The Tree of Soles

March 06, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

I am a firm believer in peppering little personal creative projects in with my professional things. Photography is a major artform for me, and as a creative writer, I try to let photos tell a story. For this particular project, I wanted equal amounts of pictoral representations, as well as an actual storytelling experience. Hence, The Tree of Soles.

Many of the girls in my circle of friends have had huge, life-altering trials and tribulations in the last few years. Most recently, some very good friends of ours, Sarah O'Meara Bergeron & Brent Bergeron lost their infant son, Braxton Michael Matthew Bergeron. At 20 weeks she found out that Baby Braxton had Osteogenesis Imperfeca Type II, a lethal disease 100% of the time. Against professional advice, the Bergerons decided to carry the baby full-term. Every day they read to him, spoke to him, prayed with him and showered him with all the love in the world. When the delivery date came, August 17, 2012, doctors expected Braxton to live only minutes. To the medical world's astonishment, Braxton survived 7 hours, allowing his family and friends to meet him, hold him, and profess their undying love to him. his family read to him, cuddled with him, showered him with kisses, and sang him lullabyes. About 3 pm that day, Braxton transitioned into the spiritual world,  becoming the angel we always knew he would be. I don't think it's a coincidence that Braxton left this world at 3 pm on a Friday, the precise day and time Jesus went to heaven. The number three is seen by many as an important number, representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To read Braxton's full story from the view of his parents, visit http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/braxtonmichaelbergeron/journal. 

A couple of weekends ago while we were sitting around at Sarah's house, a friend told us about a very special tree located not far from their neighborhood. We learned about The Tree of Soles, a tree on someone's land, graciously dedicated to offer a place where people could physically leave something there, signifying the releasing of a burden or worry. Immediately, I wanted to photograph this tree! Sarah mentioned she'd like to come with a pair of Braxton's shoes and we decided to make it a special little trip with him in our hearts. Monday after work, Sarah and I, with little brown tiny shoes in tow, made our way to the tree. I have to admit, I had a lump in my throat upon driving up! To see a physical symbol of how many people had been there, just like us, to release some sort of worry or burden, hit like a stomach punch. It was melancholic, hopeful, and amazing all at the same time. Sarah and I walked over to the tree, read the sign describing the tree, and began to pour over every single shoe thrown or nailed to these trees. Sarah quietly and carefully picked a perfect branch for Braxton's shoes, and carefully placed them on the twigs. We stood there in awe, the only sound was the clicking of my shutter. I felt like I had to take as many photos as I could before sunset! We looked over all of the shoes, ballet shoes, cleats, boots, flip flops, sandals, pedicure sandals, hip waiters, high heels, boots, kid's shoes, adult shoes...even a pair of high tops with prosthetic legs in them! It was amazing! Upon leaving, we researched the tree and learned the three trees stand where one tree stood before, succumbing to damage of Hurricane Lily. To me, the three trees were the perfect number to make this little story come full circle as a place for healing. The three trees, along with a new sign still serves as a mecca of sorts for Acadiana people to make a short pilgrimage and leave a pair of shoes, some of their burdens and a little worry behind. Below is a slideshow of images for you to view! I hope you enjoy the photos and story as much as I loved telling it.



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