A lost sole in the desert

by Lorin Michel Friday, November 14, 2014 8:54 PM

Several years ago, I had an idea. It occurred to me in the night, as some of my most interesting ideas often do. I hastily scribbled it down on the paper next to my side of the bed and the next morning I approached Kevin. We had been toying with finding something to do together. I don’t remember why. We often do projects together, especially when related to the house. Actually, he does the project. I help. I’m not even remotely good at building anything but I’ve become remarkably adept at holding large pieces of wood steady as they travel through the table saw. I can also lay tile. We were looking for something more creative, something that would make use of both of our talents.

Kevin has long been involved in photography. Sometimes long stretches of time will flow between photos, but he loves it. It’s something that started when he was young. His father was involved in the Kankakee camera club; Kevin was, too.

He had a SLR camera, I think it was a Minolta. It shot film. This was before digital cameras were as accessible and affordable as they are now. Certainly it was before smart phones and the cameras they all possess, making the smaller digital cameras nearly obsolete.

Every weekend, we’d climb onto the motorcycle, the camera bag and its additional lenses packed into the saddle bag, and off we’d go. To Ojai, to Camarillo; east to Lake Hughes; up into the Angeles Crest forest. We mostly avoided freeways and stuck to canyons and other side roads. We preferred places that were somewhat away from society. We searched for shoes.

I had long been fascinated with the abandoned shoes that litter the roads. I always wondered, and still do, how one shoe ended up in a ditch, or just tossed along the roadside. Sneakers, dress shoes, boots, children’s sandals. It didn’t seem to matter type, style or size, adult or child. Shoes were and are everywhere. We called our project Lost Soles: Stories from the road. Kevin took photographs, often lying on the side of the road while I stood by and tried to look nonchalant so as not to alarm passers-by. Most of the time it worked. Often people who slow down and call out to make sure we were OK.

After the film was developed, we would decide on a photo and I would craft a back story for the shoe, turning it into a character. It wasn’t about where we found the shoe, but perhaps why the shoe was there.

We pitched the idea as a book and had some interest. I need to get back to it and re-pitch it as I still believe it has merit. The shoes become metaphors for others who are struggling. Lost soles are lost souls and vice versa.

Yesterday, Kevin was out at the new house. He parked his motorcycle half way up the drive because there were too many workers at the top and he’d have no place to turn around. He hiked the rest of the way up, and when he returned back something made him decide to investigate the area where two trucks have flipped over into the desert. The first was a small pickup hauling a load of dirt. The driver lost control, it slid through the curb, breaking it, and flipped, dumping its load of dirt. Naturally, we got a call.

The truck was righted by a small piece of equipment, and continued its work. The spilled load of dirt was lost.

Just a couple of weeks ago, another truck went over the side. It was carrying spools of electrical wire. The driver had stopped because a turtle was crossing in front of him. He got out to move the turtle, but he neglected to set the parking brake. The truck rolled back and flipped. He too was pulled to safety and the spools reloaded so that work could continue.

Kevin went to the scene of the crimes and found this:

Someone lost a shoe. It’s now a lost sole, alone in the desert. I don't yet know its story, but I know this much: it's living it out loud, serene and resolved in the surrounding beauty.

The reality of soul mates

by Lorin Michel Sunday, July 1, 2012 10:48 PM

A long time ago I read a book by Richard Bach titled The Bridge Across Forever: A love story. It was published in 1984, the year I graduated from college, and I was still a bit of a gooey romantic at that point. I read the book – about hope and love – on a trip to Maui several years later with first husband, Tim. Even then I wasn’t naïve enough to think that the wonder of the book would in any way translate to that relationship. We were already in a death spiral.

The book explores the meaning of fate and soul mates. It’s a bit of a fairy tale, albeit a modern day telling, based on the author’s relationship with the actress Leslie Parrish. Bach described it as a story about a knight who was dying and the princess who saved his life. Ultimately, it’s a riveting love affair between two fully human beings, a real life man and woman who are willing to explore time travel and other dimensions as they struggle with intimacy, commitment, smothering and whose turn it is to cook. When I read it, it gave me hope that true love and commitment were sustainable, even as my relationship was faltering. The story illuminated the idea of life’s soaring possibilities, of the perfect entwinement of two souls. Soul mates. It was a remarkable book, one I should probably read again just because I remember so little about it even though I remember the feeling it engendered.


Bach divorced the woman he wrote the book about after 22 years of marriage. Still, it made me wonder about the idea of soul mates, and if there is truly such a thing, or if we all just wish for it so badly that we make it so.

In ancient Greece, Plato had the playwright Aristophanes present a story of soul mates in a dialogue called The Symposium. The tale was simple: human beings originally had four arms, four legs and one head with two faces. Zeus, the father of all gods, feared the power of these humans and so he split them in half, separating them seemingly forever. These two halves were destined to spend their lives searching for the other half in order to find completion. Notice, however, there was no mention of their souls.

In theosophy, the Greek system of esoteric philosophy, God created androgynous souls, equally male and female and neither of which. These souls spent many lifetimes searching for their corresponding halves, that once found, would dramatically fuse back together and return to God or heaven or wherever they wanted to reside. Today soul mate usually refers to a romantic partner, one with whom we form an exclusive and lifelong bond.

Soul mates find each other and become kindred spirits. Sometimes it’s a romantic partnership, sometimes it’s a best friend. Soul mates are all about forming significant, lasting, deeply emotional relationships that teach you something about yourself. According to some, these relationships don’t even have to be long-term; they don’t have to have been positive in nature. But as long as these relationships teach us about ourselves, about how we can be better people, then we have made a soul connection.


I don’t entirely buy that description. I agree that many people come into our lives at various times to teach us things we need to know. And while the knowledge may be long-lasting, maybe even permanent, the relationship does not qualify as a soul relationship. By that definition, nearly everybody that teaches you something is a soul mate and I believe that cheapens and belittles the term. To me, a soul relationship is one that I can relate to at the deepest levels. Someone who has changed my life and is continuing to change my life.  My first husband was not a soul mate; my second husband is. We connect on every level. I am a better person because of him. I cannot say this of the husband before. I was a worse person because of him, and though I learned things about myself and about love in that relationship, it was not good. It was not a soul connection.

Kevin and I are those two halves spoken of somewhat in jest by Aristophanes. We are the two souls who needed to find one another to become one. We’re still our own people with our own minds, our own eccentricities, our own beliefs, but we’re better together than apart. He’s the laughter to my joke, the half ‘n half in my coffee, the cabernet to my sauvignon.

I have soul mates in my closest friends as well. People who have been in my life for nearly as long as I can remember; others who were in it once and have come roaring back. I am better because of these people. I learn things, I appreciate the teachings, the fun and the not-so-fun. We have soul connections. They make me feel. They are the chips to my dip.

I have these connections with members of my family, specifically my sister. We have very different lives, but she makes me a better person because she is a better person than I. I am better with her in my life. She is the calm to my storm.

My beloved Maguire, too, was a soul mate. Souls, if you believe in the idea of wandering the earth for lifetimes searching for the one who completes you, can come in many sizes, many forms. Maguire enriched my life in ways that are beyond description. He was the bark to my bite, the cheese to my cracker.  Which naturally leads to what happens when a soul mate passes on.

Connecting forever

According to Richard Bach, the connection remains as love transcends the concepts of physicality and time. It is about a truth, about bright hopes, beautiful dreams and magical possibilities. It is about building a bridge across forever. About living it out loud.

Lost Soles. On the curb in Ojai.

by Lorin Michel Saturday, November 12, 2011 11:14 PM

The story of a sole found on the road into Ojai. A Nike on the edge.

“I always wanted to be a potter. My father wanted me to be a cop. But all I wanted to do was art. I remember my first class when I was just six and in first grade. The teacher asked us to draw our family. Mine included my mom and dad, obviously, and my big brother Sam – he did become a cop – and our dog Rags. I also drew a table with a vase on it. The vase was the biggest part of the picture. My mother cried when she saw it. I don’t think my dad cared at all.

The 150 into Ojai almost to Gorham, on a Monday. 2:53 pm

“The only class I was ever good at was art. I damn near failed just about everything – algebra, algebra II, geography, US history – the only thing I did OK at was English and, well, art. My paintings were OK. But in my junior year of high school, the art department offered a pottery class. I’d never experienced anything like that. Digging into wet clay, forming it into a round blob and throwing it, literally throwing it, onto the center of a steel wheel. A spinning wheel! That clay could become anything I wanted it to become. A vase, a pot, a flat plate. I spent all my time on the wheel. I stopped going to other classes and I didn’t graduate from high school. My dad threw me out of the house, my mom cried. But I left willingly.

“I knew where I wanted to go. Ojai. They have a huge artist’s community, and one of my idols. Beatrice Wood. She’s dead. Of course. I know that. But she was one of the best when it comes to clay. I saw her once, in 1991, at a gas station. She was standing outside of this big black car, her gray hair all rolled up like a piece of clay waiting to be created. When she died, I wanted to go to the funeral. I didn’t because I couldn’t.

“I play in the dirt every day and wish it was clay.


“Someday, I’ll just do it.”

This Lost Soles’ story dictated on September 6.

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Lost Soles

Lost Soles: Stories from the road

by Lorin Michel Sunday, August 14, 2011 10:36 PM

Several years ago, Kevin and I had an idea to start photographing all of the shoes we saw on the sides of the roads we traveled. We saw them constantly and I had always wondered how they got there, where they came from, who they belonged to; who they were. Who they are. That’s the key. Each shoe has/had a story about who they are, as soles. We wanted to show and tell those stories.

Most people probably never notice but if you start to pay attention, the amount of shoes somehow lost and taking up residence on the canyons, freeways, side streets and more will astonish. It did us. We dubbed them Lost Soles and began to photograph them. Each weekend we would head out on the motorcycle, with the camera tucked safely in the saddlebag, on a ride to be sure but also on the hunt. Most days we would find at least one, some days we’d discover as many as 15, all with stories just waiting to be told. It was an adventure, one we still hope to turn into a book someday.

I thought I’d celebrate some of those photographs and stories here. Today is the first.

Deer Creek Road in Malibu, a Friday afternoon at 3:38 pm

This tan tennis shoe was nestled securely in a ditch on a winding road leading up from the glory of Pacific Coast Highway and into the hills above Malibu. The shoe had obviously been there for some time. It was dug in, permanent. It had no intention of giving up its view.

“This is where I belong, where I was always meant to be. I got here completely by accident, landing in this ditch on a windswept day. The sun was beating down; it was hot. I don’t know how it happened and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’m here. I’m no surfer dude. Sure, at one time, I had the looks. I was blonde, had the good form. But it was just a game, make believe. This is what’s real. This is my life. In this ditch surrounded by debris and sticks who have become my friends. They understand me. I’m an artist. I can feel the ocean; it completes me.

“I’ve made a home for myself here. It’s lonely, sure. Not that many people come by. I’m living on the north end of Malibu. It’s practically Oxnard. But it’s quiet, serene almost. It lets me breathe. I was so suffocated before, having to be something I wasn’t, having to perform. Here, I’m just me. Just a guy. No one expects anything of me and so I can simply exist. It’s so much easier. I can contemplate what life truly means.

“And what does it mean? I’m on my own; we’re all alone. What’s the old saying? We come into this world alone; we go out the same way. What makes it worthwhile is the view. What a friggin’ view I have.

“Tomorrow I’m thinking about going down to Neptune’s Net. I knew people there. Once.”

This Lost Soles’ story dictated on July 30. 

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Lost Soles

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