Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Greco-Roman, My Foot


You may think that I am going to take some kind of exception to the Olympic Games event they call Greco-Roman Wrestling.  But no, I am going to write about feet.  A chancy subject to be sure.

In his gorgeous film Out of Africa, Sidney Pollack has Denys Fitch Hatton remark, "Did you know that in all of literature, there is no poem celebrating the foot.  There's lips, there's eyes, hands, face, hair, breasts, legs, arms, even the knee, but not one verse for the poor old foot."

Karen Blixen responds with a couplet: "Along he came and he did put, upon my farm his lovely foot."  If the subject is good enough for Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, its plenty good enough for me.

Neither is this about a fetish.  Celebrated as the foot is the annals of abnormal psychology, I am not going there either.  This is about members of my family ridiculing, not my whole foot, but my little toes.  My pinkie toes are not straight, the way perfect little toes are supposed to be. They twist a bit, as if they are trying to kiss the next toe over.  My husband and daughter used to point and laugh at them.

Then one day, in the Capitoline Museum in Rome, I discovered the truth about my little toes.  They are a badge of my Greco-Roman heritage.  The gallery of ancient sculpture in that magnificent treasure trove features many statutes on high pedestals.  As I walked through the exhibition, in awe of the beauty of the ancient works of art, perhaps because the feet we're at my eye level, I suddenly noticed that the Greek feet before me looked just like mine.  I went up and down the gallery.  ALL the statuesRoman and Greekhad little toes exactly like mine.

This is sensible genetically, since my ancestors on my fathers side were from Siracusa in Sicily, formerly the Greek city state of Syracuse.  My mother came out of the gene pool between Rome and Naples.  Strange how, though I knew about my heritage, finding this little piece of physical evidence strengthened the bond I already had with my forebears, way back into history.  In a way, I was them.

The blood of ancients from some part of this world flows in all our veins.  We need to remember that.  Maybe it will help us not to take the present too seriously.


Annamaria Alfieri



7 comments:

  1. Much can be said about feet, even before we begin to stray into the realms of kinky sex. During WWII, Japanese spies could be identified by the generous space between their first and second toes. Was this a racial characteristic, or the result of a lifetime of thong sandals? My dance teacher, Mrs. Morgan, discouraged me from pursuing a career in ballet, though I thought it intensely romantic, because my second toe was noticeably longer than my first, bad if you wanted to spend any time on pointe. (Or because I was a clumsy dancer, and she was too kind to say so.) The long second toe is said to be an American Indian thing. I'm as sure as I ever was of anything that I haven't got Indian blood, though I think it would be cool.

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    1. Kate, You never know. Your ancestors were hanging around a lot of Indians three hundred or so years ago. Being Sicilian, I have to imagine all those barbarian hordes--Saracens, Normans, Spanish--have contributed their little bits to my genetic make-up. But wherever your genes come from, you are way-cool enough!!

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  2. A chancy subject as you say--though clearly one with history. Glad to find this new (I think?) blog--great collection of writers!

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    1. Jenny, welcome. So happy to have you with us. We have been doing this for a couple of years. We write about all sorts of things, a lot having to do with a writer's life. Or musings on life in general. I hope you will stop by often. Please chime in when you do.

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  3. This article prompted me to go to my dictionary and look up all the words that begin with foot. Fascinating read!!! tjs

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    1. Thelma, Tell us the most interesting foot word.

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  4. There were several and the wide range was so thought-provoking - a few --- footboy, footer, footle, foot pound, footslog, foot candle - and of course all the words we use often that mean such a variety of things -- set foot, under foot, footgear, foothill, footlight, footpath, footstep... you could take a few and create a whole eerie story around these little words. Hey, somebody -- whydonchadothis??? tjs

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