Sometimes it takes just one simple image to unfold a complex story in your mind.
Like this pair of boots, for instance.
Honestly, I can’t tell you much about the day I took this picture. I can only tell you what my phone tells me, which is that it was taken on Friday, November 16, 2018. I can’t remember if I pulled into the parking lot of my apartment complex feeling good, bad, happy, tired, content, or depressed. I can’t remember what I had done that day besides go to class and to work.
But I can tell you that when I pulled into one of the front-corner spots (the coveted spots), my headlights perfectly illuminated this pair of boots. And when I looked up from shifting my car into park, my mind paused at the image.
The boots huddle together, two companions trying to huddle against the cold, against the shadows that surround them on all sides—from the darkness standing in front of the door to the darkness floating in front of and to the sides of the porch. And the light pushing against the darkness, sheltering this pair of boots from it, giving them a demeanor that suggests strength and competence.
These boots are all alone. But look at how they’re going to go places, conquer the world . . . conquer their inner shadows and demons.
Or, maybe they’re just a simple pair of boots someone set outside.
Some will see the first image. Some will see the last. Neither is good nor bad.
It’s funny, though, to think that all I had to do was park in a particular way to get my lights to shine on this specific pair of boots in a certain way for me to see this image and create a story in my head. Not only of the boots standing up to the world, but of the student inside whom the boots belong to. Is he in the ROTC? Or does he just have a unique style sense? Did he put the boots outside because they were wet from training and needed to dry? Or did he put them out there because the image of them reminds him of how difficult ROTC training is and he doesn’t want to be reminded of that, or because the image of them reminds him of the bullying he has received from others for his unique style sense?
We’ll never know.
But that’s the beauty of life. We’ll never know his story, but we will always have this one image that reminds us of this student we have never seen, reminds us of the possible stories that unraveled in our minds from just looking at this strong, lonely pair of boots.
Maybe the image reminds us of our own stories. Of how sometimes we ourselves feel strong, competent, ready to take on the world . . . until we retreat to our rooms, where loneliness creeps in the shadows of the corners of the room.
For those who believe that the image is just a pair of boots, you’re right. It is.
But what if it was so much more than just a pair of boots?