Eight Black Shoes

A few days ago I entered the bedroom, kicked off my shoes, and laughed.

Not a big, robust laugh. But rather a quick, take-you-by-surprise laugh. Sort of an abbreviated chuckle. The kind that shows up unexpectedly and stops you in your tracks, reminding you that yes, this is your life.

Know what I mean?

On this particular day my moment of laughter was provoked by the sight of eight black shoes staring up at me. Four pair, to be exact. Swimming in a sea of carpet.

From that you might deduce that I like black shoes (I do; they go with everything). Or that I’m a little devil-may-care when I shed them at the end of the day (I am).

What you might not catch, though, is the map they provided me. A perfect history lesson on how I’d spent the last 12 hours of my life: walking, writing, working, and waltzing.

WALKING

A pair of sturdy Reeboks. With DMX air technology. Always. My feet will accept nothing less. Because truly, is there anything better than walking on air? They’re just the ticket for my daily promenade along the river, grasping me tightly as I scramble up the side of the levee. Then at the exact moment when I reach the top, they release a bit and propel me forward as I hit my stride.

Arms swinging. Wind blowing. A stray hair caught in my mouth.

And no matter what the weather or time of day, I never tire of tracking the river’s meandering curves, or greeting the dogs (and their owners) going in the other direction.

WRITING

A pair of cushy Easy Spirits. Because even though I’m sitting down when I write, I still need to be encased in slipper-like comfort. Somehow that helps me move into my rhythm. And if by chance I need to get up to do those important things that writers must do (looking in the fridge, cleaning the closets, having a boredom episode), well then, my feet will be ready.

Eventually, though, the words will flow. In fact, I can feel them when they’re forming, baby words, just like baby steps. Starting as the slightest tingle in my well-protected my toes, working their way up until they come surging out my fingertips onto the keyboard. Some make it, others don’t. Like salmon swimming upstream.

WORKING

A pair of sleek Clarks mules. Not the clunky Clarks you may be familiar with. No. These are more upscale. With a slightly higher heel (but not too high; that’s not me). And a whimsical tear-drop cut out. Because now I’m in my office, in professional mode, but certainly not all buttoned up. Never.

This, instead, is a place of freedom. Where stories can be told. Fears unpacked. Uncertainties admitted. Risks calculated. Dreams created.

Yes, ultimately a place for creating. So I like it a lot that my reliable Clarks are from the artisan collection.

WALTZING

A pair of Rockport slip-ons. OK, if you’ve looked at the photo, you figured out these aren’t actually waltzing shoes. I know that! But I like the alliteration too much to let it go.

Nevertheless, if we want to get all technical about it, these babies are more like ballet shoes. Not the toe shoe (ouch!) variety, but the flat, Audrey Hepburn/Funny Face variety. And although I would never be mistaken for Audrey Hepburn, these shoes do an admirable job of waltzing me through the rest of my day.

And even though you might not think waltzing has anything to do with ballet, it does! Turns out that the waltz is a ballet step, as well as a dance all its own. I unearthed this gem of information during the in-depth research I always do before carefully crafting a post.

So on this day of eight black shoes, I danced both a waltz and a ballet.

I pirouetted between the computer and dryer, alternately paying bills and folding clothes. I did a grand jeté towards my kitty with the bum kidneys, bundling him up for our three-times-a-week trip to the vet. I glissaded my way to the grocery store, then later pliéd down to the kitchen floor to scoop up the stray vegetables that had jumped off the cutting board. And as the sun began to set, my husband and I met for our nightly pas de deux at the dinner table.

Finally, at the end of the day, I waltzed into the bedroom and kicked off that last pair of shoes. And laughed. But I already told you about that several hundred words ago.

WHAT IS ALL THIS TALK OF SHOES REALLY ABOUT?

Even though it seems like it, it’s not about shoes. It’s a metaphor. About meaning. And it requires stopping. And noticing.

Because with this thing called meaning making, we can’t spend every minute thinking about it. We must get about our days. And our lives.

So we need sign posts. Markers. Guides. Clues. Reminders of the meaning we’re making, even on the most routine of days.

And the good news is, those reminders are everywhere, surrounding us, in the most unlikely places.

Metaphors of meaning are waiting to be extracted from the rain drops that cling to our coats when we walk in the door. They’re hiding in the dirty dishes and the ironing. Or even buried under a pile of black shoes left on the floor.

Of course it’s easy to find them in a beautiful sunset or a fine wine. But we don’t always get that.

Which means we have to pay attention, and give ourselves over to them when they show up unexpectedly. Last week my metaphor came as a complete surprise. Who knew it would be shoes? This week it’ll be different. I don’t know what, but I’ll be looking for it. And if there’s even the slightest hint that something is a metaphor of meaning making, I’m going to jump on it.

WON’T YOU JOIN ME?

What about you? Think back to the past week. Was there a moment when you stepped out of your routine and noticed that you were living and breathing meaning? An instant when you saw how it all added up? Maybe an object or person reminded you, and you grasped your own metaphor of meaning.

Whatever it was, please share it here. I’d be so delighted to hear about it.

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WHY NOT START NOW?

35 thoughts on “Eight Black Shoes

  1. Sadly, my life is ruled by a strict routine and there is little I can do to change it because of my unique physical circumstances. But in a recent interview I was asked what motivated me to become an Inspirational Speaker. Without giving it much thought I rambled on an answer which included the phrase “I don’t want to simply be an oxygen thief”. Somebody, commented on my phrase which made me stop and think about what it really means. I was just reminded again that each of us in our own unique way can make a difference. If shoes remind you not to be simply an oxygen thief then that’s fantastic!

    • Wonderful, Tracy. I love that metaphor. It’s says so much about the balance between taking and giving. Thanks so much for sharing that!

  2. Alliteration is fun, I like it too. My moment of meaning this week came on a walk around our neighborhood. My 4 year old daughter got her first bicycle recently, and she loves to ride it. I walked along side my wife, watching my daughter’s little legs pump up and down as she peddled on ahead. The warm weather, the nice walk, the fantastic company, and the unbridled joy of my daughter truly combined into living, breathing meaning.

    • Fantastic story, Eric. I love all the images you share, and I can really imagine you living and breathing meaning Eric. Thanks!

  3. Beautiful post.

    I find a lot of meaning in just stopping for a few minutes now and then and really looking at nature. It sounds silly, but it just gives me a little perspective and keeps me from sweating the small stuff.

    • Hi Scarlett – Welcome! So glad you stopped by. I don’t think it’s silly at all. I am a big nature person. And some years ago I read a study that said if you simply stop and look at trees, you will be healthier. Nature is abundant with metaphors, and I also look to it to remind me to slow down. Thanks for sharing that.

  4. Oh, I adore a good metaphor! This post is just delightful, and so easy to relate to. (And I have an awesome pair of casual black Naturalizers that I wear everywhere. I need to buy the exact same shoe, because I’ve mostly worn them out.)

    Having a blog has, surprisingly, made me more aware of metaphors and symbols in life. Yesterday as I walked to lunch, I reached a red light and waited to cross the street. Traffic passed, and then it was safe to cross even though the light hadn’t changed yet. Some of us crossed the street, some waited obediently for the light to change.

    So I started pondering what kind of person I am, in life? Do I break the rules (not usually) or obey authority (yes)? Do I walk against the light or wait for the “WALK” sign to light up?

    • That’s a great metaphor, Eva. I remember when I was a kid, it used to freak me out when my friends ran ahead before the light turned green. Such caution in me! Now I will occasionally venture out if there’s no traffic but the light is still red. And it is definitely a symbol of who I am inside, loosening up a little, but not all the way. Thanks much for that!

  5. I so LOVE your prose, Patty! I know that’s not the point of your lyrical words but the imagery is stunning and, flats or no flats, quite uplifting. Waltzing through our days is what I, and I imagine all of us, strive for.

    This week’s metaphor is a piece of sturdy, black Samsonite luggage. It comes out and stays out as long as the sun’s shining within a few hundred miles. I fill it with tiny and bigger outfits for random short and longer weekends when three inextricably linked beings can walk on sand, lie on soft green grass and maybe even wade in bodies of water.

    Thank you for making me smile!

    • Oh my goodness, Belinda! I love your writing on your blog – and I even love your comments. This “three inextricably linked beings” is breathtaking.

    • Thank you, Belinda. You can make that the point, if you like. I’m always happy to receive the gift of a compliment! And as Terry Garr said to Gene Wilder in “Young Frankenstein,” – “The feeling is moootual.” And oh, the suitcase metaphor. So much adventure and possibility stored right there. Did you ever see the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life?” Your comment reminds me of the scene when he goes searching for the perfect suitcase. You and Jimmy Stewart, leaving poetry in a big sturdy suitcase!

  6. Megan Bord and I flew to CA to meet Joy and Jay. It felt like the four of us knew each other forever and we had so much fun laughing and laughing and laughing. Profound moments and insights into each others lives. Loving every minute of it. And will be sure to return. That was my amazing two days last week. I love the shoes and your entire story.

    • Four people. Known but not known. An instant bond. Laughter for days. That’s just about the best metaphor for love and life and connection I can think of Tess. Thanks!

  7. I don’t know if it’s exactly what you’re talking about here, but i think it is. Something that has been weighing me down for months has finally started to give way to some clarity. I was in my local grocery store and music was playing. I like standards–as you know–but they regularly play the brassiest most godawful Vegas lounge music they can find, over the speakers. I was blissfully unaware of any of the songs until I was nearly finished, and then for whatever reason I noticed the song was “I’m Beginning To See The Light” sung by some female singer. Combined with other things and people who have recently given me a helpful nudge, it seemed like a sign.

    • Yes, Shay, that’s exactly it! A snatch of a song, a message meant just for us. This perfectly illustrates what I didn’t write in my post, how metaphors and symbols open the door to our unconscious, our essence. And if we let it, that deeper self can translate the meaning of the metaphor so that we can actually use it. Just like you seeing it as a sign. Beautiful! Thanks!

    • Now that’s quite a powerful image and metaphor you’ve got going, Marc! It captures how I’ve felt, that we’ve descended into an awfully mucky landscape with all the hatred and viciousness and fear-mongering being spewed. I do need combat boots to get through it. Hmmm, maybe even a suit of armor? Thanks, Marc!

  8. I get a real kick out of exploring areas that I’ve not seen before. I take pictures too. Yesterday I was walking around my old university town and discovered a private road of houses tucked away. I took pictures of magnolia buds just beginning to open. I took pictures of an unusual garage with a tiled domed roof. Later, in the centre of town I took pictures of an oval window above a shuttered door, with a tiny bright green weed growing in the cracks of the heavily eroded super-red bricks. I was pleased with life.

    As I stepped back from photographing the eroded brick window and doorway, an old asian gentleman (blue hat, blue jacket, white hair) carrying a bag of shoping walked past the door. I saw him in the viewfinder screen just too late to actually take a photograph, but it would have been a superb composition and street life observation. But since I’m uncomfortable taking candid photos I wasn’t upset, just joyous to have caught that illusive key moment by eye. Just glad to have captured the old ‘eroded’ man against the old eroded building. Just pleased that there was a shoot of new life nestled in the bricks.

    Strange how the photograph I *didn’t* take is so much more meaningful than the ones I did.

    • Beautiful, just beautiful. Your metaphor shines, rebirth amongst the ruins. Isn’t that the truth of life, all our lives? Thank you so much for that story.

  9. I have had a busy week which I love but hate. No time to reflect, until I saw your picture of shoes and walked into my bedroom. There on my floor are five or six pairs of shoes kicked off and not put away – a true sign I am busy. Thing is one pair is black, one brown and running shoes that are mostly white or were when new. The rest – all kinds of colors – green, purple, red. I love color and tend to put it on my feet. Not sure why but as I walk there is always a bit of color.

    • Another shoe metaphor! My shoes too brought me to that love/hate about busyness, another paradox of life. And I’m smiling when I think of you, Nicki – wherever she walks there’s a bit of color. Thanks for that!

  10. Well, it’s official: I’ll never be able to write like you, Patty. I’ve had my moment of meaning and it said to me, “Just give up, Tony. You’re a hack!” 😛

    I kid… except about you being a terrific writer of course! No, I think my moment of meaning happens when a single line I draw can utterly change my character’s expression from tears to joy. Or the other way ’round, whatever my whim. 🙂

    • Oh, you’re very kind Tony. Thank you. Of course you know you’re no hack, right? You’re a gem. Words AND pictures. How many of us can do that??? And I love the metaphor of the single line, holding the character’s fate right in your pen and hands. Lovely.

  11. Hi Patty! I LOVE metaphor, and meaning, and all that stuff, but I’m stuck on the shoe issue! ha! I’m wondering if the fact that I have a gazillion shoes, and they are all organized like little soldiers in my closet (my God, am I ANAL?) means something or other???? (blame this segue on MonkeyMind!)
    hugs
    suZen

    • Well, my dear, I think you have just unloosed a new metaphor! “Organized like little soldiers.” And what do soldiers do? Archetypally, that’s the energy of going out into the world to defend and protect and set boundaries, and to focus on meeting goals and getting things done! All good stuff. I don’t think MM knows what he (or she?) is talking about in this case. So keep soldiering on, suZen, and hugs to you!

  12. Patty,
    Very good metaphor. As you said metaphors like this are all around us, being aware is the key. There is always a lesson if we are open to it. I think you will find the metaphor I used in today’s writing of interest. Have a great day.

    • That’s what’s so wonderful – lessons to be grasped, everywhere. And I sure did love your metaphor today! Thanks!

  13. Patty, my first reaction to your photo was, oh, this resembles the entryway of a Japanese house, except that the shoes are not neatly lined up! Shoes inside the house are an absolute no-no in Japan – they must be removed before you step up into the house proper. I sat here imagining your devil-may-care attitude kicking off your black shoes and having them fly through the paper sliding doors. That would certainly solicit attention – and whole new world of metaphor.

    Your discussion about metaphor is wonderful, especially:
    “Metaphors of meaning are waiting to be extracted from the rain drops that cling to our coats when we walk in the door. They’re hiding in the dirty dishes and the ironing. Or even buried under a pile of black shoes left on the floor.”

    Our lives are filled with metaphor that shine through the ordinary details of our everyday, extraordinary lives. The metaphor here of the blasting to bits of Mount Fuji and the shell-shocked reality of personal relationships. The high winds that blow from the mountains and the blowing down of personal illusions. The fire on the firing range last week that raged out of control, burning to death three people. The browning and dropping to the ground of the glorious plum blossoms and the last of their perfume fading with the fading evening light. The flowering burst of the cherry trees in a renewed sequence of growth and celebration. All the big and little things. If we just pause a moment, and observe, and breathe, and accept, and learn. Thank you, Patty.

    From the mountains of Japan – Catrien Ross.

    • You’re right, Catrien, I don’t imagine my shoe removal habit would go over too well there. But you sure made me laugh the way you described it! (Of course, if I were there, I would definitely honor your more precise custom.) And oh, your metaphors are so rich and deep. I had to read them a several times. You’ve grasped the power of metaphor to illuminate both shadow and light. Thanks so much.

  14. My moment was when, on a walk, I suddenly stopped to ponder the name of the neighborhood I live in–Rose City Park. It hit me that it was a beautiful name and that, to me, it had all kinds of cool connotations. And I hadn’t really thought about that name in years! I thought about it so much I actually plan to write a blog post on it.

    • Oh, this is such a good one Charlotte. And perfect for you, a woman of words. Sometimes there will be a metaphor ripe for the taking in a word or name, and I will go years before noticing it. Can’t wait to read the post you mention.

  15. Patty,

    I could sworn I left a comment on this post, but I can’t find it so I guess I didn’t.

    Well I’m here now and, as usual, your writing just glows. I just had the moment I want to share. I was sitting at my desk, looking out my window daydreaming. Then I realized I looking straight at a pair of bluebirds, sitting on my neighbors fence. I felt like they were a gift my eyes opened:~)

    • That’s delightful, Sara. Reminds me of that metaphor, the bluebird of happiness. Hmm, daydreaming is bluebirds, gifts, happiness? I love it all. Thanks!

    • Hi Abbie – Welcome, thanks for visiting my blog. And what a great way to center yourself in the metaphor of love!

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