The other day my husband and I were sitting on the beach enjoying the beautiful day when he began to massage my foot. He studied it pensively, looked up at me and said, “These feet have walked a long way since you were a little girl,” a simple statement that grew increasingly profound as I contemplated it. “Yes,” I thought inwardly as I mentally skipped over my journey in life. As my mind flooded with memories of where those feet had actually been I began to wonder how the journey of my feet had affected me. Where had those feet taken me and where were they going next?
I was just wondering……..
There have been many metaphors about our feet and walking such as “walking the walk,” a statement about doing what we should be doing, or having someone “walk you through it” when they are showing you how to do something. Then there is “Don’t put your foot in your mouth,” meaning don’t say something you shouldn’t. Those of you who are old enough may recall the lyrics crooned by Nancy Sinatra about her “feet made for walking,” in this case to “walk right out on you.” All of these metaphors relate our feet to our behavior, or more precisely, define our feet as the instrument of our actions.
So, back to the beach…..Encouraged by my response to his query about my feet, my husband continued to give me fodder for this column I was already writing in my head. “Think of the feet on the battlefields,” he said “and the feet that walk in the ghetto,” as I wondered how the bodies of those feet absorbed those experiences. I returned to my own feet again, remembering how they used to feel in the freshly mown grass of my barefoot days as a child, how I screamed in pain when shocked by my first bee sting on my foot. I remembered running with the speed of a bullet to my grandmother’s house when I got a new pair of sneakers, thoroughly convinced they made my feet run faster. I recalled the gritty feel of the sand and the bumpy, painful rocks as I waded into the cold Lake Erie water and years later repeating that experience into the icy North Atlantic. I recalled with delight the memory of my father tickling those feet, much smaller then and much less worn.
I shifted then away from the physical sensations of my feet to the experiences those feet absorbed from their physical location back to my body. I remembered walking tentatively into my new high school at age 14 when my father’s job transferred us to a new town. I remembered 4 years of 100 plus steps to reach the main campus from my dorm at Ohio University and many ”side”-walks of college life throughout my tenure there. I remembered my first tremulous steps after the birth of my son and my years in Boston before his birth when my feet eagerly joined in the “love-ins” in Boston Common. I recalled the first step on the island of the Republic of Kiribati where the native children sat in wait, greeting us with a melodic, haunting melody that brought many of us to tears. Those feet stood strong in St. Mark’s square in Venice as, surrounded by pigeons, I drank in the wonder of that awesome setting. Those feet climbed the hill of the Parthenon while I was flooded with feelings for those who had lived before me, those who built those marvelous structures that still stand today. These feet have risen from illness and walked me back to health. They have overcome many obstacles with firm determination. They just kept moving along. They have trudged the hills of Thailand to mingle with the people of the hills and they have draped the sides of an elephant while thrilling to the wonder of an elephant camp. They have sailed the Amazon and walked the tiny villages with the rainforest natives on the rain soaked muddy shore, always to be grateful to be back home.
No, my feet have experienced neither a battlefield nor a ghetto, but they have had their share of challenges. It has not been “a walk in the park,” but nevertheless, one I would never want to miss. Each misstep was only an opportunity for growth and each correct step has been a gift for appreciation. I would not take another path if I could. You know what they say, most people would not want to walk in your shoes, but that’s okay with me, I’ll own my own, scuffs and all, as I plod on to my next adventure. Where will it take me? I don’t know, but I’m ready to learn more about life. That’s where my feet have been, deep in the trenches of humanity. They have affirmed to me that humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers’ quote, “What is most personal is most general,” is so true. No matter how different we may appear, we are basically all the same! Where have your feet been and what have you learned from your journey? I was just wondering…….