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.
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.
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.