Friday, May 9, 2008


The story of Jenn's shoes is an interesting one, and so is the story of the story of Jenn's shoes. Bear with me and you'll see what I mean.
Jenn and Jimmie were kind enough to offer me a place to stay in Halifax. It was lovely and included sharing yummy meals, good company, tours of the city, interesting excursions...and shoes! I also got to sleep with a giant stuffed tuna named Tuna (at least I think that was it's name). We got along really well.

So yes, Jenn lent me her shoes.
She generally goes for a run most mornings--I remember how we used to pass each other in Guelph by the covered bridge or along the river. Jenn told me about all the things her running shoes had been through: they've part of a triathlon and a duathlon, on a car trip through Nova Scotia, on various cycling trips (Newfoundland and throughout the maritimes to Ontario, Ontario to Michigan and back). These shoes have a lot of history. And they are also very much a part of her everyday. So Jenn decided that they'd be the best shoes to lend to me.

So after her run in the morning, I put them on. I hauled a laundry basket to the laundromat just down the street (I was very proud of myself for traveling super light, but soon tired of hand-washing things constantly. It was a treat to make a load of all our clothes and use a washing machine).

Jenn's shoes were big on my feet. For that reason, I tied double knots. And I didn't feel as silly about it as I sometimes do, because that I noticed that Jenn does the same (albeit for different reasons). They were a bit big, but they were also squishy and comfortable like I imagine sneakers should be. I soon felt quite at home in them.

Another thing that struck me about Jenn's sneakers, was how incredibly light they were. And even more remarkable was the fact that I could feel the wind blow through them! I'm not a runner, but I imagine these are important features for shoes that a person is trying to be fast in for long enough that their feet could get really sweaty. They seem like pretty smart things to be wearing while jogging.

Which made me think that I should jog. But I didn't.
Instead I rolled down the Halifax citadel.

The citadel is a big star-shaped fort that overlooks downtown Halifax. People do strange things on it all the time. In my few days in Hali I saw a couple of yoga classes taking place at the base of the hill, lots of joggers running up and down the stairs, and even a woman who seemed to be doing some kind of modified push up all the the way up the hill. All this in weather that was far from summer-like. So I didn't feel too strange rolling down the hill. Only a little.

I'm realizing now that things in the above list of strange stuff people do on the citadel seems to be motivated by fitness, whereas I was just interested in fun. So maybe that's why I felt a tad self-conscious. My love for rolling down hills prevailed in the end, however, and I sought out the steepest part of the hill that didn't lead directly to a road.
And I rolled.

I did this between changing loads at the laundromat. I was late and actually ended up jogging a bit on my way back to the laundromat.
There was an older woman there speaking with the owner. When I went up to the counter she took a look at me and said, "My, you must have had a good time!" I was a bit confused until I realized from her gesture that I had bits of dried grass and leaves all over me. "I just rolled down the citadel," I explained. The owner said to the woman, "See, you were right!" And she was. Except it turns out she was thinking of a different kind of good time: "I thought you'd had a good romp in a haystack."

People here are friendly. There isn't too much that they are afraid to say. Even if you don't know them. It's interesting.

Back at Jenn's house we had some food and then went on a mini road trip to the valley. I don't know if there is more than one valley in Nova Scotia, but there is probably only one really big one because everyone says "the valley" and expects you to know what they mean. The Annapolis Valley is on the West side of the province along the Bay of Fundy. We drove to Wolfville and had a good long walk on a trail along the embankment by the ocean. When we started, the tide was out, but over the few hours we were there, the water level changed substantially.

We mostly talked and talked, and took pictures of each other jumping along the trail. It was windy and sunny and beautiful. The ocean was on one side, and fields on the other...a whole lot of greens and blues, and the red of the dirt, of course.
It was especially interesting wearing someone's shoes and spending the day with them at the same time. I don't think I've done that before. At one point Jenn kind of did a double take...she explained how she had looked at my feet and thought, "Aislinn's so cool, she's got shoes just like me!" It was a little while later that she realized that the shoes actually were hers, and she burst out laughing. It was cute.

We used the washroom at the library and bought yummy delicious desserts at a vegetarian cafe (where you apparently get a discount if you're vegan) to bring home to share with Jimmie. Then we got back on the highway to the city.

I don't remember when it was exactly that Jenn realized it.
Maybe when I was asking for a recap of all that her shoes have been through, or maybe when I was taking them off back at her apartment.
It turns out that actually, these sneakers are relatively new. They aren't the sneakers that were in the races or were with her on her bike trips. They were a gift from Jimmie's family, and they are the shoes that she wears on her runs now, but not the ones that have been through all that excitement and courage and bravery.

She felt a bit disappointed, I think, that the shoes that I were didn't represent all those times. She told me about other shoes she chould have lent me: the moccasins that she wore when she was living in the tree in B.C. that were given to her by a native woman, the running shoes that did go with her on those trips. She pulled out the moccasins--they were beautiful. I considered wearing them in the evening, but didn't end up doing so. At the time I wasn't sure why I didn't wear them, but when I think about it now, I think that the story of the story of Jenn's shoes is enough.

Jenn's shoes are supportive and comfortable, soft, light and airy. They may not be the shoes that were with her through the most extreme and challenging times, but I think that they've been witness to another kind of bravery. The kind of everyday courage that it takes to live and to build a life and a home and a meaningful routine. I think that that is more than enough. In fact, I think it's quite beautiful.

It's interesting that often people want to lend me the shoes that somehow sum up who they are, the ones that have the most meaning and memories in them, if there is a measure of that. It's a hard choice, finding an item that is most like oneself. I think that often people approach this problem by wanting to choose shoes that have been through times that seem the most real or formative or extreme; shoes that are somehow, in this way, charged with meaning.

But I think there's also something to be said for the everyday. For getting up in the morning and tying two double knots in the place that you happen to be.

I have so much gratitude for Jenn and Jimmie's generosity in inviting me to stay with them and letting me be a part of that for a time.

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