Howler Monkey with Happy Feet
Matapalo Samara, Costa Rica
Do you think much about your feet, or are they just there (attached to your two legs)? They are easy to take for granted sometimes unless, of course, you damage one or both—then look out. What the hell is Steve talking about now?
If you think about it, your feet are a kind of metaphor for life and living. For instance, when I first arrived here in Matapalo Samara (Costa Rica), my feet had been protected by a sturdy pair of leather boots for quite awhile. The result was: they were soft, very soft.
Samara is not a good place to wear boots. A bathing suit and flip-flops (maybe), but most folks here go barefoot. Two months ago I set the boots aside, and started going au natural (well, not completely). It was painful. My feet were snow-white and very tender. But they wanted to walk.
And walk they have. Up and down the beach, on unpaved village roads and even into town. Of course you always run a risk when exposing yourself to the elements, in this case my feet have suffered on more than one occasion: rocks, coral, shells, hot sand and even a bee sting.
It’s not unlike exposing yourself to the basic elements of living, where you’re more apt to “suffer the slings and arrows” of Man. But your feet toughen up, and so can you. After two months of treading barefoot upon this earth my feet are: brown, weathered, calloused and tough. They can now take me almost anyplace I want to go, unprotected.
The surprise is that I’m not less sensitive to my environment, but rather that I, in fact, am more sensitive to it. The coolness of the ocean tide, the give and take of the coarse beach sand between my toes, even the fluctuations in ambient road temperature. My feet are tougher, but also more sensitive. A paradox.
Might not the same be true if we stripped ourselves of our emotional armor (our sturdy leather boots), and just let our psyches toughen up on their own? Might not we grow stronger, tougher and at the same time more sensitive? Might not our feet know best after all, without our brain over thinking it?
I know that my feet haven’t had this much freedom in years, and that they are: stronger, healthier and tougher than they’ve been in a very long time. I think that I now have “happy feet.” Maybe we should give the rest of us a break too, and just allow ourselves to toughen up naturally—by living our lives fully exposed to the basic elements of life. Oh, we may get cut, bruised and battered on occasion, but we just might be happier too.
Thank you “happy feet” for teaching me an important lesson. I hope that you continue to guide me in the right direction.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer and World Traveler
Reporting from Matapalo Samara, Costa Rica