outdoor rink! I am already imagining all kinds of fun.

More postering, an appointment, more postering and a quick stop at Out on the Shelf to inquire about space for a Freeschool class and St. Vincent de Paul to look for a cast iron pan. No pan, but instead I got a whole whack of lace and ribbon for a dollar. I don't know what I'll make with it yet, but it will surely be wondrous. I have been looking for cast iron cookware, as I found out that my iron is really low. I've been taking a liquid supplement that has the unfortunate side effect of dying my teeth, which just isn't very nice. At Out on the Shelf, I learned from Lori that everyone with an account name at U of G has access to free web hosting through the website. Also, that "~" is called "tilda." It has a name!

I spied a postal worker, and took a good look at his footwear. I thought to speak with him, and if I were more bold, I would have. Instead I smiled. I was disappointed that his shoes weren't at all like what I was wearing. They looked like hiking boots and he had those things that covering his shins and attached to his boots and probably keep him dry...please help me with the name...
Regardless, it there are no universal mailperson shoes after all. Shucks.

Home and lunch.

(My first Christmas card this year--thanks, Auntie Jo-Jo!)

For Christmas I asked my brother if there was anything in particular that he would like on a t-shirt, since I've begun a tradition of screen printing him something each year. He told me that he wanted a dinosaur saying, "Your entire family is made of meat." So that's what I did. Yesterday I drew and cut out a stencil (waxed paper works very very well), and today I did some printing. I had the New Pornographers "Sing Me Spanish Techno" on repeat, and in between dancing sessions I printed a few t-shirts and some patches. I have found that dancing to certain music in our kitchen is perilous because I have the propensity to somehow fling my hands into the light fixture. This has happened a number of times. Luckily, both of my arms and the light fixture have yet to be seriously harmed. I thought that the prints turned out pretty well, although I don't know if the dinosaur Zach was picturing happened to look like Barney with teeth. But what can one expect from a gal terrified of drawing? I guess there is only so much detail one can achieve with an xacto knife at any rate.

(Please don't ask me the meaning of this t-shirt...I am a bit perplexed myself.)

Other recent crafty goodness:
(Spiral scarf.)
(Make it up as you go scarf.)
All afternoon I felt like I was on the verge of something excellent, something really exciting, and I couldn't for the life of me remember what it was. My excitement so closely resembled anxiety, and it was actually extremely uncomfortable to feel so on edge. I realized eventually that it must have been the chocolate I snacked on. I seem to be embarrassingly sensitive to caffeine. So practically all afternoon I was asking myself, "what is it? what is it? what am I excited about?" and then remembering and telling myself, "oh yeah, it's okay, it's just the chocolate, it's just the chocolate." And then I would forget again. It was so strange. And I don't think that all that dancing helped ease my nervous energy.

I went to the Wednesday art class. It was our last one! A great thing about working around this time of year is that some people like to bring in treats. One mom brought in the loveliest and most beautiful assortment of homemade cookies. I feel like "cookie" doesn't do service to the baked goods she made. They were just so impressive. We finished our oil paintings, and finished up other odds and ends, and also experimented with making gold leaf miniature paintings. This was an exercise in patience, which this group was really good at. I was impressed. Someone noticed how big Ben's boots were on my feet. I tried to explain to them why I was wearing other people's shoes, but I didn't do a very good job, and the conversation was sidetracked quickly. Later on I noticed that one of the students had oil paint on her face, and tried to help her clean it off before she went home. We have some brush cleaner that doubles as soap, and is really the only useful thing for getting oil paint off of skin. She was tentatively dabbing her soapy face with her finger, and I wanted to suggest she cup her hands to catch the water and bring it up to her face. In beginning to attempt to communicate this to her, I asked her if she ever washed her face, and she replied, "no, I don't have time for that. I have way to many things to do. My mornings are so busy..." and she proceeded to tell me about how she needs to catch the bus, and do a bunch of things before that, and how she has a buddy on the bus, and they have to be there for each other, and so on. I ended up wetting a towel and wiping the soap and paint off of her face for her. It made me smile.

After art class I was in a hurry to get the the CSA drop off. I was thinking about how interesting it was that in a day I can become accustomed to the strangest of feelings on my feet--like where Ben's shoes bend by my toes, and how light and warm they are, and the way I feel the laces above my ankle.

I will restrain myself from extolling the virtues of CSAs once again, but it was exciting as ever: celeriac (!) (which is sooooo good roasted), parsnips (!), pie pumpkin(!), delicata squash (!!). I also picked up some eggs to bring to my parents so they can see how beautiful eggs can really be. And some summer sausage for my dad and brother.

I was beginning to become concerned because Ben hadn't been by yet to collect his veggies, and there were only 5 minutes left. There was no telephone to try calling him with, so instead I began to collect his share for him, wondering how the heck I was going to manage to carry what was easily 40 lbs of vegetables home. With about 3 minutes to spare, Ben walked in the door. Yay! He had apparently almost forgotten. We stayed and helped Ali pack up, and I had the honour and privilege of driving Snoopy (the green mini bus Wholecircle uses to bring veggies to drop offs and market). It absolutely made my day. I was smiling so hard that it hurt and I found myself thinking that I am awfully easy to please. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of this momentous occasion, but it was fun.

(Celeriac / celery root. Try it, my friend. You will not be disappointed.)

Ben had brought his car, and he kindly offered to drive me by someone's house. I had posted on Freecycle that I was looking for a cast iron pan, and someone replied that they had one I was welcome to. It just happened to be a bit far away. We found it, and as the woman handed it to me she suggested I use it as a husband beater. It is certainly heavy enough to be dangerous. Back in the car Ben told me that all intentions of marriage were now completely out the window. (There, of course, never were any.) Ben likes to joke about things. The rest of the way I think I was trying to hard to be funny. I don't think that I'm good at being funny. When it happens, it's usually unintentional. Last night Ben and Rob and I were talking about bullying, which lead to a conversation about teasing. Ben was saying how he likes to tease and be teased by people tease as a way to be closer to each other. I thought this was really interesting. Teasing doesn't often come naturally to me, and I think that I try to tease Ben because I can see that it's a part of how he interacts with people. The problem is that I often feel like I'm failing miserably at this way of communicating. I guess I keep trying, like Ben said, to be closer to people, or to search for that comfortable way of interacting that I see in him.

We had one more stop before home--Cori and Danielle's. But on the way I spied this lovely snowman, and we took a detour. I asked Ben if he'd like a picture with it, and to my surprise and excitement we stopped and got out and made friends with this large and friendly snowperson. Ben put a chestnut button back in place, and noticed how its hat (which was a piece of ice) was rather like my own. It was really nice to stop and appreciate all the work that someone put into making it. It was delightful. I think that, like driving Snoopy and stopping for snowmen, doing small spontaneous things can feel really energizing to me.

(Even snowmen need love.)

At Cori's we were lovingly attacked by his two dogs. I can't tell you what kind they were, but they were big and black and liked jumping on me.

At home we had dinner and sorted out our veggies. The three of us--Ben, Rob and myself--on the kitchen floor reminded me of Hallowe'en except we had vegetables around us instead of candy. We were just as excited, though. And it felt nice to spend that time together.

Ben's shoes were comfortable on my feet, in all the awkwardness I have come to associate with too-big footwear. They were protective on such a snowy sidewalk day, but in a way that was very quiet and gentle. I got to wear them on a day where I happened to be doing a few things for Ben, and even spending a bit of time with Ben. As ever, I really appreciated his kindness and his friendship...and even his teasing. I hope he can see that my teasing, though awkward and not always successful, is really just me trying to fit in, and to communicate my appreciation, as he does his.