12A - I don't actually recall what I thought the first time I drove south from West Lebanon, New Hampshire, on route 12A. Maybe that it was going to be a long th...
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Gnarly Grown-Up Feet
Kids grow up here with tan, tough callused summer feet. Feet that have built tolerance to stones, to hot pavement, to dew wet morning grass, to oyster shells in shallow, brackish water. I did not wear shoes from the time school got out in June until after Labor Day when we had to go back. Until I bought a skateboard, but that's another story.
For the past couple months I've been carrying around Robert Hass's book "Sun Under Wood." It's the fourth or fifth time I've read it. I'm not sure why I started carrying it this time, except that sometimes books speak to me from my bookshelf. Hass speaks to me fairly frequently.
When Hass wrote "Sun Under Wood," or at least parts of it, his marriage was ending or had ended. He knocked the crap out of me with this from, "Regalia for a Black Hat Dancer,"
Walking down to Heart's Desire beach in the summer evenings
of the year my marriage ended--
though I was hollowed out by pain,
honeycombed with the emptiness of it,
like the bird bones on the beach
the salt of the bay water had worked on for a season--
such surprising lightness in the hand--
I don't think I could have told the pain of loss
from the pain of possibility,
though I knew they weren't the same thing.
The pain of loss and the pain of possibility. And not being able to tell the difference. Shit. That hits like rocks in the gut. And I think of a statement I have heard from more than a few folks, "It sucks to be a grown up."
Sometimes it does.
As we grow up we put on shoes in the summer. Our child feet go soft, lose their tan, lose their feeling. They forget what cool mud feels like between the toes on a sweaty summer day. Men's feet get pointed in wingtips and women's get deformed by high heels. Runners' feet lose toenails and earn blisters, hikers' feet can't wait to be freed around the campfire. I have horrible, gnarly feet, though my Clark's and running shoes are comfortable. Mine are feet that used to not flinch walking across a gravel parking lot. Feet so shoes-pale you'd never know they were once tan, tucked under the hiking strap of a Laser or pulling a Whaler up on a beach worth exploring
Maybe shoes are our downfall. Maybe that's where we start to lose touch. Maybe shoes in the summer are the end of our innocence. Maybe we would do well to fight them off with everything we have, to feel the grass, sand, mud, oyster shells at any cost. What shoes are worth not being able to tell the pain of loss from the pain of possibility? Cripes, man!
What do we do, Hass? Hey, leave the man alone. He's just a poet trying to live his life. Why would he know anything we don't.
There was a thick old shadowy deodar cedar by my door
and the cones were glowing, lustrously glowing,
and we thought, both of us, our happiness had lit the tree up.
Happiness. Even after loss? Even after shoes? Yep. Happiness. It's still there for grown ups. It's still there after innocence. It's still there after mistakes, missteps, regrets and the summer feet fading. The kind of happiness that lights up trees.
That's good. Because I think my summer feet are beyond repair. They look better in shoes. Though I'm not afraid to put them bare in the mud, or the sand, or the dew wet grass.