My Mex-Can Shoes
For Elia Lopez, living in the mountains represented a beautiful sight to behold, until one day, the majestic peaks started to whisper their deepest secrets to her and squashed her old ways and beliefs, including her lifetime loyalty to stilettos.
Ever since I was a toddler, I have gravitated to shoes. Even before then, in the warmth of my mother’s womb, my little heart used to pump to the rhythm of my Aunt Olga’s high heels as she strode into my grandparents’ house for Sunday family gatherings. When her steps came to a halt, all kinds of enthusiastic praise reached my tiny ears: “Look at you, fancy lady! Always on point, dear! Look at those shoes!”
Along with my mother’s heartbeat and the aromas of Mexican food seeping from the kitchen, the sound of those high heels was a source of joy to my still unborn soul.
As I grew up, I embraced every stage of life in the company of shoes. I remember each pair of stilettos that I wore for the most important occasions in my life: my first date, my graduation, my wedding, my friends’ wedding, my divorce, my mother’s funeral, my father’s funeral, friends’ funerals, Aunt Olga’s funeral.
Within a few years, my internal landscape was devastated by overwhelming loss. In my search for meaning, I moved to Canada. The promise of a new, peaceful land comforted me. I opened my closet doors to my best friends. “Have your pick,” I said as I invited them to adopt my most valued pairs of shoes. We bid our farewells and promised not to forget one another.
The day I arrived in Canada is vivid in my memory. Despite the excitement of my travels, though, I was struck by an overpowering sense of confusion, sadness and loneliness. On that August night in 2014, I arrived at a deserted airport. There was no one to greet me. My two suitcases were my only companions. I still cannot recall the shoes I wore that day. Such was the extent of my grief.
It has been said that immigrants develop the unusual skill of living simultaneously with great happiness and great sorrow in their new country. I think this is true. Depression, vertigo and anxiety remained with me for years after I came to Canada. I no longer knew who I was, neither Mexican nor yet a Canadian.
When I moved from Calgary to Banff, an additional sense of loss washed over me: the rocky landscape had no place for stilettos. Hiking boots offered little consolation. They were tough and resilient, but beauty was no part of the deal. Then, one day, in the window of a shop on Banff Avenue, I jumped with a joy that I had not felt in years. I found the most beautiful hiking shoes! They were colourful, stylish and strong. They held promise.
A sense of adventure grabbed my hand and pulled me to my first hiking trails, my first round of sore muscles, my first breathtaking views and my first conversations with the spirits of the mountains. Something inside me spontaneously changed. This sacred landscape transformed my consciousness into those who dwelled here before me. Driven by higher forces, I began to crave the solitude of the summits where I could hear the secrets of the mountains whispering through the blowing wind.
Then I understood that, in great love and compassion for my sorrows, the spirit mother of my homeland had a woman-to-woman conversation with the spirit mother of the mountains. Together, they agreed to share custody of me, heal my heart, and make me a hybridized spirit: the child of two mothers, a member of two communities, a Mex-Can woman.
I gave up my high heels to reach the highest of hills, and my Mex-Can shoes walked me there.
Born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico, Elia Lopez moved to Canada in her search for a more peaceful lifestyle. Little did she know what Canada had in store for her: a spiritual realization that would shape the second half of her life.