Pruny FingersMy fifth grade health book had a lesson on feet that I remember reading over and over again because it said our toes grip the ground as we walk. I thought that was a funny way of describing what toes do. I kept thinking I misread it, so I looked it up again and again. Gripping was the toes’ design, the book said. At home, I must have walked miles across the floor and back again, watching my toes to see them grip.

And, growing up, we always knew that spending too much time in the bathtub or swimming pool would turn your fingers and toes pruney. That was how adults got us to come out of the water, by pointing out that we were shriveling up. It was our body’s signal that we’d had enough, they said.

Years later, swimming with a friend, I got really curious about why fingertips prune. My friend dismissed, it, telling me that our pores absorb the water. Staring at my fingers, I thought his explanation made no sense. Absorption would swell the fingers, not shrivel them. And why was it only my fingers and toes? Exiting the pool, I noted that I wasn’t waterlogged, nor was I dehydrated, either.

Unable to let it go (when do I, ever?), I dug around online and found a recent article where scientists discovered our bodies naturally pull water away from our fingers and toes when we’re in water in order to give us better grip. It was our body’s physiological way of giving us traction, according to the article.

After all these years, it all comes back to grip, again. Our feet are our connection to the ground; our hands, to one another. We have a hold on this life. Not with talons and claws, but with wiggly toes and pruning skin. We’re not securely strapped to this planet. We’re connected to it, simply, by touch.

Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, and is a multi-blogger, poet, and traveler. Her current writing projects, including her daily blog endeavor, #Project365, can be found at