Saturday, December 8, 2007


Saturday December 8, 2007.

Karma Lee's shoes are a pair of mustard yellow or gold sneakers. They have round white laces, and little holes by the balls of my feet where the upper attaches to the sole of each shoe. Karma informed me that these holes weren't always there (I thought they may be part of the design of the shoes).

Karma brought the shoes to me last Saturday. She came by when I was painting faces at the Eco Market, and I drew a spiral sunflower type design on her hand. She told me that a friend had sent her a link to this blog, and she liked it so much she wanted to lend me a pair of her own shoes. She came by later on in the day with these sneakers in a black cloth bag. She said that I should keep the bag--that she has many of them, and it's a gift. She also told me that these are her favourite sneakers. She pointed out the bottom of the left shoe where some of the price sticker was still attached. Karma told me that she actually priced these shoes herself--she works at Value Village, where she prices shoes. And perhaps because of this, Karma has lots of shoes.

I wore Karma's shoes a week after she gave them to me. This mostly because I didn't want to bring them with me to Toronto, knowing I'd likely have to cart my stuff around for a morning. So I waited until I was back in Guelph.

On Saturday I put on Karma's shoes and headed to the market early before art class. I chatted briefly with a potter and a woman from whom I bought an osage orange (with which I intend to make a pomander). I picked up the bread that disappears so fast, and skedaddled off to art class.

Wearing Karma's shoes, I was aware of how big they were on my feet. Karma warned me that would likely be the case. She said that growing up her parents used to call her "Karma Leeta with the big fefeeta," because she was always growing out of her shoes so quickly. Karma wears size 9 1/2 or 10 shoes.

I tied the laces very tightly, but that didn't stop my feet from slowly migrating to the front of her shoes as I walked. Perhaps as a result of this, I experienced a strange sensation as the little m-shaped part at the back of her sneakers traced along where my achilles tendon is with each step. As with most shoes, after a bit of time, I became less and less aware of the particular sensation of wearing them as all those details faded into the background of my day. Also, I'm thinking that wearing so many different shoes that aren't my own and don't necessarily suit me has normalized the whole experience to a certain extent. While it felt strange seeing Karma's sneakers on my feet, and I know that her shoes are unlike any that I might own myself, I was less self-conscious about what other people might think or see. I wasn't self-conscious at all, really, which was interesting.

The art class was a bit of a messy one. Using plaster gauze, we covered our sculptures (two cats, a princess, a horse, a dolphin and a camel). I unfortunately got a couple of drips of plaster on Karma's shoes. I actually didn't notice until hours later. I realized how commonplace it is for me to get plaster or paint or glue on my shoes and clothing, and it doesn't usually concern me too much. But I felt pretty badly about getting something on someone else's shoes.

During art class, in an attempt to reign in the goofiness, I began a conversation about Christmas time. All the students in the class celebrate Christmas, and were eager to talk about what they were going to ask Santa for. Such things included a knitting kit, a diary, and every single toy in the whole wide world. My favourite, though, came from the youngest in the class--a little four year old girl. She whispered to me, "aislinn, I want a whoopee cushion." I don't know if I even knew what a whoopee cushion was when I was four. I smiled.

A little later on, the same girl out of nowhere said, "'re for eating!" I wasn't entirely sure what she meant by this, and said something like, "Hmm, really? I'm not sure if that's what I'm for." A six-year-old responded, "no, that's not what you're for--you're for MAKING BABIES!" This was somehow more alarming than the first declaration. Would you rather be eaten, or be a baby-making machine? I don't know. Kids can be pretty interesting.
As she was leaving the class, the little one said to me, "We're going to the market now--maybe you can go, too." I sometimes run into her and her sister enjoying dumplings there after class. I did go back to the market, but not right away.

After art class, Christina kindly took a picture of me in Karma's shoes before we went to look at an apartment nearby. Christina's landlords sold their home, and she needs to find a new place to live. She asked me if I would like to live with her, and I would, so we're looking for a place. (Christina told me about a dream she had where we were drinking tea together, and she asked me if I'd like to look for a place with her, and I said, "YES!" and she was so very, very excited. I asked her what mugs we were drinking out of in her dream, which she didn't remember, but is important for a reason that I might write about later.) So we looked at a place close to Exhibition park, that was quite nice. Unfortunately, Christina and I are picky. Fortunately, we are picky in the same ways. So I think we're going to see if we can look at a bunch more places over the next few days.

We went to the market together, where I got a couple more things, and ran into some more people. I hung out a bunch with Becca and Maddie and Finn, and took a picture of our feet in conversation. I asked them if they recognized the shoes I was wearing, and Maddie knew right away that they were Karma's.

(Finn, Becca, Maddie and me at the market.)

From market I walked a bit with Ali and Kimm and Magda, and headed with Ali to the Kyoto Now rally at St George's square, by way of the coffee shop, where we saw more friendly and familiar folks. Ali mentioned that she thought that the shoes I was wearing likely weren't my own. I didn't ask her how she could tell (I often wonder about that), but of course she was right.

(Shoes in conversation: Ali, and me in Karma's shoes)

The rally wasn't so large as I had hoped. I was wondering what rallies in bigger places were like--I know there was one at Younge and Dundas in Toronto. While it was nice to see so many familiar faces, I was hoping that there would be a mass of folks. Those kinds of things sometimes leave me feeling empty. This time, though, although there was some of that, I have to admit that I was distracted by all the people I knew, and thinking less about the issues at hand. I saw Tara and Natalie, and Karma (who told me not to worry about the plaster). I also chatted a bit with James, and with Adam, who wants me to wear a pair of his hiking boots.

(Friendly shoes: Natalie, Tara (do you recognize those boots?), Karma Lee, Christina, and me in Karma's sneakers)

Home, a quick quick nap, and out again to see another apartment, which was again, not exactly what we wanted. I thought about what ideal apartment-viewing shoes would be: something that didn't have to be tied up, preferably some backless shoes that could be slipped on and off, but also somehow were decent in the snow. I felt a bit awkward taking my time lacing and unlacing Karma's shoes over and over.

Christina and I talked about life and walked downtown. We decided to go to a used clothing store that just opened, and on the way went into a few other places. I wore Karma's shoes as I balked at the price of a dress that I really liked and felt like dancing in, as I hummed and hawed over a really neat turquoise jacket that may or may not be too small, and tried on a 1950s dress that didn't go so well with Karma's sneakers and my jeans (but I couldn't be bothered to take off jeans, long johns and shoes). I think I may go back and get the jacket. I'm not sure.

Christina and I walked along the river--she to her sister's place, and I, home. I thought that I might go out dancing in Karma's shoes (I feel like I really need to dance bunches sometime soon), and I actually thought that I would do it, but by the time 10pm came, bed was more enticing than any dance floor. Instead I danced a bunch in the kitchen, which felt like more fun than usual, and I did a bit of work and some reading and writing, and promised myself that I would make banana pancakes in the morning, which I did. Yum.

While Karma's shoes don't necessarily suit me, and don't look like they belong on my feet, they took me all over town, and through a number of interesting conversations, through snow, and along rivers as I explored possible possibilities with Christina. Karma's well-loved sneakers took me some of my favourite places, which I imagine may be some of Karma's favourite places, too (the market where I often see her, the river...). I was thinking about how especially in this weather, shoes are so necessary. And yet, we find ways to make shoes individual, beautiful and expressive, and we become attached to shoes that we are most drawn to or see ourselves reflected in. Maybe it is exactly because they are necessary that we do this. I don't know. But regardless, I keep feeling like every pair of shoes is generous in it's own way, if only for being there. That seems like more than enough. Or maybe just enough. And I feel like there is a valuable learning in this.

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