Monday, December 24, 2007


I visited with Mari yesterday. When I got there, we each liked what the other was wearing so much that we traded dresses for the afternoon. We walked around Kensington market, became overwhelmed by people and wool and shared a muffin, tea and a long chat. At the end of our visit, Mari told me that she was going to have to give me her favorite pair of shoes.

They are a pair of boots that are from Brazil, and made of reused canvas tarp that used to cover a truck. The wedge-heeled soles are made of recycled tires. Mari's shoes are definitely well used and well loved. Each shoe has a little hole forming above the big toe. One zipper no longer works, and she stitched it closed ("I don't know how to fix things"). The same shoe has a broken shoe lace, and Mari's solution reminds me a lot of Cecilia's answer to the same problem.

(It's hard to get both my head and my feet in the same picture, it seems...)

I actually remember these shoes well. I think that Mari was wearing them when we first met after she came back to Canada from Brazil after a long process of immigration-related rigmarole. I am certain she was wearing them some weeks later when she came to my parent's house for a special party that I was having. The way she tells the story, that party was the reason she moved back to Canada. It's a bit of a magical tale.

Mari told me that this pair of shoes is very much a part of her. She explained that if people don't like her, it often is expressed indirectly as a comment about her shoes. She told me how when she quit her last job, a woman she worked with looked at her feet and told Mari that she hated her shoes. Mari joked about how a lot of time could be saved in navigating the world of human interaction by asking people what they thought about her shoes: "if you don't like my shoes, there's no way you're going to like me, because these shoes basically are me." She said it with conviction.

I found this really interesting, and I also felt a bit of pressure. I was worried that if I didn't feel entirely at home in Mari's shoes that it would mean something about our friendship. I felt for the first time that there was something really tangible at stake in wearing someone else's shoes, and so the usually curiosity that I approach the task with was coupled with a bit of anxiety. It was interesting.

I put Mari's shoes on in the morning to catch the 9am train to Toronto. At the moment, I'm staying at my parent's place in Oakville for a few days over the holidays. I was lucky enough to get an appointment with a Structural Integration practitioner. I rode to Union station, went to the bank and walked around a bit, before taking the subway.

Mari's shoes looked small to me, even though we wear the same shoe size. When I put them on, I was surprised to find that they were quite roomy, especially around my toes. I found myself thinking as the wind blew through the canvas that I could have easily worn a pair of wool socks over my cotton ones.

I also found, as with other heeled shoes, that it feels really unusual for me to take a step without flexing my heel more. It seemed to me that wearing Mari's boots changed my gait a bit--my hips swinging more, and my feet extending in a different way. It seemed also like there was automatically more spunk in each step.

It's funny, I wore this turquoise coat and orange hat when I came to my parents' place on Saturday, and it felt really good to be "a symphony of colour," as one person put it. But today, I found myself almost dreading wearing them because I just didn't feel like I had the energy to keep it up--to be so colourful, to be alive in that way. While my coat and hat didn't feel like an accurate reflection of me today, I didn't have any other options for keeping warm. So I wore them. The whole thing felt even more complicated wearing a pair of shoes that felt like they didn't really go with the clothing that I didn't really want to wear. It's interesting to me how conscious I am about this sort of thing, and how wearing other people's shoes brings up my own ambivalence around clothing and appearance.

At the appointment, the practitioner did a lot of work on my legs (and also hips and neck). After watching me walk he said that I seemed really uncertain in my legs. Also, in relation to talking about how the body can store emotions, he told me that he sensed I had a lot of anxiety. I found this interesting. I suppose I do have my fair share of anxiety, and certainly have had heaps of anxiety in the past. I don't know if I would describe myself as an anxious person, and in fact, some friends have told me that they think of me as a calming presence. But I think it is definitely possible that my body's holding onto all sorts of old stuff. It was interesting that as he told me this, I felt disappointed in myself, like I had somehow failed the adequate person test because I have anxiety stored up in all sorts of places, and a body that doesn't want to cooperate with me. I, like many, am good at being hard on myself.

Anyhow, afterwards I felt like my body was 40 times heavier than before. I felt like I was a part of the ground and my arms swung loosely from my torso. It made me teary to feel so different, to feel so much in the world. When I put Mari's shoes on, I felt like I wanted to badly for my heels to be closer to the ground. I didn't want to let go of that sinking feeling. As I walked to the subway I tried to stay loose and heavy, which somehow also translated into being slow. I don't know how to be loose and heavy and rushing for the subway (or anything) all at once. Usually I think I walk as if I'm about to jump out of my body. Especially if I happen to be going quickly.

I ended up with time before the train back, so meandered a bit. Back in Oakville I made some tea and got some gifts ready. I had a much needed nap. I was beginning to feel like I needed to escape and skip out on the rest of Christmas before it had even begun, but sleeping a bit made everything seem less desperate. My sister came in and spooned me as I was contemplating getting up and wondering why it is that I often drool when napping, but never when sleeping at night. I got up and my brother and sister and I decorated our neighbor's front porch and tree, something we've been doing for some years now. I cut up some celeriac and beets and roasted them as part of our dinner.

As an amusing aside, Zachary announced at the dinner table that he would from now on refer to his soy egg nog as "snog." A few months ago Zach began having horrible reactions to milk, and last night really wanted some egg nog. We went across the way to Whole Foods to satisfy his craving, and for me to find an iron supplement that doesn't make my teeth grey. I laughed most of the way over--Zach's favourite way to get to the plaza is to scale the berm that separates my parent's street from the main thoroughfare beyond it. He does by taking comical leaps on the way up, and a funny run on the way down. I followed behind him laughing, and moving more cautiously. All sorts of spiky things attached themselves to my stockings. Inside I was pushing a cart and examining the overwhelming variety contained in that store while Zach went up ahead and played with a 'Buddha Board' water painting thingo that was on display. I walked by to check out his creation. He had scrawled, "Hey Aislinn, watch out!" and as I read it, he tripped me from behind. His timing was impeccable, and we both laughed a ton.

(Zach kindly helped me take off Mari's boots after our decorating. When I pulled out the camera, he started making this face.)

So tonight my mom proposed a toast, and we clinked our snog or water-filled glasses. After dinner my dad read a few Christmas stories, which Katie and Zach feel too old for, but I don't mind listening to (especially since I can see how much he enjoys it). My dad is currently baking yet another batch of mince tarts. My mom and sister are watching Christmas movies on TV. Zach is in bed. I hope to be sleeping very soon, myself.

Mari's shoes are well loved and well worn. I really enjoy shoes like this that hold lots of stories about a person, and in this case, evoke my own memories of a person. Mari's right--these shoes do seem to be so much a part of her. Today I wore them a bunch of places...on trains that are familiar from what seems like a distant part of my life; on grey city streets; in train and subway stations absolutely filled with people and noise and parcels; and on a sneaky tree-decorating mission. For the first time, I think, the unfamiliarity of someone else's shoes was paired with the kind of unfamiliarity of a day that didn't have the usual structure or common ground that most of my days have. I haven't slept at my parent's house since this time last year, I haven't taken the GO train in ages. Maybe that's part of the reason that I found myself partway through the day craving some kind of anchor, longing for that heaviness, wanting to feel my feet more close to the ground, and missing the comfort and familiarity if my own shoes. Or maybe it's the season, which I usually find to be very strained and difficult to enjoy. Maybe it's sometimes hard enough being present in my own skin, without adding in the complicating factor of something new between me and the ground; something that I want to be attentive to, that is so much a part of another person who is important to me, another person who I want to be close to. But I'm not Mari, and maybe it's okay that there were moments when my feet didn't want to be in her shoes, didn't feel like it was where they belonged or what they needed. And maybe that doesn't have to mean that our friendship is ill-fated.
I really, truly, definitely, certainly hope so.

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