Sunday, January 4, 2015


     I started this blog just over a year ago to make a Pilgrimage - to consciously walk in Mystical Shoes. I didn’t know how many blog entries I could write when I started, but I wanted to find out. The only way to find out is to do it and see how it went. A year sounded like more than I could actually do, unless I was genuinely committed. Because I wanted to change as a writer, I took on the challenge.
Mystical? What’s that? I didn’t know what I would write about exactly, except that I would, as Walt Whitman said, “Try to confront the growing excess and arrogance of realism.”
     So, I set out wearing Mystical Shoes down a long timeline and attempted to write things that are imaginative, spinal and essential.
     Mystical Shoes? Sounds kinda sweet and soft, doesn’t it? Like maybe a “glass slipper” which could be transformative for Cinderella? Well, the reality of the Pilgrimage part – getting into those dang Mystical Shoes day-after-day and then going where they carry you is not easy.  Ever heard of “Seven League Boots”? Shoes will change you, for good or ill, they ARE transformative.

     If you haven’t seen the portrayal of Cheryl Strayed’s feet in the film version of “Wild”, see that and then read how she writes about the reality of the damage to her toes and feet in her book. Your feet – and your shoes – are where your impulse or idealism meets the reality of your journey.
     One part is the shoes and whether or not they fit. She pitched her hiking boots and used duct tape and Teevas. What was I going to do when these Mystical Shoes hurt? Could they kill me?
     The second part is the terrain. My Pilgrimage in Mystical Shoes put me over terrain which caused me to quit several times. Seriously, I told myself that I couldn’t go any further. Like what idiot would climb a mountain to read poetry to the dead? But, I gave myself a good talking to, paused to drink water and eat GORP, whined a bit, and went on.
     I think that is the only thing any of us on long journeys can do, be it a physically brutal journey, a jail sentence, some marriages I know, devotion to causes like OWS, a little bout of cancer or whatever life gives you – the death of a loved one, is to go on.
     You’ve just got to go on. Bear the pain. Bear the grief. Bear the love and the loss and go on. One step at a time.
Your feet will carry you into life, and many times you won’t know why, only later can you figure out what it was all about. You can’t get any learning until it is over but then your dear departed may help you.

     Whatever trails you are walking, make sure you have the RIGHT shoes.
     When I volunteered at SCI Graterford, PA, a maximum security prison, I learned that we each wear different shoes and the shoes we wear are EXTREMELY important. The shoes I chose to wear when I first went to visit was a pair of cowboy boots. Six months later, after I was co-leading a weekly group, one of the inmates asked me why I had worn those boots. He told me that some of the men had serious questions about who I was based on my boots. Boots have a meaning and a culture far removed from this Pennsylvania prison.  But, over time, the feelings created by the boots eased as they got to know me. Inmates all wore trainers, but as he kindly educated me, there are trainers and then there are TRAINERS. Silly me. I thought trainers were for exercise.  He said, “Why did I think there were stores devoted to trainers some of which were expensive? The brands represented gangs. Why did Gucci make trainers that cost $1,000 or more.”
It is because, when you wear a uniform of any sort (military, police, Catholic school, hospital scrubs, prisoner); status, identity, and power are in the shoes YOU can wear. Some part of us is a culture of individualists merely held together by Gucci trainers or Mystial Shoes like Cowboy boots.

© Copyright 2015, Jean W. Yeager
All Rights Reserved

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