The One Shoe Diaries
31 Jan 2012
In 2004 Hurricane Ivan ripped through Pensacola Beach destroying everything in its path, including my wife's and my home. Being essentially homeless with very little belongings we decided to move into a motor home and tour the country until the area was inhabitable again. Well a year turned into 4 years and during that time we traveled to many places.
I wanted to document everything in photos and create a coffee table book about our adventures. But that had been done so many times I wanted to come at it from an interesting angle. I began noticing numerous solo shoes on the side of the road and I began to be very intrigued. And I did like any inspired photographer would do and began to photograph them almost obsessively.
I did not move them or disturb them in any way. I merely shot them as I found them, logged in their GPS coordinates and moved on. One thing I decided is I wanted to transcend the megapixel craze. I wanted photos to be once again about the subject matter and not how sharp or crisp they were. Many shoes were photographed just using my camera phone, and that was the beauty of the spontaneous nature of the project.
Getting to the shoes to get a good angle was not always the safest thing to do. I can't tell you have many times I scared my wife when I suddenly hit the brakes while traveling down the highway in our 38 foot motor home towing a Jeep yelling "There's one!" She came to secretly hate the shoes for a while until we, meaning she, finally laid down the ground rules for all of our safety.
On our route from South Florida to Northern California we gained a bit of notoriety for our Lost Soles blog when CNN Headline News featured us on a news show. It was shortly there after that the project really took on a life of its own.
Many people after viewing the segment contacted me for a wide range of reasons. Some wanted to tell me I inspired them to go out and explore, or others that they recognized a shoe in my collection and went out to grab it and reunite the pair. One woman even thanked me via email for helping her heal from her daughter's murder.
She recounted in the email the story of when her and her daughter were doing missionary work on a Caribbean island and they spotted many shoes being washed up on shore. They started collecting the random shoes and hanging them on a tree by the shoreline. Locals then would go through the shoes and find two that would be the same size and get so happy to have shoes to wear regardless of them matching or not.
The email continued to tell the story of how shortly after getting back home from the mission she was brutally murdered. The case still remains unsolved. Upon seeing my story on CNN she remembered that tree and thought she just had to find that picture she took of it and send it to me. What she didn't expect was the hours she would spend looking at photos of her daughter that she had not been able to look at since before she died. She said she cried a lot but was so grateful that she got herself to look at them.
I was so humbled that my project was able to effect people's lives that I did not even know. It was about that time that I began calling my shoes Lost Soles.
Odd occurrences began to happen in association with the shoes. They began to be connected to actual lost souls.
One day while driving down a road here in town I came across a shoe. It seemed like a routine discovery until we got going again and I drive past a horrific accident. The car was covered in tarp as the fireman worked. I assume because it was a mess. I then decided for some reason to dedicate that shoe I found to that driver because surely he/she were dead.
It turned out to be a she after looking on a news website. I got her named and posted a dedication to her on my blog. It was not but an hour or so that I got a most unusual comment. A man had written a very personalized poem in her honor. It spoke of walking the streets of Europe and such. Even a verse about that he will always look for her on the sparkling of the waters. But it was vague somewhat, like I could not be sure if he wrote it specifically for her or was being a nice person as it was signed, Anonymous.
I did have his email and wrote to him to inquire how he knew her and how he found my blog. He would not give me much, except that he did know he, he knew her better than anyone else and loved her very much. I got the feeling he was an ex husband who the family did not like and could not attend her memorial and was using my blog to memorialize her.
There began a series of these coincidental happenings such as Lost Sole dedications to actual lost souls, and family writing me back. Little did I know, on the horizon would be the most significant in our lives to happen, one would change our lives forever.
The reason we settled down and got out of the motor home was that we were blessed with the news of a little boy on his way. We were going to have a son.
I had finished writing our first volume and self-published it. The 2nd one was well on its way. It was to follow the journey of us becoming parents. I planned on having the volume end with the birth of our son, Noah.
Unfortunately God had other plans for him. He was taken from us during birth. It was more heart breaking than I could have imagined. We were truly devastated. If not for the One Shoe Diaries i am not sure we would have made it through so well.
My friends had all rushed down to be at our side and we were out eating lunch. I was so sad and depressed. I could barely be in public without having an anxiety attack. We had several amazing people with us that day when Noah passed and I thought that I really should finish the book, if only for my healing. But I did not have a shoe to connect with the story.
Right after telling them the story of that day, I noticed a shoe on a shelf of the restaurant. It was a small, brown, baby boy's, Croc. So tiny that I didn't even know they made Crocs that small. But there it was. The shoe I needed to finish off my book. It was so fitting. I felt at that moment at peace. I almost felt like someone was telling me that it was alright, Noah was safe.
Many other strange and unexplained coincidences followed after that. Crocs began showing up at odd times, Noah's Ark music playing for us when we dedicated a memorial to him and more. So many that helped us realize he is with us and always will be. I am not a religious person so this was all very strange to me. However so comforting. I began to discover faith, faith in something bigger than me, something I cannot wrap my mind around, but must believe in.
Now I wanted to write a third volume detailing the events and the healing process we went through, hoping perhaps it might come full circle with us being blessed with another child. What a great way it would be to end my project I thought.
It was right about 6 months after Noah that we indeed given another chance to be parents. Sharon was found to be pregnant with a little girl. Before we had chosen the name Noah earlier for our boy, Sharon had thought for sure it was going to be a girl and wanted to name her Nora after her great grandmother. Only after finding out we were in fact having a boy, we changed the name to Noah. That name seemed close enough to work as a tribute. Well now she had her little Nora after all. Something seemed like it was right with the world again. Like this is how it was all meant to be perhaps.
Nora came into this world at the hands of the same nurses and doctor that delivered Noah. They all remembered us, and what happened just a year ago with Noah. They were all overcome with emotion with us when she came out. Many people were following this birth pretty close and I documented it all on Facebook as we went to keep people informed.
Here I was though, I had an ending to the book, but no shoe. I had no time to find one and one did not find me at it so often happens. Or so I thought.
A few good friends could not take it anymore and had come down to the hospital and were outside the door the whole time. I didn't know this until I opened the door to go into the hall and there they were.
Tammy and Annie were extra excited to show me something. On their way over to the hospital they had come across a shoe on the road. They wanted to show it to me. Now please note at this time they had no idea about Noah and his Crocs. When they opened their phone to show me what they captured, my head began to feel light. It was a tiny little pink Croc! I felt as if something was telling me Noah was back in Nora's spirit. I am sure I cried, Ican't remember. I was so tired and at that point things were a blur.
The next day I headed out to find that Croc and get my own shot of it for my archives. It was still out there, as most lost soles do stay lost for some time.
Nora is now over two years old and doing very well. She is a lively spirit that seems to drawn people to her. Her charisma is magnetic. I am not just saying that as a proud parent. One look at her smile and you cannot deny it. She is the light of our life.
Not that everything is a bed of roses still, but I feel complete. We still have our speed bumps and roadblocks. One big one was the BP Gulf Coast Oil Spill.
It really hurt my photography business as tourism essentially halted. However the project had not stopped and I continued to photograph lost soles. Including one that was washed ashore, coated in oil sludge that made the front page of CNN and brought 300,000+ hits to my blog in less than a week. The shoe had also been dedicated to an oil-covered dolphin that also washed ashore just a mile down the beach earlier that day.
I am still photographing the shoes. We now travel in a smaller RV titled "Nora's Ark" and continue to accumulate interesting stories from our journeys. I plan on doing a volume four if I ever get the free time to do so.
I saw this space for a photo essay and thought I would share. I am always looking for people to send me their shots of lost soles to include on my site and in my book. So if you come across one I would be more than happy to hear from you.