I am grateful for feet. Grateful for the way feet have a hard outer layer that gets thicker the more you go barefoot. I’m grateful for the practicality of feet, for the way they transport and support me, for the fact that they can be beautiful and useful, like Danish furniture.
When I look at feet, I think, Who invented them? What designer would have created ten digits, big-to-little, five per foot? What designer would have then copied the design to hands?
Our bodies are bizarre yet familiar. We could have looked like dogs, and we have most of the same parts as dogs. They have feet and toes, although we came up with other words for them. Paws and what? What is a dog’s toe called? It’s not a claw. That is a dog toenail.
And in the realm of smells I like, I have to add doggy paws to the list. Salami, pickles, roasting garlic, anything sweet or doughy in the oven, and dog paws. They smell salty, like corn nuts on a road trip. And oddly, Fritos. (Odd because dog paws are a kind of free toe.)
And I vacillate between loving my practical, pragmatic foot, hard-soled, good for padding around the back patio, and loving a soft heel, filed and tenderized by lotion. I tip-toe on damp garden soil to check the progress of cosmos seeds and small marigolds and larkspur, aware of the foot’s magical power to repel the mud that otherwise presses itself into the grooves of a shoes’ soles and gets deposited back in the house. No, feet soles are smooth and sleek and almost immune to goatheads. Almost.
On a bus ride from Delhi, India to Agra, I sat on the console shelf of a luxury bus liner, up in the cab with the driver, his assistant, and five others hitching what we thought was going to be a normal, air-conditioned bus ride to the Taj Mahal. We folded our bodies into a small space for so many, although the space seemed spacious, surrounded as it was on three sides by wide contoured glass. I pulled my bare feet up to cross my legs in a Zen-inspired tortured, deprived, pained position. Several hours sitting in a pretzel shape up high with a 270-degree view of Indian highways—monkeys and tigers and elephants on chains and flame-throwers, women selling tea in small clay cups that you toss out the window when you’re done, and fields of blooming marigolds.
But before I could settle in, the bus driver and his assistant flipped out when they saw the bare soles of my feet (bared my sole). The men shouted in high voices and waved their hands, pointed to my feet and then to the Hindu goddess who sat silent and dignified on the dashboard, a garland of marigolds wrapped so many times around her I could barely make out her face.
The men muttered words of doom—”Now we’re going to crash on account of your Zen feet, your American tendency towards immodesty and insult…” (no, really, I only imagine that’s what they said)—and in the way I’m quick to correct my offenses, I dropped my feet, slipped them into the pink Italian leather shoes I’d worn on the trip, and sat side-saddle on the ledge of the console, aware that feet, toes, and legs are appendages that I’m used to flopping around, like a purse or a scarf or a stray arm. And to hold them in one spot, ladylike and proper, was almost like having my ankles tied. No feet, no freedom.
-related to post WRITING TOPIC — FEET & TOES