Feet on the Ground

I just finished Nora Ephron‘s book, I Feel Bad About My Neck, a.k.a. “I Hate My Neck”. Omg, I hate my neck too: “You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn’t have to if it had a neck.” (p.5)  I actually used to feel kind of proud of my long neck, but be forewarned – a long neck is a definite disadvantage as one puts on the years. Can’t say I’m exactly fond of my other, gravity-responsive body parts either.

But, I love my feet.  Pedicures & foot massages, aahh… have you noticed that they’re also a body’s main temperature control organ? Feet don’t sag (or at least we’re too far above them to observe that very often); they don’t seem to have fat cells that (unlike the belly) become noticeable anytime we eat a sinfully delicious food (i.e., bucheron goat cheese); we don’t have to look at them too often in the mirror unless we’re trying on new shoes; &, they’re in the perfect location for fun (& of course utilitarian) accessorizing (i.e. new shoes).

AND – they’re our special human primate bipedal walking paws.  One of the big mysteries of human evolution is what aspects of natural selection were at work when our ancestors started moving around upright more often, on their two hind limbs, in the trees & then, on the ground (& maybe in boggy water too).  Because bipedalism is what eventually allowed for so many of the features that are hallmarks of the human primate we are today: use of our other two limbs to carry food & babies & to manipulate tools; symbolic language; ‘underdeveloped’ neonates & the necessity of assisted birthing, etc etc.

There are numerous narratives about why our ancestors moved out of the trees.  A common thread in most of these theories is that our primate ancestors were responding to a changing environment by literally moving into an unexploited environmental niche where they could take advantage of resources both in the (shrinking) forests as well as on the edges of the forests.

Eventually, over the course of about 4 million years of evolution, our fully bipedal ancestors of about 2 million years ago walked on highly functional & much modified feet linked (via correspondingly but it seems to me not-quite-so-advanced ankles & knees) with their longer legs, realigned hips, & a curved spine which now held the head comfortably in an upright position.  The big toe (hallux), which functioned & looked like a grasping thumb in our common ancestor with chimpanzees, now held a key role as an organ of propulsion for this significantly more energy-efficient mode of primate locomotion.  Our ancestors’ feet & legs were apparently already pretty much like they are today by the time their evolution took the leap toward larger brains & eventually, toward language & symbolic reasoning.

So where does this leave our beloved feet, in this precious moment?  Speaking for myself, I’m thankful when they’re working properly, & agonize when they’re not.  There are ancient medical disciplines entirely focused on the foot (& hand).  In order to distinguish between classes, Chinese culture for a while uniquely went in the direction of binding female feet such that walking was nearly impossible.  In the marketplace, we vote with our feet (although now increasingly with computer-aided forelimb digits), &, speaking again for myself, I take great strides (accompanied by many naps) toward trying to maintain balance & stay grounded in difficult times.

Right now, I’ve got my new boots on & they’re (you guessed it) – made for walking.

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6 Responses to Feet on the Ground

  1. Tony Gonzales says:

    Greetings from Chula Vista, CA I love the blog. I read it for the first time last week when you responded to the Cleveland luncheon invitation. I love your wit, and your use of the language is amazing, but you always were brilliant! I love to write too, but I would be embarrassed to ever write again after reading your blog. After 17 years of teaching in elementary classrooms, and 20 years as a school principal, my claim to fame has to be my ability to write a great teacher’s evaluation and a Comprehensive School Site Plan. I am glad to be retired and to have the time to read your most enjoyable blog.

    • liveoaklinda says:

      love hearing from you, tony, & so glad you’ re enjoying the blog! i’d be happy to be able to write a great school site plan & i’m sure you were a terrific teacher & principal. what are you doing these days? all the best – linda

      • Tony Gonzales says:

        Hello Linda:
        I got tired of the superintendent pushing the principals for higher test scores and wanting us to cut social studies and science out of the curriculum to focus on math and language arts. So, for my last four years I resigned my principalship and returned to the classroom to teach third grade. What a joy! After 13 years of teaching, and 20 years observing teachers, I knew what to do and how to do it.
        I taught for three years then I contracted pneumonia on a flight to Orlando to visit three of my TEN grandchildren. I ended up in the hosiptal in intensive care for 40 days while in an indused coma. When I got out I couldn’t walk and I lost the use of 50% of my right lung. I was 59 yrs old at the time and I had a year of sick leave. So, I took my year of sick leave and then retired at age 60 on July 1, 2009.
        I am truly enjoying my reitrement. I have ten grandchildren spread out in Arizona, Las Vegas, Orlando, New Hampshire and L.A. My wife of 39 years just retired in June and so we are enjoying road trips to Arizona, Nevada and South Pasadena to visit our four grandchildren that live within driving distance. Additionally, we are Mormon and my wife and I are currently serving a mission for our Church here in Chula Vista. We are serving as advisors to adults who are working in an online program for Brigham Young University, Idaho. These are adults over 30 who never finished college. It is a real joy after dedicating my life to children for 40 years to be working with adults who want to finish their education in spite of all that they are doing as spouses, parents, grandparents and working.
        How I have been blessed! I actually blued-lined on the operating table three times in the hospital. I received a blessing from our Bishop in the hospital when I was unconscious, but my wife said that he said that I had a lot of work still to do on the Earth and that I was subject to God’s time. Well, I am still here, trying to make the most of my time. I didn’t mean to write a book, but I am blessed to have a wife who has been dedicated to me for almost 40 years, and who is my best friend. Now you have to tell me what’s happening in your life outside of the blog. Yes, I remember your freckles, your long straight blond hair and your infectious smile. You were adorable. Mike Albanese was a lucky man!

        Tony

  2. Donna Maurillo says:

    I never give much thought to my feet, unless I need a pedicure. I don’t have foot problems (except for the occasional flare-up from my Morton’s neuroma), but otherwise… my size 9s are perfect for propulsion. In fact, they’re ideal if the boat engine breaks down because I can paddle beautifully with my tootsies. At 5’5″, I am way too short for the size of my feet. In fact, when I stand sideways, I look like an L-bracket. Well, except for the boobs I was blessed with from both sides of my family.

    But talk about necks. I understand why Katharine Hepburn, she of the aristocratic neck and the finely chiseled jawline, finally started wearing nothing but turtlenecks. So it is with me. My closet is brimming with turtlenecks, or V-necks. Why V-necks? Because if I can distract with my cleavage, they won’t notice the little rings forming around my neck, telling my age as surely and accurately as those in a redwood tree.

  3. Pingback: Maybe It Was The Sashimi… | the everyday primate

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