"the truth is in dem feet darlin'...I tell you truly."
Was she talking to me? I couldn’t tell you for certain, but it sure felt like it.
I called her the ‘sing song lady’.
I can still picture her as if it were yesterday...
1977, Brooklyn, New York, Flatbush Ave…winter comin’ on,
gonna be bitter again …
I had ducked in out of the cold on my way home to pick up some veggies
at the little Korean produce stand.
That’s where I first saw her…
She was a handsome black woman, tall with a faintly aristocratic bearing.
She wore a wondrous indigo and purple turban wrapped around her head…
like a crown, she wore it.
Under her drab winter coat she wore a brightly colored dress covered
in tropical flowers.
She carried herself with a regal manner. She was a world unto herself.
I was fascinated by this exotic creature in her bold and startling colors.
Must be from the islands, I thought to myself.
She was slowly making her way through bins piled high with fresh mangoes, guavas, plantains and the like.
I watched as she picked up each piece of fruit, turning it over and eyeing it thoughtfully.
It was then that I heard her voice… a voice that was all love and brown sugar.
She kind of sang and hummed and murmured…all at once…a gentle little
non-stop patter that dripped of bougainvillea nectar.
Her curious manner of speech was enchanting.
I moved a little closer just to hear her sweet sing song sounds.
At first, I thought she was talking to a friend nearby, but no one did I see.
In fact, she seemed to always be by herself…
Perhaps she was speaking to the melon she held so tenderly…
Maybe she was just another terribly lonely person in New York City….
talking to herself…keeping herself company just to stay sane.
She hummed about little mundane things, mostly.
Sing-song about ‘de weather’ or ‘de lovely peaches’, ‘did you hear
about the neighbor’s cat?’
I didn’t know what to make of her at first…
Slowly I began to realize that it wasn’t so much about the substance
of her words as it was the making of her sweet music.
She seemed like an exotic flower that had been plucked from her island paradise and transplanted to this cold and dreary city.
How sad for her, I thought… so far from the warmth and comfort of her beautiful and gracious island culture.
Before long, I found myself frequenting the market at about the same time each day hoping to catch sight of her.
Most days I did.
Exactly why I was so attracted to her, I could not say.
Something indefinable drew me in her direction.
My heart leapt a little every time I saw her… a tiny flutter of excitement…
a flicker of joy…and anticipation.
Of what I did not know…
On finding her, I took a deep breath of relief and then another...
just to calm myself.
And then, I slowly made my way toward the aisle she was in.
She never looked up at me, but I knew that she knew I was there.
In a delicate dance I pretended not to follow her…and she pretended not to notice.
And then one day, I heard her speak these words: ‘the truth is in dem feet, darlin’… I tell you truly.'
There was a sureness in her voice as she spoke those words and to this day
I remember the shivers her words sent up my spine.
She would say funny things like that now and then…
I looked at her like she was a little crazy sometimes… but, you know,
I could never be sure…
But one thing I was sure of….
I knew those words were meant for my ears…
They were important for me….
They set me to thinking…
Whatever did she mean by that?!
I wanted to ask her what she meant, but we had never spoken…
and to make matters worse, I never had the chance to ask!
In fact, that was the last time I ever saw her.
Those were the last words I ever heard her utter in her sweet sweet voice…
I never laid eyes on my ‘sing song lady’ again.
All I had was the memory of that day…
I was on my own with those words dancing in my head…
though it might be better said that they drummed relentlessly on my skull.
The truth is in the feet, the truth is in the feet….
I became obsessed with the need to unravel her message.
Now, sacred teachers tend to turn up in the unlikeliest places.
It dawned on me that I had just met up with another one.
Their words, though few, tend to pack a punch.
They mystify, confuse, even irritate.
They don’t let go.
And then the messenger up and disappears on you.
This curious messenger with this oddball parable was one of those.
I had my work cut out for me…
Now, I tend to be what I call a 'head case’.
You know…one of those people that does most of their living
from the neck up… you know the type.
So this was a task of considerable difficulty.
A thorough reorientation of perspective...upside down me.
I didn’t know how to even begin…and I was loathe to disturb
my status quo…even just a little bit.
I felt a headache coming on…
Now Life has a way of nudging you forward…
presenting you with these little conundrums…
the kind that leave you with more questions than answers…
and so…bit by bit….the meaning unfolded itself to me
That woman handed me a lifelong lesson that has served me well!
As with all good teachings, they are lived.
And living has taught me a lot about feet.
I started paying attention to my feet…
I marched around New York City all that winter…
Mile by mile my brain started to drop down out of the upper reaches
of my head….slowly, slowly down to my feet.
My feet took me to so many places!
With all the wonders of the world at my doorstep, I had plenty
to see and wonder about.
Such an array of feet! And shoes!
Each telling their stories about their people.
Some feet danced or ran…Some feet shuffled or limped.
Some walked with AUTHORITY, while a few ambled amiably.
But none of this seemed to afford me any clues to her mysterious message. Still, I persisted.
The following spring, a friend and I were strolling through Central Park
on a sunlit Sunday afternoon.
I was, as usual, preoccupied with my pedary quest, when we caught the strains of a foreign melody off in the distance.
Curious, we followed our ears until we came to a clearing, where we chanced upon a circle of dancers holding hands and moving their feet in curious ways to a haunting ancient refrain.
We stopped to listen and watch…and then a strange thing happened.
Suddenly my heart erupted and in the very next moment I burst into sobs.
My friend was alarmed at my uncontrollable outburst.
She elbowed me in the ribs, trying in vain to get my attention.
For a time I could not answer her simple question, “Are you alright?”
When I finally regained my composure, I stammered uncomprehendingly
It was as if the music had reached in and grabbed me by the heart.
Moments later, a couple of men left the circle, took us by the hands
and drew us into the learner's circle.
They started to teach us the steps to the curious and strange music...
my first introduction to international folk dance.
It was so unlike anything I had ever done, but something from the depths
of my being rose up in me…Something fierce!
My feet took over and suddenly it felt like the dance was dancing me!
It was exhilarating…and, at the same time, strangely familiar.
It was as if something in my blood came alive and my feet
somehow knew what to do!
I suddenly felt like I was truly alive. I felt authentic...
As strange as it may sound...like the real me that I had never known existed. Like everything that preceded this moment in my life had just been
going through the motions.
A wild and pure joy surged through my body and I did indeed feel like
I was home.
Now what did my feet know that the rest of me didn’t?!
Those answers unfolded more than 30 years later…
That is another story… ("Finding My Father")
It would be many years before I learned that my father was from the Balkans and that this, indeed, was my music.
My feet knew it long before my head did!
When I was single once more and the dance was calling to me again,
I took the unfamiliar step of going to night clubs.
In my first awkward forays, I sensed I did not fit in with the crowds
that were intent on drinking and partnering.
But there I was somehow.
All I knew was that I needed to move! I came to dance! To feel some joy!
It took me some time to find my way, but I slowly learned how to navigate through the experience.
At first I would stand around passively, hoping to be noticed.
That yielded mixed results, to say the least.
And so, from that, I learned to do my own choosing.
I would park myself in an unobtrusive spot and scan the crowded club.
In the beginning, I scanned people's faces, body language, their style. Appealing as that was, it got me nowhere closer to the perfect dance partner for the evening. I eventually learned to conduct my search in my own unorthodox way…
As I was getting in tune with this little mystery of life that the sing-song lady had given me, I no longer scanned the faces for men of interest.
I began to scrutinize the floor, looking for just the right feet, whatever that meant…
I wasn’t sure why at first, but something drew my gaze downward.
I inspected and I searched for…and then!… I found just what I had been seeking!
I had detected a pair of ‘happy feet’! And then another! Ha !!
That turned out to be all I needed to know.
I made my way through the crowd and invited that person to dance.
It didn’t matter if he was younger or older, richer or poorer, stylishly-attired or a regular kind of guy. He had happy feet and he was there to dance.
From that time on, I always had the perfect night out!
The truth was, once again, in the feet!
I learned about the Chinese acupoint called ‘bubbling happiness’...
the point on the bottom of your foot for curing depression.
Interestingly it is best accessed not with a needle, but by dancing!
Oh!... The things that my feet were teaching me!
Now it was time to start learning about other people’s feet…
Take, for example, the time Darlene fell in love. She had met the most marvelous man online. They seemed just perfect for each other.
I knew that she had been seeking a wealthy man that could provide her
with a life of ease and luxury. I didn’t have a good feeling about this venture and I told her as much, but there was no stopping her.
In no time at all, she snagged herself an attorney. He declared her the woman of his dreams, showered her with gifts, lovely dinners and an engagement ring. Then he moved into her house and she began sending out wedding invitations. I was the unhappy recipient of one. Even though I had not met him, I had an uneasy feeling about things and I declined the invitation, much to her dismay. A mutual friends urged me to reconsider, but I would not. Darlene was 60, recently retired and she had finally gotten her life just so.
Her house was paid for, she had money in the bank and the next exciting chapter of life lay before her.
But somehow she felt she still needed a little icing on that cake…
She chose wedding cake.
Ironically, she chose to shed her independence on the 4th of July.
That did not seem like a good omen to me at all!
But they wed and rode off into the sunset together, ostensibly as happy
as they could be.
Behind the scenes, however, she confided to a close friend that things were not going as planned... It seems that after the wedding, her new husband became demanding and belligerent. He took over their finances. He was secretive. When she questioned things like the hotel receipts she found in his suit pockets, there was quite a blow-up! Not long after there was that first slap in the face, followed by apologies, tears and flowers. He blamed his frequent moodiness on a mini stroke. But the physical abuse continued. The last time they argued he openly brandished a gun. Her paradise was evaporating.
A month or so later, Liz, a woman in a nearby town confided to me
that she had finally despaired of the local bar scene and had ventured online.
This one was way too man-hungry, but I tried to dissuade her anyway…
with THIS story, in fact. But she was not to be dissuaded.
The next time I heard her voice, she was giddy with joy.
She met, of all things, a successful attorney who swept her off her feet in no time at all. They met online, exchanged phone numbers and talked for hours. They just knew that they were twin flames…soul mates of the highest degree.
"Now…soul mates, you understand, are not subject to the same rules that plague ordinary mortals", Liz claimed. "When you meet The One, you just know… There is no need to go slowly or check credentials…that would practically be cheating!"
Ah... The most dangerous lies are the lies we tell ourselves...
He pressed for a meeting that night. While she considered this juicy proposal, he informed her that her knight in shining armor was, in fact, parked in her driveway at that very moment!
She did not recall giving him her address.
She put him on hold and called me, asking me what she should do.
"Nothing doing, Liz! And I mean it! How did he even get your address!?"
Slightly spooked, but still anxious to meet, she proposed lunch the following day. After a few more attempts on his part to seal the deal that night, he finally agreed to meet her at a romantic restaurant at noon the next day.
Liz stopped by in the morning to share the good news… AND to let me know how wrong I’d been! I was just too cynical and negative about the possibility of true love.
Knowing by now that everything happens for a reason, and also knowing
that I have a tried-and-true knack for getting into these strange situations,I asked her to tell me a little more about her new beau.
He was moving fast. He had a curiously similar modus operandi
to the recently-wed lawyer.
This was starting to look like a karmic setup if ever I’ve seen one!
I listened and I smiled and then I handed her a phone…and a phone number.
Darlene's phone number.
I suggested that Liz call Darlene before having lunch with her husband.
Liz gave me the evil eye, but she dialed up the wife.
Needless to say they had an animated conversation in which it was finally decided that the Darlene would show up in Liz's place.
The trap was set.
When he entered the restaurant bearing a huge bouquet of roses
and a box of expensive chocolates, Darlene was waiting for him.
Funny how things work out…
The prologue to this story was that Darlene finally had the proof and enough humiliation to divorce the man. Unfortunately, he made off with most of her savings and half her house.
Liz cooled her jets for awhile.
The truth was in the feet all along...
A man or a woman can profess unending love and devotion all they like,
but the truth is in their feet…their actions.
So… If you want to know the truth about a person, watch their feet.
Never mind what’s coming out of their mouths. You must watch the feet…
The truth is in the feet.
Similarly… If you want to know the truth about yourself, look to your own feet.
The truth is in the feet, my friend… the things that your feet can teach you!