My youngest didn’t walk until she was 22 months old. Instinct told me she was fine so I didn’t worry about this, but I observed her with interest. One day, when I was in the kitchen and she was sitting in a patch of sun on the living room floor, her back to me, I watched in wonder as she rose –no hands, no support, no nothing– to a full stand and began to walk. I had never seen a child go from crawling to perfect walking in an instant like that. She never went back to crawling.
I remember my daughter and her silent rise from the floor. I remember the older man I watched fall on the ice while crossing my street, and his panicked struggle to rise. I remember my grandmother falling in a restaurant, her own panicked struggle to rise before my father knelt and in one swift motion swept her up in his arms. Our first and wild instinct is to get up when we fall, to lift ourselves up, up, up. I’m thinking now of my beautiful dog on his last day of life this past March, when I watched him haul himself up, and I said to the painter, Look! He’s up! I’m going to call the vet and tell her not to come! and as soon as I said the words, he collapsed before us on all four legs and never rose again. Sometimes the simplest poems, like this one below, are the ones that bring memories rushing over me.
Placing Our Feet with Care on This Earth
In Los Angeles, my friend will soon learn to walk.
Her ankles will remember how to line up
so her weight can settle down
and they can hold up.
In Alaska, snowmelt’s ankle-deep
slush puddles firm up overnight.
Slick, this world. Our soles
get away from us.
For more information on Peggy Shumaker, please read her bio.