You will take over 200 million steps in your lifetime. Imagine if your feet could narrate a travelogue, report miles and destinations, when they are at rest, and injuries they may have sustained. What would they say?
They dance and run, burrow in sand, hold you in mountain pose. Your feet connect you.
Your feet track memories, record the spot beneath them while your mind and heart merge to make lasting impressions. Fred Astaire said, “I just put my feet in the air and move them around.” What joy our feet can give us, dancing in happiness. Feet are even referenced in War and Peace, “And each time he looked at his bare feet, a lively and self-satisfied smile passed over his face. The sight of those bare feet reminded him of all he had lived through and understood during that time, and he found that remembrance pleasant.”
You may simply view your pair as extremities to get you where you want to go. But have you ever taken a good look at your feet ? Do you notice how they may have changed, perhaps from having a chubby pair as a kid to one now that is slimmer, with longer toes, a narrower arch, or maybe spread wide with age? Your conscious observation of intricate details—shape of the toes, alignment of digits, the sculpted curve of the arch, even the haphazard maze of wrinkles—reveal your story. The evolution of your feet and its characteristics bear witness to the places you have been, the years you have lived, and the connections you have made.
My new book due out June 19, Under the Birch Tree, a memoir of discovering connections and finding home spans three decades of my life, stories where connecting to persons, places and things, through my travels gets me to finding my place to be, my home.
My story speaks to the lasting impressions starting from my first day of kindergarten when Mom dressed me for success in a navy dress, patterned in tiny white polka dots, with an appliqué of paint brushes and an artist’s pallet in primary colors at the hem. My chubby feet were the center of my attention because they were crammed into blood red Mary Janes where Mom struggled to pull the strap just to the first hole on the buckle. But I maintained my uncomfortable composure anyway while standing still with my feet together and my hands folded in front posing for my picture to be taken in the front yard under bright sun. I greeted the shine overhead with a squint in my eyes while my heels brushed against the yellow marigolds in full bloom, diminishing my uneasiness. The scene created memories of summer warmth and smiles with a palette of blooms surrounding me while my feet were firmly planted on solid ground beneath them. This was where I started. This was my home, my beginning.
Over the years, my little chubby feet evolved to wider foot stances, albeit still small. Whether walking, running or bike riding, my busy feet and I developed a desire for adventure and in turn, created self-confidence. My growing feet, commensurate with maturity, took me to places outside my comfortable perimeters when I left Chicago, my home town, for a new city known for its beauty, San Francisco. Traipsing my new place for hours resulted in sore feet, reminding me I had enough, for just a short while to take care of the very vehicles that enabled me to create new memories. Idle feet enabled me to absorb the present moments, the sensual details, the smell of the Bay water, the whirl of inline skaters, witnessing the love of outdoors shared by many, succumbing to the sun’s warmth atop my head and shoulders. And then onward my feet would go after a respite, treading the new earth, to make discoveries in parts unknown, and in myself where I would learn to connect back to home in a myriad of ways.
I refer to feet merely as a metaphor for the vehicle that is inherent with all of us to create life stories. Our feet lead us through travels in our lives where we feel pain or happiness from heart and mind all the way to the bottoms, the soles.
So when I strap my bare feet in a pair of sandals, instead of red Mary Janes, I am reminded of where I have been, how I have lived and where I am about to go, reminiscent of my starting point with heels pressed against marigolds while standing in sunshine. I smile at the anticipation of knowing what is yet ahead for me. And that memory, is indeed, pleasant.
Oh, the places I will go.