The heat and the relentless light of the sun makes it official. It’s summer at the Falls of the Ohio. Now I need to plan my forays a bit more carefully if I want to get the most from each trip out here. Earlier in the day is better. You miss most of the heat, there are fewer people (except for the die-hard fishermen) and the chances are better you might see some wildlife…especially birds. Luckily, if you don’t make it out here early enough…the trees are all in full leaf and the shade provides needed relief. I wonder what kind of summer is boding for this year? So far we have had the warmest spring ever being nearly a full seven degrees above normal temperatures. Yikes!! No doubt, summer will find a way to be memorable. Anyway, when I’m out here I try to take some precautions in the form of drinking water and sun block. Once my mind engages on something…I tend to forget my body. This post is about another “personality” that I ran into on this day and the following is his story.
I came across this fellow several times during this day. The usual protocol when encountering a stranger is maybe a quick nod of the head and each party then goes their own way. I would have been happy to stick with this, but I kept bumping into this guy seemingly everywhere I walked. One very curious thing about him (or her and how do you tell?) was that “he” was picking up old shoe soles and sticking them under his belt. Here’s another view showing this.
Truthfully, I was at a loss to explain this to myself and the best I could come up with for this strange behavior was that this guy forgot his collecting bag and had some type of project that required shoe soles? I’ve already noticed that a lot of wayward shoes wind up here courtesy of the Ohio River. If you don’t believe me, check out my special collections area under “The Shoes You Lose” and you will doubt no more! I haven’t added images to either collection in a while, nevertheless the lost shoes keep on coming. Just for kicks, here are a couple additional shoes I saw on this trip that piqued my camera’s interest.
Here’s another shoe found near the previous one. See what I mean? I could go on and on about the shoes alone.
After my first encounter with this odd character I ran into him near a willow tree by the river’s edge and he was doing the same activity as before.
This time I abandoned my typical reserve and engaged the guy in conversation. I think I said something like,…”Hey mister, I can’t help noticing that you are collecting shoes and shoe soles and although I know it is none of my business…what are you going to do with the footwear?” I further added, ” I see you have tucked a few more soles into your belt since I saw you earlier.” The Sole Man (my mental designation for him) smiled easily from his green mouth and put me at ease. I had nothing to fear from him. We walked together for a while and he told me what his angle is and why he does what he does. Spotting another lost sole in the sand, my new friend bent over and lifted it up.
Upon picking the sole up, the “Sole Man” flung it over his shoulder and said follow me.
We didn’t need to walk far. The Sole Man had a spot in mind where he told me he was going to deposit his shoes. In the full light of the sun he selected an area marked by two shattered plastic drums, driftwood, plastic junk, and the tell-tale white beads from Styrofoam that had been deposited here by the Ohio River.
One by one my new acquaintance dropped his shoe soles in his selected spot.
He told me that he does this as a form of meditation. Seeing all the junk from our material culture wash up here at the Falls of the Ohio has bothered him for years. He couldn’t understand why anybody would do this to the Earth? Fixating on all the debris was just making him madder and angrier which has its own consequences. He carried these shoe soles here because he wanted it to be visible so that others might see and reflect as he had.
He hit upon the idea that collecting and carrying these soles might provide him some peace of mind or insight into his fellow beings? Each sole was a record of a lived life with their scuff marks and pressure points compressed into the very sole itself. The sole was a record of an individual’s life experience and no two souls were bound to be alike. The old adage about not knowing a person until you walked in their shoes hit home like never before. I asked him was it working…making him less angry? He said that it did. His negative feelings were replaced with something akin to empathy for he understood that he was not much different from the former owners of these shoes. It made him feel less “high and mighty” and more of an equal stakeholder for the many conversations to come. After a few more photographs, I bid my new friend good luck. Leaving him, I placed one foot in front of the other and headed for home on this hot day.