I remember the first time that Chris and I saw the Shoe Tree.
It’s a medium-sized, nondescript tree. I’m sure it has tried to mind its own business and just exist like the rest of the trees in the area. However, over time, it has been majestically draped with hundreds of shoes. Now, people don’t futilely throw their shoes on young, weak saplings. A shoe tree starts with one creative person, tossing his or her footwear-of-old high into the sky, to land on an out-of-reach branch on a big, strong tree. Often the ritual ends there, with the shoes unseen and neglected by others. But on rare occasions, that first pair of shoes triggers a shoe-tossing cascade.
That’s what happened on Hwy 23. This particular shoe tree now stands confidently at the side of a two lane highway, speckled with color and charm but you’ll miss it if you’re in a hurry to get somewhere. Despite its size and grandeur, it doesn’t demand your attention because it’s nestled in with all the other seasoned colors. What it does do is welcome you warmly when you take the time to pull onto the dirt shoulder, get out of your car, walk towards it and take it all in. There are running shoes and beach sandals, hard-toed work boots and flip flops garnishing its limbs. There are clogs and stilettos, baby shoes and gardening Crocs staple-gunned to its trunk. There are teddy bear slippers and tennis sneakers and dress shoes that have been propelled to the ground with the winter winds. There are sun bleached baby booties and mud covered rubber boots that festoon the high reaching branches.
This tree is splattered with glee. It just makes you smile.
The first time that we drove past the Shoe Tree with our grandson, he was about four years old. We pulled off to the side of the highway and let Phoenie take it all in. He was very excited and announced to us, “when I get older, I’m going to put a pair of my shoes on the shoe tree too.” That was three years ago but this summer, Phoenie finally got to officially throw his old Crocs onto the Shoe Tree – they’re the little blue Crocs taking shelter in the middle of the tree.
It was a big moment for him – a rite of passage.
It was all about expressing love to our grandson and creating a memory.
The best use of your life is love. Pete Wilson