Lessons from the Bottom Soles
about my head. But with each stride forward, something shifts inside me. As the shadowy canvas of dawn morphs into the muted colors of daylight, I begin to notice the outline of wildflowers cheering me onward; hear the first calls of the nuthatches, chickadees, woodpeckers, and cardinals; spot a herd of deer quietly grazing in a nearby field. Once in a while, if I’m lucky, I see the wild turkeys’ freefall flight from their night perches overhead.
As I jog, all that “stuff” cluttering my mind disappears. In its place is an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I am alive to witness nature’s awakening. I have learned to pray on the soles of these feet. By the time I return home, I am at peace.
I remember one frosty morning in early January of 2002, jogging alongside the gaping hole where once stood the World Trade Center. I still taste the dust-filled air that reeked of cement powder, burning steel, and titanium; hear the continuous rumbling of trucks clearing away the debris; see the charred walls of adjacent buildings. Tears flowed freely as I ran on streets eerily quiet, dark, and empty save the thousands of Teddy Bears, candles, flowers, and notes left alongside the roped-off sidewalks. I skirted barricades and nodded to police officers, eventually winding my way down to the Hudson River. As I paused to look at the Statue of Liberty, I remember feeling as if a part of my heart would remain, always, in Manhattan.
Only now do I realize a part of Manhattan remains with me. For whenever I don shoes and step into an unscripted adventure at daybreak, I return forever changed by the community on whose streets I wander, the worlds I happen to explore.
This week I am watching the pink whisper of dawn stretching across crisp autumn skies from the confines of a recliner. My foot, pampered, protected, and spoiled over the years, throbs with pain. Wrapped in bandages and placed in a boot, that lowest extremity of my body that normally grounds me to the earth, is propped up on pillows to minimize swelling. It lies there, as if disconnected from the essence of my spirit.
I suppose the injury was self-induced, the result of participating in a running clinic allegedly designed to minimize injuries and reduce the stress on joints. I gullibly followed the instructor’s advice and purchased outrageously expensive shoes with no arch support and a metronome for pacing my stride. I changed the way I struck the pavement. Over time, neuromas—the thickening of tissue around the nerves leading to the toes—emerged in both feet. I purchased another pair of shoes, began cross training, rested, and took cortisone shots. Nothing relieved the pain slicing across the soles of my feet. Surgery was my last option. And while the doctor assures me I will run again, he says it is will be a while.
Jogging, that sacrosanct routine that has taught me so many life lessons, is now teaching me patience. Closing my eyes, I run my favorite routes from the chair, visualizing the breathtaking colors of autumn. And, just as when I physically jog, an idea magically appears.
This time of immobility is a gift. It is a time to shed all the heaping piles of responsibility I tend to place upon my shoulders. It is a time to read, write, and reflect on my life. On the table next to my chair, I place all my favorite books on meditation, prayer, poetry, and what BettyClare Moffatt calls “Soulwork.”
This morning, with my coffee, Rubin brings me another. As I open Jimmy Buffett’s novel, A Salty Piece of Land, I am reminded a little mystery, laughter, and light reading is also good for healing.
So is Rubin.
11/6/2016 10:14:23 am
Ouch!!! Sorry to hear you are unable to be up and around. Our partners are instrumental in the healing process and our minds and bodies would take that much longer to return to wellness without their support. My wish is for you to be up and running soon - in arch-supporting shoes!
11/6/2016 11:17:27 am
Two things about this lovely piece jumped out to me: First, Mary learned early in life the healing power of nature....she's never inside on a treadmill, she's outside communing with the elements. Running is Mary's Walden Pond, and she knew that as a young woman. No one who knows her is surprised by her devotion nature, the Great Lakes in particular. Second, Mary is grateful for her wonderful partner, Rubin, and never fails to express it privately and publically.
11/6/2016 12:24:59 pm
"I have learned to pray on the soles of these feet." Have you ever written a better line, Mary?
11/6/2016 12:54:26 pm
Tears are on the brink of falling. I love this piece and I have enjoyed the comments as well. I ran for 25 years, until an old knee injury from high school finally caught up with me. I haven't found a good replacement. I bike and I walk, but I still miss the feel of running and the body I enjoyed back in those days. But it's a lovely day, so in 5 min I will leave my laptop and head out for 3 miles of delightful fall weather and gorgeous autumn leaves. Life is good.
11/6/2016 01:23:51 pm
I agree with Eric that "I have learned to pray on the soles of these feet" is sooooo good, soooooo you.
Mary Ellen Miller
11/6/2016 05:20:43 pm
This blog is one of your very best, Mary, which is saying a lot! If your time in the chair keeps engendering ideas like these, and this level of poetic prose, I'd say it was meant to be. Looking forward to more.
11/8/2016 04:01:09 pm
First, I am so sorry! Patience, indeed.
12/27/2016 08:58:41 am
You continue to inspire me Mary. As always beautiful words/thoughts flow. Love the phases "Pray on the soles of these feet" and "so is Rubin".
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