One of the things they do in The Feldenkrais Method®. Reminding the brain how force is meant to be transferred from the ground through the skeleton. Reminding the brain, too, that the foot has "fingers," that it is capable of much more differentiated moving and sensing than we give it credit or opportunity for, all trussed up in shoes and socks.
This is local practitioner and "good farmer" Chris Hagenberger working with Jacques, as she does twice a week. Because she is also a licensed physical therapist and J has a doctor's prescription, Medicare pays her. (Some Feldenkrais practitioners are also PTs, some aren't. The only real difference is who pays.) Contacting Chris was just about the best single thing I did upon coming to Chapel Hill. I just knew that belonging to the Feldy community, as with the Kyokushin Karate community, was a blessing I ought to avail us of, and it turns out there's quite a thriving little subcommunity here. Chris has taken care of us way above and beyond the call of professional duty. That's a lift chair J is sitting in, commandeered for us on indefinite loan by Chris. She's brought us a gait belt and a large yellow inflatable plastic "egg" for J to "play" with. She's recommended a home health aide and two mechanics and an ice cream store.
But that's Feldenkrais, and the kind of people it attracts. Moshé himself would never abandon anyone. He patiently taught cerebral-palsy and MS patients and stroke victims how they could greatly improve their functioning. He just had a way of awakening the interest and the vast untapped potential of even an impaired brain. (At the other pole, musicians, dancers, athletes and actors rely on the Method for performance enhancement.) The difference from regular physical therapy could not be more dramatic. After J's pneumonia, he was entitled to a few weeks of post-hospital PT. The guy who came was kind and helpful with getting and modifying equipment, but he was at a loss how to work with J and even almost frightened of him. His kind of physical therapy was designed to get you doing 30 boring linear leg raises or foot slides instead of ten, one isolated body part at a time. If you couldn't get back on your feet and become a functioning, at least semi-autonomous monad in three weeks, classical physical therapy backed away with a helpless shrug. As far as it was concerned, your life was over.
Feldenkrais says: it ain't over till it's over. Chris thinks we might even remind J how to stand again; at least the lift chair will give him the experience of putting some weight on his feet. But that's not the goal. The point is that there's a lot in any human existence to discover and enjoy, right up to the last minute. Reaching, discovering that it's not just your arm but that your pelvis shifts forward, your hip joints roll, your spine elongates and changes its curve, your rib cage expands and flexes, your shoulder blade slides away from your spine, and your sterno-clavicular joint comes dramatically into play (something I didn't even know existed till I took the training -- put three fingers where your collarbone meets your breastbone, and reach forward with the other hand) -- all in one graceful, integrated intention -- well, that could make an otherwise dreary day.