There’s an old sycamore tree where I live. It’s branches reach so high into the air that it seems to touch the clouds. In summer, shards of light creep through the tree to the ancient bark below.
The tree is not notable because of its beauty. It’s notable because it’s filled with shoes. Small baby shoes hang from the low branches, giant adult shoes sway from up high. All of the shoes twist and turn in the wind. The tree looks like a wind chime which never makes a sound.
I took some visitors to see the tree. In broken English they asked “why is it filled with shoes?” I had no answer. In truth it was the last question I’d expected, although it was the most obvious.
Why was the tree filled with shoes? Why a tree? Why shoes? For years I’d known about the tree, it’s existence never troubled me. It had always been there. It had always been filled with shoes. I never asked the question “why?” Just being there was enough of an answer. It was filled with shoes because it was filled with shoes. It existed because it existed.
I was pressed for an answer, the visitors wanted to know why. So I thought about it. What would make a person throw their shoes into a tree?
There’s an old bridge in Kiev. It’s weathered planks float high in the air. In summer, shards of light creep through the trees to the aged structure below.
The bridge is not notable because of its strength. It’s notable because it’s filled with padlocks. Small white ribbons wave from either side of the bridge, giant strong locks rust in the middle. All a message of love. The bridge is a dedication to hundreds of girls from their Ukranian boyfriends. “I love you.”
I went to visit the bridge. In perfect English I asked my guide “why is it filled with locks?” She had an answer. In truth it was the first question she expected, it was the most obvious.
Why was the bridge filled with locks? Why a bridge? Why locks? For years men had been coming to the bridge. It had always been there. It had always been filled with locks. They never asked the question “why?” Just being there was enough of an answer. It was filled with locks because of love. Men would come from miles around to add to the bridge, their name and the name of their girl engraved on the lock, a symbol of their eternal love. The bridge existed because it needed to exist.
I pressed my guide for more, needing to know why. She thought about it. Why would these men add a lock to the bridge?
She answered. “Sometimes it’s hard to say something. Sometimes you don’t even know what to say. So sometimes you just do.”
I thought about this. “But why do we do?”
She shrugged, she was just a tour guide, not a philosopher. “We just do!”
Sometimes there doesn’t need to be a reason. Some things exist simply because they exist. Sometimes we just do.