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Throwing Shoes (on sometimes not knowing why we’re leaving)

December 21, 2014

He’s there almost every week, long before the rest of us show up. Maybe he is there all night, and we are the first thing he sees in the morning, every Sunday as it rolls around. Or maybe he has slept at a house in the village: one of his kids, a wife, a friend; and he makes his way in the early morning to the shade of the church, to sleep some more.

He looks as though he’s been etched from stone, his cheekbones chiseled from mud, he is bone and skin and little else. A tuft of gray hair, eyes that sink low behind those high, high cheekbones. Long fingers, bony knees. A stool for his head, a whip by his side–for animals, unruly children–or something, maybe, to simply hold onto.

He is usually asleep when we come. He is there, in the middle of the sand floor, under the height of the dome. Sometimes he wakes up, when we settle ourselves on the benches once green, now worn down to a muddle of a color–shiny and smooth from the years of use. Sometimes he wakes up, to watch as the old ladies, faithful, file in one by one, to sit on the bench, the one in the sun. Sometimes he wakes up, and sits up and turns toward the front, head cocked, listening, or maybe not.

On this Sunday, though, he’s not sleeping. Or listening. He’s not even in the middle of the dome. On this Sunday, he’s sitting up, at the edge of the dome, on the side facing away from the river. He’s sitting, one knee up, one knee tucked under him, back hunched over.

He is throwing his shoes.

I don’t know if I would have noticed, if Semola hadn’t called attention to it. I certainly didn’t understand the significance of the shoe-throwing. I would have assumed it was a way to pass the time, a way to amuse himself, until all of these people vacated his shade and he could resume his nap. But Semola noticed, and stops church, to turn and point a finger in his face. Don’t do that in here, Semola says. Don’t bring that into God’s house. Caleb’s dad explains it to me, me with my limited understanding. The man has lost his goats. And so he is throwing his shoes, to read the signs, to be able to know where to go to find his lost goats. Ask God, Semola shouts at him. Ask God! He’ll tell you where your goats are. Don’t bring that superstition here.

Ask God. He’ll tell you.


I’d like to throw some shoes. These days, I’d like to throw shoes, and find answers. The days have grown heavy, and the nights pass too quickly, lying in my window-high bed watching Jupiter dance on the horizon, and I’d like to throw some shoes. I’d like to read the signs, and know: all will be found. Nothing will be lost.

I should know better. I do know better. There are no shoes to throw. And yet…God is not really talking, either. Leaving Omo has been far from a sure and certain decision. Instead, it’s been day after slow day of holding on, and letting go. There has been fear, and questions, something close to regret, and wondering. And yet…there has also been hope. And the beckon of an open door, with wide empty spaces beyond. There have been waves of reassurance, and most often, the call toward trust.

I would like to throw some shoes, sometimes. But I think I already have my answer, the rough edges of a whisper, as I watch that old man throw his shoes.

Pick up your shoes. Put them on your feet. And walk.

It’s time to walk.

One Comment leave one →
  1. permalink
    February 10, 2015 5:21 am

    Hope Daisy received her happy birthday letter, not sure if it was correctly addressed. If not,please give her another birthday kiss from her loving Omi! Love to all, Omi

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