To the Foot From Its Child

I used to read out-loud, one Pablo Neruda poem every night. Chilean poet Neruda was new to me, and my husband thought it would be a nice way be exposed to more of his beautiful work. Neruda likes to write poems and odes about common things like artichokes, the smell of wood, bird-watching, and feet. My day job is at the hospital, helping to take care of patients. In my department, I don’t see a lot of young feet but mostly elderly people and their worn feet. These are feet of experience that have walked thousands of miles, stood in hundreds of lines, stepped off countless sidewalk curbs, climbed steep mountains, and some of those feet have even been in overseas wars. When I see their feet, I sometimes think of this Neruda poem “To the Foot From Its Child”.

A child’s foot doesn’t know it’s a foot yet
And it wants to be a butterfly or an apple
But then the rocks and pieces of glass,
the streets, the stairways
and the roads of hard earth
keep teaching the foot that it can’t fly,
that it can’t be a round fruit on a branch.
Then the child’s foot
was defeated, it fell
in battle,
it was a prisoner,
condemned to life in a shoe.

Little by little without light
it got acquainted with the world in its own way
without knowing the other imprisoned foot
exploring life like a blind man.

Those smooth toe nails
of quartz in a bunch,
got harder, they changed into
an opaque substance, into hard horn
and the child’s little petals
were crushed, lost their balance,
took the form of a reptile without eyes,
with triangular heads like a worm’s.
And they had callused over,
they were covered
with tiny lava fields of death,
a hardening unasked for.
But this blind thing kept going
without surrender, without stopping
hour after hour.
One foot after another,
now as a man,
or a woman,
through the fields, the mines,
the stores, the government bureaus,
outside, inside,
this foot worked with its shoes,
it hardly had time
to be naked in love or in sleep
one foot walked, both feet walked
until the whole man stopped.

And then it went down
into the earth and didn’t know anything
because there everything was dark,
it didn’t know it was no longer a foot
or if they buried it so it could fly
or so it could
be an apple.


In life we take many things for granted…like our feet. Our feet will take us to amazing places. Can you imagine if you photo documented all of the places in a lifetime your feet took you? What an incredible photo essay that would be! Here are just a few photos of my feet recently, to start this off. I hope these photos inspire you to start your own collection.

Eastern Idaho
Grizzly country, near Yellowstone.
Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland.
Rocky beach on the Isle of Arran, Scotland
Dublin, Ireland. Uisce means “water” in the Irish language.
Elk droppings in Idaho.
Fly-fishing on the Madison river in Montana
Fly-fishing on the Madison river in Montana
Firenze, Italy

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