“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” ~Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
My mother told the story that, when I was a baby, she just couldn’t get any shoes on my feet. Whether the baby shoes or the knitted booties, I would kick and curl my toes. Eventually she got them on, but as soon as I could, I took them off. I apparently learned this wasn’t a good thing soon enough since I wasn’t arriving barefoot at school or when visiting relatives.
But I clearly remember going out the back door to the yard and taking off my shoes on the porch when I was young enough I had to stay in the back yard. Later, I can picture myself taking off my shoes and stuffing them into my pockets or leaving them somewhere I could retrieve them before heading out on one of my “hikes”, day-long walks I’d take alone, feeling the cool earth and grasses in the abandoned pasture near our house in the morning, steaming pavement under my feet on roads in mid-summer, the cool tickling of the water in our shallow local creek as I walked down the center of the channel, though it was so polluted I’m surprised it didn’t strip off my skin.
I always managed to keep my shoes on at my workplaces, unless I worked late and happened to be the only person there. Around the house, unless it’s cold, and even sometimes then, I am barefoot, or I’ll put on a pair of socks if my bunions start to hurt from the cold. Except for cutting the grass, or if I’m working in a particularly rough area of the yard…barefoot in my own back yard.
When I started walking and biking public trails, I tended to keep my shoes in cooler weather, but even now, when temperate weather arrives, my shoes are once again tucked into pockets or backpack or even my camera bag. I even ride my bike barefoot, except if I’m on a public street.
So it was yesterday, as early as March 5, when the temperature hit 72 degrees locally. I took two hours in the afternoon to walk some of my favorite trails up and down hills along the Panhandle Trail, not far from me. The sun was bright, the trees still bare, the shadows misty and mysterious. Chickadees chick-a-dee-deed among the branches and blue jay screeches echoed up and down the hills, woodpecker hammerings heard like distant construction and I found the litter of wood chips they’d left behind. The leaves that had fallen last autumn were flattened against the earth, but fluttering in little circles just above the packed clay of the trail as breezes whistled down from the sky and around and past me.
The trail had been a railroad line and at some points is very deep in a valley. I walked up and up and up a north-facing hill, then across, then up, then around, following a trail that pulled my feet to it, tracking bright green mossy logs and trickles of water, all the while feeling the soles of my feet press against the earth and bounce back up, feeling the energy seep into my feet and legs, feeling a long week spent in a chair at my computer relax out of my back and shoulders, hips and calves, in a way that walking in shoes can never do.
I feel fully a part of all that is around me, I am not an observer but am as essential to the day as the birds and their songs, the sun and wind, the trickling water, and even the laughter of children, the muted conversations, the barking of dogs on their leashes rising up from the trail far below and drifting through the woods around me. Though I am alone, I am part of of all that is this life, and contribute my part just by existing within it.
Some people, not necessarily scientists, insist there is a positive return for humans to walk barefoot, that it helps your immunity to come in contact with all that’s on the earth, that the earth itself has an energy we absorb that contributes to our general wellness, that walking on the earth makes us literally “grounded”, firm in our selves, our needs, our own truth.
I’m not concerned if there is scientific proof for this one. Apparently it works very well for me, and I’ll continue as long as I can. If you haven’t, give it a try sometime. I understand it can be uncomfortable if you are accustomed to shoes, but in time the joy of feeling the earth beneath your feet is as good as feeling the warm sun on your face in spring.
“The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now.” ~Thich Nhat Hahn, Teaching Peace
NOTE: at this time of fear and sadness in Ukraine, I will add that I am of Ukrainian heritage, and though I never knew that country, never even knew the grandparents who came from there, I feel that my connection with the earth, my love of nature and animals, and my creative spirit all derive from this heritage. I am so sad to see these people crushed by autocratic terrorism. No one on this Earth deserves to suffer in this way. I am putting my heart and my hope with the strength and independent spirit of the Ukrainian people, as well as the rest of the world, as we pull together to oppose this war, and hopefully, all wars.
Resources to read a little more about walking barefoot:
“Walking Barefoot Can Make You Happier & Healthier”, https://www.consumerhealthdigest.com/general-health/walking-barefoot.html
“Going Barefoot Is Good for the Sole”, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/going-barefoot-is-good-for-the-sole/
“What is ‘Earthing’ and can it improve your health?” https://www.countryliving.com/uk/wellbeing/a30992559/what-is-earthing/
Celebrate barefoot walking
Here are two paintings I’ve done, and added text to prints as well.
SUPPORT MY WRITING