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Sensible steps in naughty shoes

Since the start of the month I have been walking around with a camera in my handbag. As part of the Unravelling e-course I am getting to grips with weekly photo assignments as well as working my way through writing projects. My digital camera is filling up with shots, some course-related, some just the product of an eye that is more attuned to the little or unusual things of daily life. This photo is a bit of both.

As I was walking to work one morning, I detoured to take in one of my favourite passages in the second arrondissement, the Passage du Grand Cerf. As the beautiful glass-vaulted gallery is home to quirky design studios, bric-a-brac shops, a heavenly florist, beauticians and many other curiosity shops, I thought it would lend itself to pictures of everyday Parisian beauty. Oddly enough, my favourite photo of that morning stroll was my ghostly reflection in the window of the café at the entrance to the passage: Le Pas Sage (or The Wise/Good Step).

The café comes to life around lunchtime and is exactly the type of understated, independent eatery I like to settle into with a good book for a light meal or glass of wine. What captured me most that morning, however, was the name, written in bold tidy letters –  white on the black backdrop of the café in darkness.

The Wise Step sums up my past and my present. It also stands for everything I am straining against at the moment and brings to mind a Dutch foot-related expression that has been haunting me for the past two years. The Flemish and Dutch talk about “stoute schoenen aantrekken” or “to put on your naughty shoes” when they determine to take a risk. And that is exactly what is building in me…

Looking back over my teenage and student years and working life to date, I see a long list of considered decisions and sensible choices, resulting in a good profession and a relatively safe job. All along the way whilst staying focussed on the job, I have kept sidelines and alternative avenues open by keeping skills fresh and involving myself in ancillary projects, both within and beyond work. As the years march on, however, the naughty shoes are pushing themselves to the forefront. They are trying to tug me down the side roads and into the winding alleys that will take me well off the main road, possibly never to return. They want to explore the different disconnected and contradictory quarters of my universe, jump into puddles and fountains, dance through fields… In short, revolt is rising in my body, longing to throw off my cautious focus and do things that are fun rather than sensible steps and most of all, things that are not necessary part of a bigger plan.

At the moment the sensible steps are holding their own but they know that the naughty shoes are gaining momentum and have started to negotiate. Outright risk-taking is still being kept at arm’s length but the sensible steps are making a little space for frivolity and a lot more space for exploration. Whether Le pas sage will be my future as well as my past remains to be seen but for now the stoute schoenen are enjoying flexing their muscles.


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