Today, I took a long, sweaty run along the creek, past the falls, along the upper lip of the Mississippi gorge and onto the forested trail that leads to Fort Snelling. It’s one of my favorite runs and it was marvelous. Along the way, I saw two coyotes, fifteen wood ducks, three bald eagles, several turkeys, a raccoon and…..
a pair of shoes.
So I stopped. I’ve never seen a pair of shoes sitting by the side of the trail. Nothing else – no keys, no socks, no discarded bag. Nothing. Just a pair of shoes.
And they were nice shoes. Italian, by the look of them. They were square-toed, slim men’s shoes. Nice leather. Polished. Sitting side by side, slightly pigeon-toed, in the scrubby grass next to the trail. They looked like they might take a notion to walk away, un-footed. They were shoes with attitude, shoes with purpose. Shoes that were going places.
“Anybody lose some shoes?” I called out.
The wind answered, the sky answered, the rushing river answered. The birds overhead. The scurrying rodents in the crinkling masses of last year’s leaves. They all answered, though not in any language I could speak.
There was nothing for it. I kept running until I reached that old Fort looking over the confluence of the rivers – where the milky Minnesota meets the wild Mississippi. When I turned back, I ran straight for the shoes.
Because the shoes, to my mind, seemed like some sort of sign. They were shoes with answers. These shoes – they meant something, you know? They belonged to a man with delicate feet. A man unused to walking on a ragged path. They belonged to a man who stopped to give his shoes a buff in the middle of a forest trail, before he took wing, lifted up, flew away.
I imagined him launching skyward, his long coat and loose pants flapping around his narrow body like feathers until he disappeared in the clouds.
This is what I believed as I pounded up the path.
This is what I believed as I approached the spot.
But the shoes – along with their flying, winged, magical owner -were gone.