second heart

by tobias crabtree


a friend of mine told me that in her culture the word for foot is translated as “second heart”. oh i just love that so much. what a wonderful way of talking about the feet. it is so incredibly telling.

my feet are cracked and calloused all the time. i believe in being barefooted. there are very few things that connect me to my humanness more than running barefoot on a trail. it is such an ancient thing to do. you can’t just slam your feet around like you do when you’re wearing shoes, you must give attention to the path upon which you run. and what a perfect lesson for me…it’s so perfectly fitting. when i’m careless, i step on a cactus (i have several times), or i stub my foot into a rock. when i’m mindful, the feet fall where i put them; i notice every nuance of the path. i am a better animal.

my mama’s feet hurt her all the time now. they have arthritis in them and she walks in her pretty shoes and they hurt. i love going home, making my ma sit in a chair, and rubbing her feet. i love making her little bones move around and seeing the smile on her lovely face. she never complains about her feet, but i can see how they hurt her; so i rub them.

the earth remembers our passing; our feet touch the earth more than any other part of our body. and so the connection. the second heart. there is the heart up in our chest that is caged in ribs and bound about by muscle, covered with skin. that heart is carrying our blood out to our fingers and our brains and our toes. it is that faithful ol’ muscle than starts working for us when our tiny body begins to form in the belly of our mother and continues to keep time with the rhythm of our life until, when we breathe our last breath, we die. this is our heart.

then there is the second heart; our faithful feet. they carry us through the world. they hold our weight. they are the foundation of our uprightness. mine are only beautiful to me. the nails no longer grow back on my big toes because of all the times i’ve smashed them doing various things (i’ll spare the details). some of the cracks in my toes never go away and they grow bigger in the dry sand of the desert. my feet are scraped by coral and cut by rocks. they are mine.

and these paths we walk are the language of our feet. they are our signature and a sign of our passing. i love to think about all the footprints i’ve left behind me. there they are, spilled out like pepper on the kitchen floor. when i was 2 years old, they were tiny and unsteady. when i was 16, they spoke of self consciousness and rambunctiousness. when i was 25, they lead to the bars and parties. when i was 30, they ran in boots through sand and they did whatever the sergeant told them to do. when i was 33, they walked the paths in Torres del Paine and climbed the rocks. when i was 40, they ran miles in the deserts and slept with me in the caves. when i was 44, they lifted a broken heart and did not set it down until it healed. tonight they hum beneath my sleeping bag and wait for anything under the sun. should i run for my life in the night, my feet will be there. when i wake to make coffee, they will carry me to the kitchen.

and my mind is the spark and my soul is a little blue kite on the end of a tether and my feet touch the world and the world calls me her own. and the world knows my hearts.