My Shoe’s Got Soul . . .

By Yours Truly

This is who I am. I love to recycle things that have meant something to me. I found these shoes in a thrift store years ago. I fell in love with them because the shoe brand was something like Sam and Jane and they were about the most comfortable shoes I ever had with a soft sole and leather that seemed to breathe. The original shoes were brown, not gold. But one day as I went to get my shoes to go someplace, the sole of one was literally falling off of it. Of course I was heartbroken, but then I had this idea to make a play on words and to give one of the shoes a whole new life, so I came up with this idea.

The “wings” are on a base which is made from the sole of one shoe, and I found the most wonderful colored organiza with a nice stiffness to it that allowed me to cut out the little leaves. The leaves seemed appropriate to me because shoes wouldn’t tend to go up in the air (except for the kids who throw them over the telephone lines). And I remembered in the compass of my soul how much fun it was as a kid (and ok, I confess, as a grownup too) to jump in a pile of leaves). And I had to make her a happy and bright color full of life, for that is how I remembered those old comfy shoes.

It’s so many years later since I made her, “My Shoe’s Got Soul.” She’s still with me, and I imagine that she will still be when I take my last jump into those leaves. And it’s funny because she led me to write a story called “Tenshoes and the Skittyfoot” about ten orphan shoes who live in a trash dump, and every Saturday, the animals up in the meadow above hear “sootspeak” because the dump is putting out ugly smoke and it is mixed with the angry and sad words from the ten orphans arguing because they were just thrown away like they never mattered after living lives with adventure. They were never appreciated for who and what they were, and the dump is a horrible place to live.

The Skittyfoot is a little boy with red (really red) hair who comes to visit the creatures in the meadow every day, and the little boy can talk to them and they to him. They tell him about the Tenshoes, and that they want him to go and rescue the Tenshoes from the ugly dump and bring them up to the meadow where they can live safely. But before they can come up to the meadow, they have to find things and fix themselves up as best as they can. Just because they are orphans doesn’t mean they cannot have pride in themselves.

So the Skittyfoot goes down to the dump, and ultimately gets the tenshoes to clean and fix themselves up, and help each other, which they do. Ultimately they go to the meadow with the Skittyfoot, and the little creatures in the meadow all make them welcome and they will have a forever home where they are loved and treasured.

No, I never published Tenshoes and the Skittyfoot though I guess I could have. Some things just live on in our hearts and in the compass of our souls. I’ve been a sort of orphan too, and it took me awhile, for I didn’t have a Skittyfoot or other orphans like me to help, but I fixed myself up nice and clean (there is not and never has been anything related to drugs or other similar things but a transformation from being a childhood orphan), and now I can make things like “My Shoe’s Got Soul” to help others to feel good about themselves too.

Isn’t it strange how life brings little things into our consciousness to help us learn to grow and to care for ourselves, even if we were a kind of orphan in our younger lives? And using art to fix up an old shoe that brought happiness to a life can be a symbol of that. We don’t have to find fancy things or to do anything special to make it up to the meadow from the dump. The recognition of value in little things is what brings a true transformation to us in our lives. Your life, no matter how small you may think it is, is a miracle. Live it like the true gift it is.

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Days Like This

Anne’s contribution for Wounded Warriors Recovery Home

It is just a little thing. I think it was 12″ w x 17″ l. It took very little time even with some hand-stitching. But that was not important at all. The whole idea was to try to bring a moment of happiness into someone’s life, especially when they have had a hard time and need some support.

These men were serving their country when they were wounded, and we need to go beyond our personal beliefs about war and whether we should have been there or not and try to help those men. My own brother came home 100% disabled from Vietnam. My brother knew nothing of Vietnam or its people and he knew even less about the politics involved. He went to serve his country as many of my relatives in the past have done; he was just 18, still a teenager. He is alive today after these many years, and it has given me the heart to help anyone who was or is suffering a physical/developmental/emotional or other challenge for the remainder of my life.

If we believe in something we are doing, we must do it and not forsake it just because there are challenges in trying to do it. The challenges of life are there to help us. Without them, we would never learn to have compassion for others, or to act when we see a need. And life’s journey would not be meaningful without them. Walking through a barren desert will never be comparable with walking through a life of valleys and mountains. And we could never learn personal strength in our beliefs -religious/spiritual without them.

Life is not always as it appears

Rare, four-footed goldfish

Things are not always what they seem in life. There is an old scene in the animated film, “The Point” by Nilsson, released in 1971 where the little boy, Oblio, is vanquished into the “Pointless Forest” by the evil prince. On his journey through the forest, he encounters Rock Man, who gives him a lesson in wisdom. “You see what you want to see, and hear what you want to hear.”

How many times is this true in all of our lives? What do we really know of our world or our universe except what our minds choose to believe or our eyes choose to see?

I have been thinking about creatures of this earth, and recently a conversation came up about the lowly slug. Everyone hated them, and most of the people were afraid of them. Yet, if you think about slugs, they have no means of self-defense. They DO have a bit of a shell inside, but they are easily stepped on and destroyed even with that. They do leave a slime path wherever they go that is created by the water they drink and which mixes with their bodily fluids, to be exuded along the way. They do have eyes located at the ends of their antennae. They sometimes come to a home and will get inside, even though there is nothing visible drawing them inside. And other than their little slimy paths, they do no damage or harm anyone.

I had never considered how sacred everything is in our universe until I searched on the symbolic significance of slugs. I will leave it for any of you who wish to pursue this further to find it on your own, but I will say that after I read it, I thought of how many things in this world I have feared or disliked simply because I never thought of them as being important or sacred in this world. Everything in this world, every person, every creature, every plant, and every grain of sand has meaning in this universe. We are not here by accident; we are the result of an amazing design – a phenomena that has occurred with incredible complexity of evolution.

All is not always as it seems. The tiniest particle in our world may be a chain in our evolution. We need to look closer at those things we take for granted, or that we think we know and perhaps are afraid of and/or dislike. There is always something new to learn and it is good to question ourselves when we encounter something we don’t understand in this world. Maybe, just maybe we have it wrong.

The Gift – Part IV – The Final Chapter

“The Center” courtesy Pexels.

When we work on a painting, we often work from the center or point of focus outward, and when we work on a puzzle, we often work from the outside edges inward. There is no rhyme or reason why we do it, but it is just the way we tend to see things. If you look at the picture above, you are drawn to the center, and if you were to paint it, you would likely start from that point.

As we go through our lives, many things happen to us that start at the outside edges- some absolutely beautiful like making friends and falling in love, and some start at the center, like losing a good friend or loved one who may be lost in some unexplained way. And then there are the horrible things that happen in life – wars, or people with mental problems who hurt others mentally and physically, perhaps even ending their lives. These things affect us both on the outside edges and the center, until no part of the puzzle or painting feels safe.

I guess in my lifetime, I have lived both sides of life. I’ve been through the utmost joy in life – falling in love, bearing children, and working to serve others. And I have been through the horrors of life too. I have had those bad days when I did not believe I had the strength to go on, but life somehow had my back. There was a purpose for me in the long run. Perhaps suicide was an attempt to rid myself of those horrors in life, to reach out and fight them in the only ways I knew how at the time.

But in the end result, despite those things, I have taken the high road. I have served my fellow human beings – women, men and children, all of my life. I taught illiterate and ESL adults how to read; loved, cared for and protected special needs children for 15+ years; and advocated/mentored physically challenged artists with starting their own own art businesses for 20+ years. I have served as a volunteer in one capacity or other since I was 14 years young, and will likely serve through whatever time I have left here.

“We resonate with one another’s sorrows because we are interconnected. Being whole and simultaneously part of a larger whole, we can change the world simply by changing ourselves. If I become a center of love and kindness in this moment, then in a perhaps small but hardly insignificant way, the world now has a nucleus of love and kindness it lacked the moment before. This benefits me and it benefits others.” ― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life

On Being Happy in Life

Virginia Woof Art Quilt in Progress by Anne Copeland

We are not going to have everything our way all the time.  We can choose to be happy in life regardless of any given circumstances.  Life is truly what we make of it.

Virginia Woolf was, by all appearances, someone who had everything going for her.  She had a husband who loved her, a circle of friends who were creative people and who thought for the most part as she did related to life philosophy.  Her books and writings were successful, and she had a beautiful home with everything a person could possibly want or need.

And yet, she ended her own life by her own choosing. She never looked at any alternatives for her own self. It is true that there was not mental health help in those times as there is now, but there were things she could have chosen to do. She drew a wall around her life, and chose not to allow anything in or out. 

No matter where we are in this life, we can always choose to accept the things we deal with as outside ourselves.  We might not be able to change these things, but we can choose the way we think about them.  We can always choose to love and accept ourselves as we are, and as we are not.

An Angel Among Us

pexels-newborn baby 2

Photo Courtesy Pexels

When I first moved to Calimesa in Southern California, I noted that the Garden of Angels in Desert Lawn Cemetery was located in my city.  I had read about the cemetery in 1996 when a wonderful lady, Debi Faris, living in Yucaipa (next to Calimesa) heard a newscast about a newborn baby found dead in a duffle bag that had been tossed out on the San Pedro freeway.

Garden of Angels Cemetery at Desert Lawn in Calimesa

Faris explained how that newscast impacted her life. “He was placed, I assume by his mother, in a pink duffle bag with the word ‘lifesaver’ written on the outside of it. This little child would change the course of my life,” she said.

“When I heard the news report about that newborn baby in the duffel bag … it touched me so deeply that I could not turn and walk away. He was a human being, so innocent and vulnerable. It tore at my heart that his mother could not see the ‘gift’ she had been given.”

Thus Faris began her life-long quest to make sure there would be a place to bury these abandoned or murdered children and she made education of teens and young people her priorities.

Soon thereafter, she contacted Senator Jim Brulte to get the laws of child abandonment changed. The abandonment law passed after some time and in 2001 the Safe Surrender for Newborns law became part of her legacy.

“On August 26, 1996, we buried the first three children in the Garden of Angels. Two abandoned newborn baby boys and a little girl about the age of two, apparently murdered, who had been found floating in a river. I gave them their names, Matthew, Nathan and Dora. Their names all have the same meaning … a gift from God.” She said her dad made wooden crosses and sent them to her from Oregon.

The names were important she said because, “These children had a name now … they would not be just a Coroner’s number.”

There is even one adult buried in the Garden. Grandpa John’s stone cross sits on the edge of the garden amidst the forest of monuments dedicated to the tiny children.

In 2002, Faris had received a call from the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office asking if she knew anyone or group who would take the body of an adult and give him a proper burial. “I said I didn’t and asked why,” she said.

The person on the other line proceeded to tell Faris they had a man who had died and as they were trying to find family to notify them of his death, they learned that as a baby, he had been found discarded in a trash can in July 1936.

The man, legally named John Doe Jr., had suffered brain damage, possibly from being thrown into the trash can and had apparently lived his life in institutions, she said.

“I told them I would take him,” she smiled. “Now he’s surrounded by all these children and he won’t ever be alone again.”

Forsale

Debi Faris in the Garden of Angels

I attended several of the funerals at the Garden of Angels since I lived in the general area then.  The first one I attended was for three babies, all in tiny caskets, and all wrapped in receiving blankets.  Two of the caskets were no bigger than large boxes that might contain boots.

Debi Faris would drive from Yucaipa, CA all the way to Los Angeles, where the bodies of babies would be kept, along with every other person who was unidentified and/or unclaimed, and all the bodies would be cremated as one might burn trash.  She would get the babies, clean their tiny bodies and wrap them in clean receiving blankets.  Then she would sit with the babies for a short time, rocking them in a sort of loving action that a mother would make.  And then she would bring them back to Calimesa, CA, to the Garden of Angels, and they would be put in their tiny caskets for the funerals.

The funerals I attended back around 2014 were beautiful ways to acknowledge a life that otherwise might have passed into the netherworld without their lives having been acknowledged.  All the babies are given a first and sometimes middle name.  They cannot get a last name because of legal issues, I imagine lest someone comes to claim any of them, which has never happened.  There is singing.  The song I heard was “I’ll Fly Away Home,” and it was truly touching.  I know I shed some tears.  When the little caskets are taken outside to the burial site, people stand over them and pray for them and white doves are released.  They circle higher and higher in the sky over the site, and eventually begin to fly back home.  At every holiday, the little graves are decorated with flowers and other gifts brought by different people who visit the cemetery.  The Garden of Angels is a special part of the cemetery all of its own right near the front of the mortuary.  There is a little pool nearby and birds and ducks come there frequently to visit the pond.  It is a beautiful ceremony, and though sad, I think the fact that the babies are honored instead of being thrown away in trash cans, dumped in rivers, left out in the desert, or otherwise thrown away as a life without any value other than perhaps a 20-minute sex act (if that).

I have always been so touched by what this one woman did, a woman who was not wealthy, and who sold her family car to have money to bury the first three babies, that I too decided to do something as well in their honor.  So I began collecting blue and white quilt blocks that various women have donated.  I will ultimately bind each block individually and put them together horizontally so that the quilt can continue to grow.  I had made a list of the babies and their names, and some people have chosen to embroider a child’s name on a block.  I think when someone is talking to the young people at the high schools, it is a good visual aid to help them understand the reality of the issue.

Prior to the passing of the Safe Surrender for Newborns law, it is estimated that there were some 500 babies abandoned and/or murdered outright.  Today as it stands, there are more than 100 babies in the cemetery. I have not been there lately so I am not sure of the exact number, but one baby is too many. For information on California’s Safely Surrendered Baby Law, go to babysafe.ca.gov.

Footnote:  Debi Faris, after working so hard on this issue, actually won the lottery and her payout out of $26,000,000,000 was $9,000,000,000.  She contributed some of it to the nonprofit organization that I believe now exists.