56 feet tells the story of the first discoveries made on foot.
Written by Alan Bell
For the infant the mouth is the grand investigator of everything it encounters. The primal purpose of hands is to bring everything and anything to be tasted, licked, sucked for the encyclopedia of first world knowledge. The tongue rules the baby. Then the hands are employed to pull itself up or to grab and hold something. All it’s focus is on what it tastes, sees, and thanks to the hands ,experience is broadened into knowledge of Weight (heavy, light, float, sink, flies), Matter (plastic, metal, wood, stone, glass, water, etc.), Texture (smooth, rough, prickly, sharp, slippery, etc.), Attraction (colour, pattern, silky, transparent, malleable, etc), Revulsion ( bad smell, burn, loud noise, sting).
The child never stops learning through experiencing as the mouth, eyes, and hands join forces in exploration. Its primal experiences can be likened to an explosion of information, the accumulation of knowledge is the whole business of childhood.
It is also learning language, sensitivity to tone of voice to detect moods, music, sounds of birds, animals, it’s TV shows, traffic on land or in the air. Through recognition the child discovers all it’s preferences and dislikes, it’s needs and fears.
When wriggling becomes crawling, and crawling becomes walking the big change comes. The child can more easily follow its eyes into space and time. It becomes more of an individual and follows its curiosity more easily.
The feet and the eyes bond as fast companions for the feet become the agent or the new source of knowledge. They carry the whole body into the unknown with the purpose of making it known. The addition of the feet to its exploration gives the child it’s first taste of independence. The feet and the hands follow orders from the mind which is chiefly influenced by the eyes. And imagination plays its part in a pretend hunter, explorer or...the child will say what.
Leaving the rule-bound house Nature calls... water is tested underfoot, mud is discovered, frogs found, fish seen! The spirit of place captures the child with the discovery of life! Trees are climbed, wind and rain, warm sunshine and freezing snow all felt on the skin through the invisible nervous system. The seasons surround the child with the slow changes that alter the landscape. Walking in night darkness opens the ears to sounds that give it it’s bearing. Moonlight opens the dark with silvery mists. Fire light at night is everyone’s delight. Here the growing child finds the hint, or a glimpse of a great planet among a million stars. As it’s knowledge expands the child shrinks in the vast scale of the universe. If the parents are able to take the child to the mountains or the sea, to a great forest or boating on a lake it’s identity and deepest love becomes its excitement in the presence of the self perpetuating planet.
Feet are a child’s wings, it’s hands are its feelers, it’s eyes are itself, bright with the changing sky and the sounding ears finding the infinity of things to be discovered, learned about, retained in heart and mind. Fire burns, ice burns spiders bite, wasps sting, water drowns, falling out of trees breaks bones...death and life entwine in the consciousness of the awakening adolescent.
It cannot be claimed that adults retain the glorious days of its first encounter with the forces of nature. The demands of the world put shoes on feet to remove them from nature and into school with employment in mind.