Thursday, February 23, 2006

With Eyes Wide Open

"We ought not to treat living creatures like shoes or household belongings, which when worn with use, we throw away."


Several years ago, on a warm, sunny autumn day, I was driving in my car, around Berkeley, just taking in all the sights that only occur in fall, only in Berkeley. Leaves of gold, crimson, yellow and dark brown falling silently to the earth, enthusiastic young men and women on their way to and from the grounds of Cal-Berkeley campus, and the mist off the bay, as it slowly floats up into the hills, each day, in the late afternoon. It can be intoxicating, if one just stops to observe it all at once. Clearly, to drink it all in properly, it should be savored slowly, by the observer, experiencing each street, each neighborhood with eyes wide open, to the uniqueness of it all.

Indeed, if you drive throughout Berkeley, you will find something off beat in each neighborhood that will stimulate the senses, be it a single flower in someone's well manicured yard, or an antique hobby horse on a driveway of a house in the hills. It might be an Art Deco sundial sitting near a recycle bin, or even the annual display of discarded sofas that sit, waiting to be recycled, in front of the frat and sorority houses that make up the neighborhood directly in front of the university. As I have emerged from my psychological coma of several years ago, I have come to realize that out that each season, there comes a different phenomena that happens unique to that season, such as the sofas in autumn. In winter, we seem to have a parade of shoes.

I went for a ride in the afternoon, this past Christmas Eve, looking for what Berkeley had to offer in the way of the unique, and mixed with the sights of late autumn, were the sights of the new winter. The sun with that certain glint that only occurs when the sun is close to the earth, there were fancy decorations proclaiming, "Peace On Earth," and "Happy Holidays," and everywhere mixed among the usual observance wishes, were apparent spontaneous displays of shoes. Sometimes they would be in a cluster of 20 or so hanging from telephone lines, or wrapped around the branches of trees, sometimes they would be placed with care at the front gate of a simple house on Collage Avenue. Or like in the case of the shoes in the above photograph, they might simply be placed in an open area, all clean and waiting for their new owner, as if fate would somehow lead the shoes to who they were destined to be owned by.

One incidence in particular I found fascinating, pertained to a pair of sneakers, that were placed on top of a Payless Shoe Source box that was sitting on top of a recycle can on Shattuck Avenue. They were used, but seemed to be in good condition, so I think what might of happened was, someone bought a new pair, took off their old ones, and instead of throwing them away, left them to be picked up by someone who perhaps had no shoes. What a nice thought. Sometimes I can't imagine what life would be like, if I didn't have my camera to see the world by. I think in the hectic flow of day to day life, I would miss a lot of journeys, both my own, and of others, if not for my camera. My camera slows me down, and shows me life has all kinds of views, if you look at it with eyes wide open.

"The journey of 1000 miles, begins with a single step."


"The Shoes"
Berkeley, California
December 24th, 2005
Late Afternoon


Phinney said...

i love that people leave their shoes for others to have. absolutely love it. i also love that you see the world with your eyes wide open.

otherwise, you'd be bumping into stuff. >..<


Becky said...

Christmas Eve, eh? I have an alternate theory about the shoes left just outside front doors or near front entryways... I think the Dutch have a tradition where they leave their shoes out and some Father Christmas like character (I think it's a woman) fills the shoes with gifts. There may be other countries who do the shoe thing too. I can't recall. LOL

Karen Funk Blocher said...

I'm glad that Berkeley - and the Bay Area in general - have you to notice all these unique things, photograph and write about them. I think you should probably do a book of this stuff - My Berkeley, or something like that. Heck, for all I know, maybe that is the book you're working on!

Did you know that Paul wrote about you today? And so did I.