In my facebook newsfeed this past week was a friend’s photo of baby socks she had just purchased as she enters her eight month of pregnancy. Those photos, besides being so darn cute, also served as a reminder of the fragility of life. There is absolutely nothing cuter than little baby feet, except for maybe a baby trying to chew their feet. I often re-watch my son’s baby video in which he happily tried to put his foot in his mouth just to feel absolute momentary joy. Even when I didn’t like children, I loved baby feet. Yes, I do admit I didn’t like kids much way back when (well, five years ago). Anyway, baby feet are just plain old adorable but also somewhat saddening.
Have you ever seen the movie Mystic River for which Sean Penn and Tim Robbins each won an Academy Award? In it, Sean Penn’s character has a daughter that is murdered. When the cops find her body you see her feet pushed up against the wall, in a fetus-like position. Every woman who has been pregnant learns to track her baby kicks in the last trimester as an indicator the baby is alive and well. I eagerly waited for those alien-like kicks that tended to occur three seconds after I ate strawberries. The baby kick was life itself. Yet, when tragedy strikes a young one, the sight of those little feet exposed, lifeless and pale serves as a stark reminder of how fragile life can be. When we are all eventually brought to a morgue, a tag is placed on our toe to quietly announce who we were and that we have since left this realm.
Penguins showed us that feet can be happy as can be as they danced to boogie wonderland. And we have learned of humility by the washing of the feet. We can tell we have lost our nerve by our cold feet. We experience euphoria and believe in possibilities when we get our feet wet. As a baby starts to toddle the little feet bring countless new adventures that at times we have to protect them from.
One of the saddest things I have ever seen was the exhibit of hundreds of shoes at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. Such a powerful encounter to see shoes that were once walked in by someone whose life was cut short by such extreme horrific measures. The cruelty of humanity encased in a shoe. Recently, with the Boston marathon bombing, Time magazine featured running shoes in its cover in the shape of a heart with a caption reading “we will finish the race.” In this imagery, shoes were signaling perseverance.
We load our burdens onto our feet. We come home achy and tired. We start off with so much potential to become the sum of our environment.