Sunday, 17 May 2015

Footprints

In this time of transition, I came across these 25 minutes of continuous writing from 23rd April, 2011…




My fascination with footprints, walking and leaving no trace, the photo of our footprints, mine and Simone's side-by-side, hers sharp and indented, long walking across the wet sand, mine barely visible - do I exist on this earth?

When you were small you would bury your feet in the sand - the sensation of burrowing so vivid between your toes.  You liked to think your legs began at the ankles.  Long and lean and strong, you could tolerate them.  But your feet: so misshapen and flat and long and ugly.  You couldn't bear them.  Not strictly true. In fact you felt a sad compassion for the hideous creatures but were ashamed of them nonetheless and preferred to hide them in the sand when anyone else might be looking.  Feet buried in mud-coloured sand, staring out to sea, out through the green-grey breakers, out to the water home of mysterious dangerous creatures. Through the first three breakers you would play.  Yes, it was rough and somewhat dangerous.  A mistaken leap onto a wave would send you through its power, rolling and roiling, no air possible in the inescapable circling until it rolled you to shore, forcing your face into the gritty sand as a final warning before it washed out, its power temporarily spent.  You stood on your ugly feet, water foaming at your ankles, spitting the sand from your mouth, gasping, grasping air as those who had witnessed your aquatic clumsiness howled with laughter. Wounded, you turned to shout something at them, drowned out by the waves still roaring in your ear.  Your ripostes as a nine-year old were never very elegant, and this wasn't your clever language, so the howling mockery escalated.  It wounded you that people's response to your fear was laughter.  But their response to your pain was silence, to turn away and blank it from their map of existence.

You never understood why your feet were so ugly.  Both your parents had such handsome, elegant feet.

Nearly thirty years later those feet were treading around a gompa outside Dharamsala.  Mindfully treading, aware of each passage of weight through each articulation.  Your heel lands, then there is the wobble through your arch, out then in then out again as your synapses catch their balancing, then the spreading through the ball as some tendon or ligament clicks to a new place and the toes spread wide as another heel lands ahead.  This is the first time it occurs to you as conscious thought:  I walk and leave no footprints.  I leave no print upon this earth.  Do you mind?  This weightlessness, this passing on, passing on, passing through.  Will your feet ever find a place to plant?

The moon is full and the monkeys are somewhere in the trees beyond you in the dark.  It is chilly under the moon as you mindfully tread around the gompa, practising your walking meditation until the next teaching.  You travelled to India under a full moon and this is your first full-moon since you abandoned your last and most failed attempt at planting.  All of you came with that uprooting; nothing is left.  How many moons before you find a place to plant or a way to keep walking, sustaining, leaving no footprints?  The night is quiet and cold and the moon is high and bright.  You feel peace as you tread, tread, tread in your circles around the gompa.  For now it is enough just to tread under the moon.  It will not always be.

Your feet are not so ugly now.  You have grown grateful for the service they have rendered you, the miles they have walked, the seas they have swum.  They have faithfully travelled through sorrow and injury and flashes of joy.  They are worn and strong and fragile and it is many years since you took to taking their portraits on your journeyings, photographic proof you had walked these landscapes with no one to witness.


2 comments:

  1. lucy.. how well you write and bring back memories of your footprints here...

    how are you?

    do read when you have the time: www.nakulasomana.wordpress.com


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    1. Thank you Nakula. I'm well, coming back soon. I look forward to reading you. Lx

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