Running in Water
My round, fibrous-fatty-blood-coated* heel bone meets the gritty bottom first, then my step rolls fluidly along the footsole, smooth as frosting under the soft press of a spatula. The sole expands as I move through the step, but very little because I am in water up to my chest and weigh almost nothing to my legs. My other leg rises, pushes forward against the water, swings through while the back of the first leg lengthens, engages, pushes.
My arms swing back and forth as I step and step. The water meets the front of my upper arm then slides off to either side, slipping between my arm and underarm on one surface and to open water on the outside. This pumping spirals around my spine. I feel my torso spear up and down my center as it begins to grasp not only the stepping action in water but the counterbalancing throughout my body. Water helps me witness this common movement’s complexity.
Walking in Water
Walking in water. The dreamlike swing. The hovering that only water gives and which we would never do. We would never walk. We would swim, like fishes. As I walk, my whole body rings with this peculiar, non-fish choice–walking in water. My feet kiss the bottom of the pool lightly. My gaze sees in, to my inner workings, and out beyond the glass walls at the gray day, the ice-slicked, black-barked trees. A crow flaps and lands in a snarl of bittersweet vines.
My ears open. Aqua wavelets slosh. The hum of the filtration system. I smell billowing chlorine. And my spine lengthens as these senses orient me to the air above the water where my shoulders and neck and head, like a buoy, bob. Below, my body churns the blue water. My feet continue to touch and unroll, touch and unroll, touch and unroll, melting the fear of stepping that made me stump woodenly for months across a room, a street. Now my toes’ underside and the rubbery hinge of the metatarsal flex then snug to a contracting arc as my zero-G weight shifts off that awakening foot. My legs have found their stride. I purposely haven’t fussed with them. Let them find their way.
And all at once, my heart, my sternum, spreads and I run. Both feet clear the bottom, above the ground. My arms swing. My sternum is a lighthouse beaming beyond the room to far corners. My lighthouse has been closed and locked for months and months. The great iliopsoas winch and rigging has held me down as all the great ship of me gently carted my hip sockets here and there, a cargo of brittle pain. There have been many accommodations within my frame but this one is perhaps the most central as it has subdued my lungs, shrunk my inhale. It formed a sort of internal bandage to limit motion. As it releases in my watery dash, I see how easily we can lose our breathing. Inside, in our shadows, pieces lengthen and shorten. No mirror can see this. No X-ray, no MRI. We just have a small, struggling premonition of suffocation. Of being locked in a small airless space only this time the airlessness is a locking down inside our torso.
We need our breathing. It comes back. It comes back if we take a little time to notice. Breathing is a persistent force.
*“To distribute the compressive forces exerted on the heel during gait, and especially the stance phase when the heel contacts the ground, the sole of the foot is covered by a layer of subcutaneous connective tissue up to 2 cm thick (under the heel). This tissue has a system of pressure chambers that both acts as a shock absorber and stabilises the sole. Each of these chambers contains fibrofatty tissue covered by a layer of tough connective tissue made of collagen fibers. These septa (“walls”) are firmly attached both to the plantar aponeurosis above and the sole’s skin below. The sole of the foot is one of the most highly vascularized regions of the body surface, and the dense system of blood vessels further stabilize the septa. ” Heel Anatomy
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