Cracked feet

My mother once said she imagined me working outdoors in the sun. She only said it once but I remember.

I work in an office now at a desk. That’s what most people do who work in computing.

So I work out at the gym and try and do some gardening when the weather is nice. I try and get out with the kids. Try and balance things out.

People who stay inside too much seem to get sick more. Offices always seem to harbour germs. I’m not paranoid about this but some people are. Yesterday somebody was talking about the issue of how to get out of the toilets without touching the door handle.

My greatest office health conundrum is trying to work out the category of rubbish for a tissue that you’ve just blown your nose with. Is it “landfill”, “recycle”, or…. “organic”? Ewwww….

So I practice meditation quite a bit these days and one of the most compelling and relaxing images I can invoke is where my feet are in crystal clear water (could be Pambula Beach, or the Ovens River) and I can see my feet shimmering through the ripples. At the same time I can feel the sun shining on my head, shoulders and upper back. The much maligned sun that everyone is scared of.

Sun on my head, water on my feet.

And then I think of summer holidays when I was a child. We were lucky to have school teachers for parents, so whilst our holidays weren’t as grand as others, they were regular.

Tathra, Pambula Beach, Holiday Hub, early 80s - by Colin Lawton

A transformation occurred between the first week of January and Australia day. We’d live in a tent by Pambula beach. The first night you’d be trying to go to sleep, but other campground-ers would stumble by and startle you. And the ocean was so noisy, the water pulling and pushing. You’d never hear it during the day but at night it roared from 100 metres away. An occasional breeze would knock the canvas against a tent pole and make a small bang. You’d talk to your brothers, get told off, and eventually start to relax with the smell of sand and dune grass mixing with the smells of other families’ dinners and your brother’s farts. And you’d sink into the deepest sleep.

You’d wake with a sore back and the sun (hopefully) dancing shapes of light across the walls. A daily routine of eating, swimming, exploring and cricket would develop. Living outside all the time. Making friends with strangers. Falling in love with girls. Disappearing down the beach at night to sit around campfires.

You’d start by wearing thongs, but after a short while the rubber would wear a blister between your biggest toes. The side of your foot would soon follow, so you’d start to walk barefoot. Feeling the warm sand, the soft grass, the occasional stab of a bindi. Running on the beach sand, soft and hard, chasing tennis balls with electricians tape on one side (to make the ball swing).

Your feet would hurt and then the soles would become the colour of dirt. The sides of your feet would crack. After a while your heels might crack and it would hurt for a bit and you’d need to wear socks and shoes for a day or two.

And then, that two weeks that felt like forever, would be over. People said I looked aboriginal by the end of it, my skin darkened, flakes of dry skin peeling off, a cracked nose and ear lobes. And of course, my cracked feet.

And a feeling of heavy sadness that there were 50 weeks until we would do it all again.

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