But getting to "the mountain" requires a trek up the steep incline of Candler's Mountain Road. Since it takes awhile for me to get the blood pumping and breathing sounding something less than a coal-fired freight train on its last run, I tried to find my rhythm by distracting myself with the view. Well, not that there was much of one. Crossing the concrete bridge suspended above Route 460 is hardly the epitome of a glorious vista. To the left of the oncoming lane (and the space through which I travel) is a fair share of gravel, bits of broken glass, remnants of prior vehicular collisions, crushed pens, an occasional coin, and a broken piece of a smashed brake light, among other things. But a Hoka? I wasn't expecting that.
For the non-runner, Hokas are gaining ever-increasing attention. Manufactured in France, these running shoes look almost clown-like. The platform above the sole is thick, and made with squishy, marshmallow-like material. The wearer gains at least two-inches in stature, a particularly delightful outcome for short people who wish to be tall. This Hoka characteristic earns incredulous stares from people who can only relate to the disco-inspired platform shoes of yesteryear. But in addition to the conversion into a taller frame, the Hoka sports an equally attractive wide-bodied base for the purpose of stability. It all works together to deliver an incredibly soft, comfortable ride (for miles on end) while maintaining a nimble feel. But unfortunately, the price of these shoes rivals its girth. At $180 retail, only a serious runner with orthopedically-challenged feet makes such an investment.
So you can imagine my surprised delight to find a Hoka on the bridge. Not two Hokas, as in a right and a left. Nope. Just one. The left. How does this happen? How does one lose just a single shoe? Was there a de-shoed runner roaming the mountain trails, looking for his shoe-gone-missing? Or had someone chucked it out the window of their car for some inexplicable reason?
I looked over the edge and onto the highway, the right-footed companion shoe no where to be found. I checked the weeds after the bridge, on both sides of the road, and further up the hill. Nothing. Not another Hoka was in sight, assuming you disregard the perfectly good pair on my own two feet. I carefully placed the found shoe on the guard rail and contemplated the strange find as I clicked off the miles.
After years of running, I knew what I had to do. Special finds must be carried back home. I've carried home wrenches, hammers, money (of course), sweatshirts, belts, antlers, bungee cords, and the majority of an intact deer skeleton. Therefore, and in the interest of tradition, there was no question that this lost soul (pun intended) of a shoe was coming with me.
Arriving at its new destination, I snapped the picture that would grace the pages of Facebook. "My best running find in a long time: One perfectly good HOKA. Great for any one-legged runner!" read my post. Soon, numerous comments piled up faster than Speedy Gonzales can run. The best response came from one of my brothers. Dan wrote, "Give it to the waitress at IHOP!!!!!!!!!!" I laughed. Hard.
Who could have predicted that a Groundhog Day-like occurrence would happen again on my way down the mountain the next day? But sure enough, there it was. A single left shoe in the middle of that bridge. This time it was a kid-sized black Nike shoe. Perfectly good. Hardly worn. Really? What is up with losing shoes on this Lynchburg bridge? But, yes. I picked that one up as well and carried it home. I can hardly wait for the next shoe to drop.
Which reminds me: Remember these expressions?
"The shoe is on the other foot."
"If the shoe fits, wear it."
"As comfortable as an old shoe."
"Wouldn't want to be in someone else's shoes."
Shoes seem to give us perspective. Look at a woman's closet and it will tell you something about her lifestyle. Put me in the stiletto heels found in that closet and watch me topple over. I have no earthly idea how the dancers on Dancing with the Stars can leap and twirl in those potentially ankle-busting contraptions. After a day of teaching, even a low heeled shoe makes me yearn for my flats, or better yet, my Hokas. But I wonder what a non-runner might feel in my strange-looking trainers.
What do my shoes say about me? Where do my shoes take me? Are my shoes involved in doing good--or evil? Do I dare slip on another's shoes to know where they go and how they feel? If I did, I just might have more compassion and greater understanding. I might even give them my shoes when theirs' are worn and tired. For if my shoes can bring good news and offer peace, I will rejoice.
So yes, drop another shoe and let me walk with you.
"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'" (Isaiah 52:7)