let the earth touch you

It sounds stupid in my head to want to take a barefoot walk in the middle of a city neighborhood, but I do. My best friend and I used to do it together when I’d visit her in the city. Even now sometimes I can’t resist. I went out barefoot just a few weeks ago. I didn’t go much further than just around the block, but it still felt grounding somehow.

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The weekend after that walk I visited friends in northern California. We took a hike through a grove of giant redwood trees. The trail was flooded in places. We sidestepped over half-cracked branches to cross wide puddles, and leapt carefully from one muddy bank to another when the water filled the entire trail. I had forgotten how irritating and exhilarating it is to get your socks wet through your shoes and slide precariously on the slick earth.

The next day we visited Ridgewood Ranch, wandering in and out among the fenced and wooded pastures, following first the redwoods and then the creek. We stumbled upon a beautiful pasture pocked with cow patties, hoof-prints that had collected water, and an old zipline. In the spirit of adventure, we all took a turn on the zipline – racing down the hill and dragging our feet on the tussocked ground to slow ourselves before coming to the end of the cable.

My jeans were so dirty I had to turn them inside out to pack them in my suitcase that night. But I was glad, even then. It was satisfying to get so dirty for once. I often did as a kid, even as a teen. Lately I’ve been adapting to sanitary, suburban life, I suppose. Why is it so important to just be outside, in the woods, getting dirty? There is something so natural and free about not minding if your socks are a little wet, your jeans a little muddy. It is important to let the earth touch you, now and then. To remember where you live, how you live.

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It’s all making me more glad that we’ll be moving up to summer camp next month. I look forward to getting a little dirty, washing a little extra laundry, and getting a bit closer to the earth. Here’s to the the pebbles that get into our sandals, the puddles that soak through the mesh of our shoes, the wind that whips your hair across your eyes, into your laughing mouth. Here’s to being people familiar with the ground we walk on.

he dug down

When I was half-grown, my family got horses. I thought it would be cool. It turned out to be a lot of work. My dad roused our family one Saturday and told us it was time to fence in a pasture for our future horse. He had outlined the perimeter of it, he said. Now we had to fence it. We set out, loading our supplies onto the four-wheeler. One of us took the post-hole digger and started digging. Dad would measure, and tell us to dig deeper. Two of us came behind, one holding the post with thick work gloves while the other slammed a post-pounder down on the top of it, over and over. Behind them we came filling in the holes, snapping on the insulators, stringing the wire. It was a long day. When we finished we could scarcely even see the slim wire fence against the thick prairie grass. It was there, and effective, but practically invisible.

I read the parable of the builders today, in Luke 6. Jesus says of the first builder that “he dug down” and laid a foundation. It didn’t even take having a horse to know that I hate digging, and here’s God, saying you have to keep digging if you don’t want your life to fall over.

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“Do you really think these trees have been here for a thousand years?” Tiffany asked. Jon looked up. We all looked up. Standing there under the towering fragrant forest, we couldn’t doubt that they had seen a thousand years of sunrises, heard a thousand years of laughter. Their roots, I learned, grow up to 6 feet deep and nearly 100 feet out. The Redwoods are anchored for the centuries.

I spent about a year, maybe even more, digging through my crippling insecurity, trying to find the root of it, to dig that out too. You’ve got to dig down into yourself, but dig down into God too. It was only ever after I started with Him and His words as a foundation that I was able to dig up the crap I’d been standing on.

I’m trying to build this life-foundation strong, because I want to stand tall. Maybe it is hidden work, but even if nothing of the foundation shows, then at least the life-that-does-not-crumble will. Perhaps it will take hours at my kitchen table, reading and underlining and praying the scriptures. Maybe it will take years. Maybe it should take years. But perhaps if we stay where we are meant to be, if we dig down deep enough, then in a thousand years we will be as beautiful as this.

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