Monday, January 28, 2008
Steve's shoes arrived on my doorstep last week.
I received an email from him about a month ago. He told me that he had stumbled across the blog and was wondering if I would wear a pair his sneakers. Of course I was more than happy to.
Steve and I have never met; he lives in Pennsylvania (although his shoes have been many places), and he was kind enough to post me his sneakers. I was touched that he was willing to do so.
Steve's shoes are blue, white and grey size 11 men's New Balance sneakers. They arrived in a cardboard box with a plastic air cushion packing material, and came with what may be a few stray dog hairs on the inside of each shoe.
When I put them on, I laughed. They seemed comically large on my feet. They also felt large--my feet moved around in them as I walked, trying to negotiate the arch made for feet much larger than my own. Where they wanted to bend was actually before my toes started, so it was pretty interesting.
This morning I felt a quite tired and a little dizzy, but decided to try to take my bike to school as it promised to be a fairly mild day. As I had hoped, riding woke me up, and I didn't end up having to walk my bike as I thought I might. (Except for on the bridge, where I am still wary of repeating my previous spill). The roads were dry and it was beautiful outside. Oh, and my brakes are working.
In class today we had our first critique this term. It was a bit of a mad rush in the studio beforehand making sure that files transfered over properly, things were hung on the wall, and stomachs full of butterflies were allowed to do their thing. But it was fine...great, even, to see everyone's work, and to hear feedback. We had a guest who is in curatorial studies, and offered lots of engaging thoughts and made some interesting connections (he also kindly shared some of his corn muffin).
(The shoes of fellow classmates. One student's work was installed in the library, which is where we are standing, discussing the value of contradictions, and issues posed by public space.)
During a break I chatted with a classmate. I told her how I was surprised how big Steve's shoes seemed on my feet, and she told me that this particular brand of shoe is known for being wide, which was interesting. She also told me about how when she thinks of shoes, she thinks of stories of people who have survived especially trying times. She described how shoes often play a big role in those stories, perhaps because we are so vulnerable without shoes (especially in climates and geography like our own). This led me to consider a number of things, which I have thought about before, and continually return to: how shoes negotiate the intersection of survival and self expression; the degree to which self expression may or may not be necessary; what it means to be able to choose the shoes that one wears; and shoes as economic objects.
On my bike ride home I thought about what it means to put oneself in the shoes of a stranger, and how peculiar the word "stranger" is. I wonder if it's possible that I might be able to understand the world from the perspective of someone that I know very little about by wearing their shoes, or if it's an utterly empty gesture. I don't know the answer, if there is one.
But I did completely enjoy biking down the hill on such a sunny, mild day. I was so excited that I sung especially loud as I sped along. I made a brief stop downtown, and headed home. A train went across the level crossing near my house, and I waited some time for it to pass. I thought about something Christina said the other day, which was that we don't wait much anymore. I have been noticing that I am not well practiced at waiting for certain things (like the city bus), but don't mind others (the train, mail, seasons). People darted across the tracks after the signal went to avoid watching boxcar after boxcar inch past. Not being in a rush, I was able to enjoy noticing what what written on each car, the way that shadows played across the surface, and the sounds that came out as it clunked along.
At home snow was melting and icicles dripping, which was its own lovely music. I didn't want to go inside, it was so delightful out, and I felt excited for such friendly weather. Standing at the kitchen sink I laughed out loud (and screamed a little) when I noticed it was approaching 5:30pm, and it was bright outside.
(How is it that in the middle of winter, I forget the fact of spring?)
I thought about how I have no idea what the weather is like in Pennsylvania at the moment, or what Steve's shoes are used to this time of year. I also thought about all the places they've traveled: Mexico, Italy, France, Spain, the caves of West Virginia, the beaches of Hawaii...and now Guelph, Ontario, Canada, where they spent a pretty average day on the feet of someone they didn't know. I started to feel the kind of guilt that residents of southern Ontario have when they don't take their out of town guests to Niagara Falls or the CN Tower. Those were never my favourite places, though. Maybe a ride down the Gordon Street hill on a sunny day is enough.
In the evening I packed--I'm moving at the end of the week. Today it was surprisingly not such an overwhelming experience, perhaps because I am tackling it in stages. I have never before realized how good I am at making a place a home. Taking it all apart, I can see how anonymous and empty it feels with out the familiarity of objects. I wonder how it will be to begin the process of inhabiting a space all over again.
Steve's shoes traveled quite a distance for me to be able to put them on my feet. I was delighted that someone I don't know was willing to offer me a pair of shoes, and moreover, to go to the trouble of mailing them to me. Steve's shoes are big on my feet, but while they don't fit me properly, they certainly treated me well. They stayed on my feet through a beautiful, sunny, spring-like day; a glimmer of warmth sandwiched between winter, and more winter still.