Trading in my summer feet

I curl my toes and let out a low, almost inaudible “owwwwe.” My feet arc pulling themselves away to the rocks. For a minute between steps I think, there’s probably a spa in Beverly Hills that offers a treatment like this for $50,000. There’s probably some therapeutic element to walking over round beach rocks to and from the lapping waves of the Salish Sea. There must be, or maybe it’s that the water is a balm and with the salt water over my shoulders and the soft sand underfoot I forget the rocks, the muggy heat, the deadlines and revisions I should be doing, except I’ve got the week off.

As I float and rock in the waves, my partner and I giggling like the little kids splashing several feet away, and I’m marveled at how the kids scurry back and forth over the rocks, like they aren’t there. Like they float instead of set foot on hard stones. Then I remember the summers I spent as a pre-teen and teen forming my “summer feet.”

This process began in June just after report cards were sent home and we traded notebooks for swimsuits, sunscreen and bicycles. I remember my friend and I walking slowly with our weight firmly over each foot the gravel of the Beaver Lake parking lot digging into the vulnerable pads of our feet. We’d set goals. “Ok, we’re going to walk from here to that yellow post,” she’d say pointing 20 meters in front of us. And then we’d start slowly walking to our destination.

For weeks we’d repeat the same thing walking over rocky the rocky shoulder or a road, scurrying over rough paths in near by parks. Eventually we could walk almost anywhere, no shoes, no wincing. Sure I’d end up with cuts and blisters, and many, many wasp stings, but it seemed efficient to be able to get out of the water, run down a stony trail and then hop back in the water without drying our feet and putting on shoes.

Ultimately I’m lucky I didn’t end up puncturing a hole in my foot. I never had to make an emergency trip to the hospital for a tetanus shot. But my days of summer feet are behind me and now I’m pricing out a pair of water shoes and often consider wearing my sandals into the water to avoid the agonizing hobble to and from the water. I’ve traded summer feet for big hats with lots of shade, hydration and a good beach read.

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