Life offers us opportunities and healing in the most mysterious and practical of ways. One way for me to reorient myself is to do self care tasks that, at one time I did not see as self-care or meditative or healing and certainly not spiritual.
One of the most luscious ways that I want to honour in this writing is about the tending to my boots and shoes. My father taught me young how to care for my shoes, how to polish and protect them. His uncle, who had issues tending to the broad strokes of life, had a few powerful lessons to teach my father, and to show his love for his nephew. He taught him to polish shoes well, in this act of teaching and kindness he offered much more than a practical skill.
He demonstrated love by passing on good wisdom, something shown to him that was pure and just and good. He was teaching him a skill that would offer him a step up in life, a man in a clean pair of shoes went places and was of value. A boy who knows how to clean and polish could earn coins in his pocket. Places, value in a person, and coins in your pocket opened up the whole world from the heart of a poet and dreamer.
In that teaching, love was exchanged. A belief in a child’s future, and an opportunity to have a task to come back to, time and again, when life offered celebrations, losses, hard times and no other place to go.
When I tend to my shoes it’s a ceremony, it’s a healing, its hope and it’s a fresh start to a new moment that awaits.
I lay out the ceremonial cloth, sometimes its apiece of flannel or old towel or cardboard but each is perfect and is treated with such respect I am awed at the complexity and simplicity of such a basic gesture. I lay out my tools like a craftsman. I conjure my intent.
I tend to the soles and to my soul. I clean away the dirt, and in doing so I cleanse myself of any ill thought or the gunk that can build up in and on me sometimes. I trim any loose threads and attend to any “balling up” and make sure no stitching repairs are needed. Inside I let go of any threads I put out into the world that I no longer want leading out and I retract or release them. I honour that most people don’t realize that the polish coming later actually helps keep the treads from breaking and thus keeps the shoe intact.
I use a toothbrush in all the nooks and crannies and dry each parts. I remove laces and liners and tend to them carefully, inspecting and lay them out, changing their appearance from tightly wound around leather bits or grommets into cascading flows of fabric and chords. I clean the tongue and consider what words I have shared in life recently. I respect what I discover.
I move next to adding the polish. Ensuring the places that most forget are tended to, the seams, the ridges and edges. I honour the places most don’t witness, I ponder what I may have overlooked in life and at the same time I be with the swishing of the toothbrush and polish creating their matte black or onyx on the leather.
I soft wipe. I allow myself the pleasure of the touch and adding to the tenderness and the protection to leather. I often find myself traveling to the dance of how it is that soft and supple offers such protection when buffed to a polish. I appreciate it magic, its alchemy.
I prepare myself for the brushing for the gentle swish-swish to the vigorous rapid movement that add all the luster and protection of the oil to save the shoe from decay. I consider this process, this buffing. What has recently buffed me into a proper protection, glow and sheen. I remember the blessing in the times of being polished.
Sometimes I just stay with the beauty of the building of the glow of the shoe itself as it surrenders to the process. I sometime wonder if the shoe knows that its life continues to be appreciated longer because of this relationship of materials, the polisher, and the shoe. I allow myself to be reminded that gentle brushing and scrubbing and shining can cure much. Sometimes I remember my “muchness.”
It’s an interesting process each time, this tending to shoes. There are times I have stopped mid-way and cried my sorrows out, other times laughed and not known exactly why but thankful. Other times we have attended to each other as we dance to the sound of that day’s favorite melody
. I always find my self smitten by it all, including the the holes and the laces and their commitment to one another.
I lovingly and with great intent return the laces. Winding in and out, folding back on itself but rising up a level with each stroke. Sometimes when I have returned the laces in my life I have prepared the footwear and self in such a way to be prepared for the necessity of battle, other times celebration, other still for the day to day pulse of life, a pulse that offers surprises to some and to others the mundane. Sometimes loose and whimsical, sometimes perfectly placed.
I remind myself of how I want to view the world, but mostly I let myself just be with what is being created and allow myself to flow with life once again. In the end I thank my father for the teachings past on to him and honour my ancestors and take with me the knowing that everything I do, no matter how mundane it could be, is offered up in a world of possibilities to be exactly what I need in the moment.