Today was one of those warm March days in
I wandered my way up to Four Mile Creek, and found myself following a small trail parallel the creek. My toes squished into cool mud, small puddles of water, rough patches of rocks, even soft and cushiony melting snow. We, as a society, shield ourselves far too often from the textures of the earth. Automatically heated and cooled dwellings, vehicles much the same, expensive water and wind proof jackets and shoes. Even our bare skin often is shielded from the embrace of the warm sun rays by clothing covering most of our body.
What a gift it is to bare ourselves to the sensations the Earth offers us, warm sun on winter hungry skin, cool breezes through our hair, and bare feet on the solid earth. It’s a practice I’m just learning to embrace myself. I never wear shoes around the house, and often can be found with shoes off under the table or desk at a restaurant and work. And, sure, I’ve walked barefoot to and from the mailbox a time or two, or run through a grassy park lawn in summer barefoot…but now I want to truly experience touching the earth with my sensitive soles.
I could try to explain the pleasure of walking barefoot through soft slushy melting snow. Like a cool cloud, so soft, after the roughness of small pebbles on the trail. Most of us would shy away from submitting our tender soles to the cold. What about frostbite? And I could tell you, honestly; of course it is cold to walk in the snow. And of course there were a few pokes or thorns along the way. But to feel the softness of snow in contrast to the rough rocks was a relief was utter pleasure. To know the pleasure in snow is a gift. Just as the warm rocks are a gift after the chill of the snow.
And squishing through mud and puddles is to return to the carefree and completely present awareness of childhood. Didn’t you run through puddles in the rain, and make mud pies? Maybe your parents scolded you when you came home dirty and happy?
Dirty feet….who cares! Wash them later, or dip them in the cool stream, or wipe them on the soft grass. I’ve long struggled with a hang up about having dirty feet…they made me cringe with discomfort. But, alas, squishing through the mud on purpose is sure to rid me of that. It felt so delicious!
Walking barefoot isn’t all fun and games though; it does require focus, attention to the present, and to your surroundings. Small and very inconspicuous prickly pear cacti grew all around that dirt path near the creek, and I had to watch my step. Each step required my attention and my awareness of the environment around me. Our shielded lives let us wander through life without paying attention. Shucking your shoes forces you to be aware. Does this feel good to my feet, if I step here will I step on something painful? To be sure, one can lose awareness momentarily, as I did while studying a budding cottonwood tree, and sure enough, one poke was all it took to remind me to look around me. The cacti aren’t dangerous if you don’t step on them, you just have to look for them, honor their right to be right where they are, and place your steps carefully, as if you were caressing your beloved. You don’t press to hard, or carelessly scrape your nails through their skin, you pay attention, lavish love and sweetness with your hands. So it should be with your barefoot steps upon the earth. Caress her with awareness, and let the Earth caress your feet in return.
We may not move out of our warm and comfortable homes, or run naked through a field in the sun (though it is definitely something I aim to do), but we can bare our toes and walk on the earth, relishing in the sensations offered us, both the discomfort and the pleasure…for you can not have one without the other. Walking barefoot on the earth ground us, brings us back to our senses, and back into connection with the Earth, our provider, and mother. Stand there, bare feet squishing in the mud, and soak in the energy of the ripening spring, and the life giving rays of the sun, come back to yourself, and back to the Earth, and walk barefoot in the mud!