I sat on my rock, my feet resting flat on the warm sand just inches from the lapping water of the lagoon. Usually, on my rock, which is inches above sea level, I slowly raise my eyes taking in the wide expanse of water watching for ripples that lay clue to what lurks beneath. When I spot a ripple, then I rest my eyes upon it and sometimes I’m rewarded by the sight of a waving fin or flash of silver. When I am satisfied that there is nothing more to see then I raise my eyes some more, seeking the next swirl, and so it goes on until I am looking at the horizon.
This morning it would have taken more than a ripple, more than a tsunami, to draw my eyes away from my feet.
I have long toes, pianist toes, I call them, and they are rather odd in shape. A couple of them have been smashed, which accounts for the lumps and bumps. I have lost a few toenails over the years; and boy, does that hurt when you kick something and lift one right off and there it lays on the deck smeared with blood. I don’t know which is worse, one pinging off completely or having it bent back at ninety degrees knowing that you must force it back down or rip it off and finish the job.
For many years I had a bad case of toenail fungus and the only person I ever met who had it worse was an Anguillian captain on whose boat I had the pleasure of racing. The open Anguillian race boats require bags of sand to keep them upright and the bags, along with half a dozen lead pigs, have to be heaved across the bottom boards when tacking. It was my job to help with the heaving and I was told to crouch in the bilge and be ready at any time. From the bilge there was nothing to see except ten pairs of gnarly feet hence my discovery of worse fungus than mine.
Verrucas I had as a kid, didn’t we all?
My feet look like an old pair of brown leather motorcycling gloves I owned long ago; supple, deeply grained but not quite split. Some of the cracks along the edges are deep enough to hold grains of sand. The veins running across the top resemble blue rivers that I imagine are flooded with saltwater and rum.
I nurture a life-long dislike of cutting my toenails that goes back to early childhood and a mother who would sit me on the edge of the table and have at them with kitchen scissors. Perhaps had I cut my nails more often, I wouldn’t have lost so many.
Working on a building site, I jumped off the scaffold onto a piece of wood with a nail in it. All three of us went to hospital.
Blisters? Mere trifles.
My feet have worn baby booties, wellington boots and boots with steel toecaps, snow shoes, winkle-pickers, chisel-toes, brothel creepers, cycling shoes, running shoes, waders, scuba fins, Crocs, bandages, sandals, flip-flops and, on a few occasions, stiletto heels. The history of our lives right there at our feet.
Bless your feet every day. They are a window on your life; they have walked you through history. They help you stand firm, move forward, or run away. They also stop your legs fraying at the end.