Lost shoes, found days

January 2nd, 2009

Update: Miracles underfoot!

Tomorrow I’m going to have to drop into my reliable local bookstore to buy a 2009 wall calendar. The kind with trite pictures of lotus ponds and such. I always stick one on my kitchen cabinet to track comings and goings in the heart of our home: vacations, school holidays, washer repairs, flea treatments, the important stuff. It’s amazing to me that I haven’t been given a calendar this year. One or a hundred and one, which heretofore has been the custom. The current lack seems weirdly suited to the state of suspension we’re all in, this limbo in-between the end and the beginning of so many unfathomable things. It’s not surprising that no one could muster the faith this season to look far forward. No matter, I can find the coming days on my own.

Last night I was at the temple for our traditional New Year’s services: chanting and bowing in fusatsu or atonement ceremony, followed by meditation across the midnight hour, then the spectacle, (for us spartans anyway), of revolving the sutras, a kind of blessing ceremony. I was more than once reminded of the power and reach of this anniversary. New Year’s Eve is an anniversary in and by itself, of time’s eternal beginning, and then a personal anniversary in each of our lives.

It is the anniversary of the night my husband lost his shoes in a crowd of Buddhists, for instance. A loss in which everything unexpected was later found.

It was soon after I began my practice with Maezumi Roshi and I then met my husband-to-be in a restaurant in Florence, Italy; a husband-to-be that lived in Los Angeles, glory be, while I was still a wanderlusting south Texan. It seemed too eerily easy that I should begin an affair with an eligible guy in LA, and the obviousness of it prompted Maezumi to say, “Invite him for tea.” So my guy came for the first time to Zen Center of LA to meet Maezumi in the lull of New Year’s Eve before a traditional ceremony much like the one I was at again last night.

Impressionable, my boyfriend and I were both mildly terrified by the extreme auspiciousness of the favor: to be Roshi’s guests in his home on this night of nights. Once arrived, my boyfriend took off his shoes outside the door.

He never found them again.

There were many people there that night, many people inclined to wear the ubiquitous shoe fashion of the time, black Reeboks. After the services, after the time for putting shoes back on, long after everyone but my husband-to-be had his or her own shoes snuggly back on his or her feet, I went around in the crowd inspecting the shod.

“Are those your shoes?” I would say, pointing at the very shoes on their feet. “Are they really your shoes?”

I didn’t find anyone not wearing his or her own shoes. We didn’t find any shoes unworn.

My boyfriend left his first encounter with Zen sans footwear. (I’ve tried to leave everything else since then, but alas, I’m still holding on to a lot of unnecessary freight.) In his socks, he drove me to his apartment late that night, and he was pissed.

It’s easy to see the metaphor in this. He and I left behind a familiar road on that night, a well-worn footpath, the way things were. We went on, of course, getting over it, finding our way, uncushioned, unprotected, by a different route, to an altogether unimaginable future. We left behind more than a pair of shoes, but losing your shoes can indeed be an auspicious start to a whole new way.

Wishing you abundant lost shoes and found days, because sometimes it takes one to have the other, and I want you to have it all.


  1. I love this story. it made me smile. happy new year.

    Comment by curious girl (lisa) — January 2, 2009 @ 12:17 pm

  2. Wonderful post! I like how you weave all of this together.

    Ditto the whole calendar/limbo thing for me. I’m experiencing a weird sense of the ‘not yet’ these days. I don’t like living in this state, but for some reason the energy isn’t shifting yet.

    Thank you for your last paragraph. I’m in great need of an auspicious new start.

    Comment by Nerdy Renegade — January 2, 2009 @ 1:10 pm

  3. Shoe-toss at noon – we’re hosting!

    Comment by Jena Strong — January 2, 2009 @ 1:46 pm

  4. happy new year, mae.
    i love you.

    Comment by Wendy — January 2, 2009 @ 2:04 pm

  5. I love this story! I hadn’t really thought about it, but yes, we are in a bit of limbo right now. This accounts for some of my unease these days. I’m learning to work with it instead of fighting it.

    Comment by Judy Merrill-Smith — January 2, 2009 @ 4:45 pm

  6. Great story and great lesson too. Happy New Year to you and your family.

    Comment by Sharon Delman — January 2, 2009 @ 4:46 pm

  7. Wonderful lesson and I need it today! Losing is a metaphor that apparently is one of my great life lessons. Perhaps I should be letting go before I lose? Thanks for your blog.

    Comment by Angel — January 2, 2009 @ 5:19 pm

  8. I have experienced a lot of pretty intense loss the last couple of years, leaving me metaphorically shoeless.

    It is pretty amazing the things that I have gained through this loss, and the things that I still know are coming.

    Letting go opens up a space for receiving.

    Comment by Rowena — January 2, 2009 @ 5:28 pm

  9. I’ve had shoes stolen at the beach but some how having them stolen at a zendo seems more wonderful, at least as a story. Have an interesting if unsteady year!

    Comment by Chris Austin-Lane — January 3, 2009 @ 4:15 am

  10. EXACTLY. I love that you always say the perfect thing. But without saying too much.
    Happy New Year.

    Comment by denise — January 3, 2009 @ 4:33 am

  11. This is a wonderful story, a story about shoes but not about shoes.

    It reminds me of a line in a movie about a woman who is blind and falls in love. (I think the name of it was “The Music in the Other Room” or something like that.)

    Anyway, she tells her sister that she had been afraid her entire life and only stopped being afraid when she fell in love.

    Comment by Mary Ann — January 3, 2009 @ 5:52 am

  12. Shoes have always felt constricting to me, anyway.

    Comment by Jennifer/The Word Cellar — January 3, 2009 @ 6:24 am

  13. Beautiful story ( as long as you did not lose the shoes) and I adore the sentiment – its wonderfully comforting!


    Comment by Cat — January 3, 2009 @ 5:39 pm

  14. Funny Denise. I find that you always say the perfect thing without saying too much.

    All, you’ve made me realize I have more here than just a recollection. I’ll see if I can’t get these shoes to fit in somewhere else.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — January 4, 2009 @ 5:15 am

  15. Maybe that’s why there are so many shoes hanging on telephone wires … is that all it takes to get your days back? ;o)

    Lovely post Karen.

    Comment by Shalet — January 4, 2009 @ 5:18 am

  16. That update is too funny!

    Comment by Jena Strong — January 4, 2009 @ 6:16 pm

  17. Happy new year to you and yours, Karen! Wonderful post with which to begin 2009 🙂

    Comment by Leah — January 5, 2009 @ 2:36 am

  18. I loved this story, Karen. And yesterday, my teacher was wearing a pair of those very retro black Reebok shoes, which I had not seen in a long time! Your blog is always a good way to start my day….

    Comment by MojoMom — January 9, 2009 @ 1:21 pm

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