This week I have been reading a wonderful batch of letters that my college students wrote. The letters weren’t addressed to me, but I have had the honor of reading them. The letters were written for their feet.
You read that right. Their feet.
I would classify the letters as those of the love variety. Feet, after all, are marvelous. The students expressed such gratitude for the steps they have taken throughout their lives, steps in the most literal sense of the word. My students admitted neglecting their feet, shoving them in ill-fitting shoes, failing to rest them when they were in pain, etc. One student said that perhaps it was because her feet were so far away and hard to reach that she rarely paid attention to them. Feet are marvelous, but easy to take for granted.
In class, we spent some time learning about the anatomy of the foot and the students were given the assignment to massage their feet three times during the week and then of course there was the written assignment. After reading their delightful letters, I decided to write my own.
You have never been pretty. In fact, you have always been wrinkly, even when I was a child. Like my hands, you look like you belong to someone who is 20 years older. Plus, you develop these tremendous cracks, especially in the wintertime. Now might be a good time to mention that they hurt. Sometimes a lot.
When I was younger I would have dreams. Similar in flavor to those nightmares that many people have when they appear naked in a public place; in these dreams I would suddenly realize that you, my feet, are bare when they shouldn’t be. Like, I am in a court of law or in a bank or some place where it would be inappropriate for you to be bare. Ironically, in my professional life, I rarely enclose you in shoes. When I teach my dance classes you are free to touch the floor, to articulate, to let your toes wiggle. When I give a massage, you also get to feel the connection to the floor without those middlemen, the shoes, getting in the way.
Admittedly, you are aesthetically challenged. But I have never let that get in my way. I am used to people saying “ouch” in sympathy when they look at the cracks on your heels. Despite the pain that you cause me, I appreciate you because you get me where I want to go. We have gone many places together and there are many more places in our future. But my favorite part of our relationship is the dancing. I can’t thank you enough for that.
I know that you are made up of scores of bones: tarsals, metatarsals and phalanges, but I experience you often as just one big unit. After standing on a tennis ball or getting you massaged, I am always amazed to discover how supple you can be. It is truly a marvelous feeling. I promise to do that more.
There is so much for which to thank you. You let me feel the ground beneath me, which is no small thing. It is through you and your constant connection with the earth that I find balance.