21 Day Body Love Challenge – Knee Deep

Upside down

“Ankles are nearly always neat and good-looking, but knees are nearly always not.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

I love my knees. That is to say I love what they can do and how long they have lasted without much ado. I am not a fan of how they look so much. Knees in general are not often the objects of ardor. They’re like ears, functional and little odd looking and we’re all super glad we have them but don’t often flaunt them.

As a child I could not be tethered to the indoors. Once called in from playing outside for dinner I would sit with one foot pointing toward the door, half off the chair, ready to bolt back to my game of tag or baseball or throwing locusts at each other. Dinner was for adults, I was in, I was out.

With tree climbing, roller skating down slides, hanging upside down on monkey bars and swings and riding my bike really, really fast, my knees didn’t stand a chance. There was always something healing, bandaged, covered in Bactine, bruised or freshly scraped. Often all of the above at once. My father was an artist and for my 8th birthday he made me a card – almost life sized. It was a caricature of me that he had strung a tiny diamond heart necklace on. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt – matching Danskin blue and white, if you must know – and on each elbow, knee and shin were band-aids. The gift came with the caveat, “Do not wear this outside.” Well then, where should I where it? Around the house in my finest pajamas? It lasted 2 weeks. Gone. He really should have known better.

At some point in my childhood I realized I walked a little pigeon-toed, my mother as well. My father, with his high ideas about beauty, probably mentioned some misgiving about our less than parallel feet. I took this as something that needed correction. I began to walk like a duck to overcorrect. It worked mostly and my feet are now both pointing in the same direction, but in the process I rearranged the cartilage in my knees producing a relief map of the Utah desert. Flat land punctuated by mesas and phallic rock formations. They look like they should hurt, but they don’t, they’re just interesting.

They have never given me issues, other than being skinless for my first 20 years or so, until this past February. I asked too much of them. I put them on a nine hour flight to London, then walked them for 48 hours straight so that I could see absolutely every last crevice, crack and castle before heading off to India for 2 weeks. Mr. Right Knee was very argumentative that first day, he warned me. He said, take the tube, or a cab, or just sit a while. I didn’t listen, I rarely do, but I am learning. For two weeks in India I limped along, barely able to do yoga in the mornings – and it was a yoga trip – and wincing hiking up and down hills, but I soldiered on. Recovery would have to wait until I returned home.

He’s better now,  Mr. Right Knee, but he’s a little disappointed in me. I know now that my body parts only have my best interests at heart. During the whirlwind in London I had a great time, but it’s the moments I was still that I remember feeling like I was THERE. I must have taken 45 pictures of Big Ben, almost all from the same angle, in an effort to absorb it, to ground myself to that time and place. That’s all Mr. Knee wanted. He wanted to rest and he wanted me to get it. I do.

The knee with its complicated system of ligaments and tendons, cartilage and plates and shifting this and floating that is both vulnerable to serious injury and incredibly strong. Its life can be altered or snatched away with a single wrong move, but it can also carry us forward, keep us upright, bend in proposal and fold under us in prayer. It is an appropriate and beautiful metaphor for life itself. And it deserves the same attention and care.

Life is messy. My knees are messy. And while I may not appreciate their aesthetics, I truly love their endurance and strength. I love my silly knees with their extra layer of protection on the inside and their craggy terrain on top. They’ve got a face only a mother could love and I’m that mom.

“I run like I have cirrus clouds for legs and rainbow knees. What is  life, if not a marathon of love?” – Jarod Kintz


21 Day Body Love Challenge – Happy Feet

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“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” – Khalil Gibran

I love my feet.

As I look at my bare feet I see evidence of a life lived outdoors. Currently I have two faint thin stripes that indicate where my flip flops should be, my toes are a happy pink, my heels rough and hard despite many pedicures and there are two tiny pale ovals on each foot at the base of third and fourth toes. These elicit some of the best memories.

As a child, I was a fish. Ocean, lake, river, creek, bathtub or pool, water was my habitat. Once in, good luck getting me out. That 10 minute break each hour at the public swimming pool to allow adults time to swim was probably designed because of me. I just didn’t see the point of leaving the water. I did summersaults, handstands, walked on my hands, kick turns, cannonballs, dove, jumped, splashed and, on occasion, swam. While completing these amazing feats of agility I often scraped my feet on the rough floor of the pool – they weren’t so smooth back then – removing the first layer of skin on the joints of my toes and on the tops of my feet. And because I never got out of the water, I’d do it over and over and over again. Then come back the next day and continue the process. It never hurt, not even a little.

A bit older, but none the wiser, I was wading in a freezing cold creek in Virginia sans shoes, of course. My foot slipped on a mossy rock and landed on a broken bottle. It didn’t hurt, my feet were numb, but I knew something was amiss. I limp-walked my way over to my mom without ever looking at my foot, blindly leaving a trail of blood along the way. As I presented her with my foot and the question, “Is there something in it?” she gasped then quickly recovered pretending it wasn’t a big deal, but we should probably have someone look at it. Like a doctor. In a hospital. A steamy hot older man, probably 16 or 17, was summoned and I was whisked away like a princess in a fairy tale to my pumpkin that resembled a Pontiac LaMans a little too closely. All aglow I lay down in the back seat with my foot elevated as I waved so long to my handsome prince. Today, I am now the proud owner of a thick scar on the bottom of my right foot which always produces concern, then questions during reflexology.

The take-away was not to exercise caution when in nature with unbound feet, but rather; being rescued by handsome prince was everything Disney had promised.

My toes have always been long and thin, even when the rest of me was anything but. And I love them for that. They have been shoved in many pointy shoes with heels high and low, set aloft on ridiculous platforms, allowed to wiggle huddled in clogs and pressed against the sides of running shoes, but they are happiest when they are free. In general my feet have resisted captivity since I was very young, preferring instead to endure the occasional bee sting and extra tetanus booster.

My feet have taken me all the way around Central Park in New York. They’ve walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and down past the twin towers, both when they were there and they were not. They’ve walked through deserts and streets in India, played in the crystal clear water of Jamaica and the Virgin Islands and walked along the Thames in London. They’ve been barefoot on the beaches of Rhode Island, Cape Cod, Long Island, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, nearly the entire coastline of Florida and much of California.

There’s almost nowhere these feet won’t go and for that I love them. I love their courage and tenacity. I love their ability to tip toe, walk and even run. I love how they love to dance. And I love that they hit the floor every morning awaiting instructions, ready to go wherever I ask them to.

Thank you, feet, you’re the best.

And it’s not just my feet that are awesome. It’s yours too. A full one quarter of all the bones in the body are in the feet and ankles. 33 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. Feet provide the body with support. If you’ve ever hurt your foot you know it can throw the entire body off kilter. Hips out of alignment, back pain, even headaches can befall the owner of unhappy feet.

Energetically the feet are related to the root chakra; our home of security and stability, our foundation. Makes sense.

Feet  even play a role in history and religion. Recently Pope Francis shocked the world by washing the feet of inmates at a juvenile detention center. It is a great show of humility and service to wash another’s feet. In the yoga tradition, kissing or touching the feet of the guru symbolizes bowing, not necessarily to the physical guru in front of you, but rather the guru within.

Today, honor your feet. Massage them, get a pedicure, thank them. Stick them in the sand or mud or on a plush carpet of soft grass or a real plush carpet. Appreciate them and all they’ve been through with you and because of you.

Your feet are always there for you, ready and waiting to carry you forward. Where will they take you today?

“I still have my feet on the ground, I just wear better shoes.” – Oprah Winfrey