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  • Writer's pictureAshley Christiano

She put her right foot first

Fattoria Voltrona, September 2017

I sat on the ground, legs crossed, in the Tuscan countryside, the sun warm upon my face. It was the second day of the Wide Open Writing retreat, and our first real prompt. We were asked to sit, and to meditate, for about five minutes. A seemingly interminable amount of time for somebody who's thoughts are always spinning. At the end of the five minutes, we were asked to identify a body part that was speaking to us.

My right foot felt numb and uncomfortable, I noted, wiggling my toes.

And then we were asked to tell that body part's story.

The following is what came of that prompt:

She put her right foot first, one step forward into the sand. Sand so soft it felt like flour sifting between her toes, warm and fine and the palest shade of peach. She breathed in the heavy Bermuda hair, hot under the midday sun as she walked toward the crystal clear water of Horseshoe Bay. A wave slid up the shore, hissing over damp sand as it raced toward her toes, covering first the right and then the left. She smiled, enjoying the contrast of the sweltering air with the cooling water, both coating her skin in their own way. And still she moved, ever onward. Right foot, then left, letting the water cover her ankles, then her shins, breathing in the indescribable smell of the ocean, feeling loose seaweed brush against her legs as the water rose to her thighs and then her core and past her belly.

A wave approached, not the gentle swells that had come and gone during her progress toward the horizon, but something that demanded her attention. It bore down on

her, growing taller and louder, water turning to foam at its cusp. She braced herself, leaning into her right foot, throwing her head back as it rolled toward her, finally crashing upon her shoulders in a cold and powerful undulation. She threw her head back, her hair heavy now with salty water as the wave tried its best to pull her toward the shore, left foot fighting right foot for dominance. Water trying to pull her to earth, the past calling to her as she faced the future.

But she wouldn’t let it. She was tired of other forces dictating her life. Tired of being passive, of letting things go, of going with the flow. And so she pushed into that right foot, that dominant foot, that foot she had ignore for far too long. She pushed down and she held her ground until the pull of the waves and the past finally released their hold on her.

Diving beneath the surface, she kicked forward, drenching her body and her soul in her dreams. Sounds now both muffled and amplified, she relaxed for the first time in months as she sank to the sandy ocean floor. Looking up, reveling in the sparkle of the sun through the water’s surface, she let herself remember just how beautiful her world really was. Despite the drama of the past year, despite the heartbreak and betrayal, the sun still shone. The sky was still blue and the birds still sang and the wind still sighed playfully through palm fronds. When the last bubble of air slipping past her lips and into the seemingly endless expanse of ocean around her, she pushed herself toward the surface, right foot first, and burst into the full light of the sun. Drops of water trickled over her skin, falling from her hair down her forehead, past her sharp cheekbones and over her full lips. Down her neck and over her collarbones before finally rejoining their sisters in the sea.

Rejuvenated, Fiona turned toward shore. Her eyes were opened now. To both the good and the bad within the world. And she promised herself that she would not forget that both existed. Would not forget the warmth of love when confronted with the iciness of hate. Would not forget the power of empathy when thrust into the hardness of apathy, or the heights to which joy can take you when she found herself descending into the depths of despair.

She would not forget, she promised herself again as her right foot stepped into the sand, the left coming up to meet it, bringing her world into balance one more.


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