Monday, July 03, 2006

Barefoot

As a dyed-in-the-wool hippie, it is my supreme conviction that few small pleasures in life are greater than walking barefoot on a hot summer day. The prickle of dry grass, the searing of sunlit blacktop, the coolness of freshly-mowed lawn or precious shade. It forces you to pay more attention to your environment, something which I don't think enough people these days do.

As a boy growing up on the shores of Lake Huron, I didn't have many friends, so I spent a great deal of time in solitude. This was easy for me, being a latchkey kid, and so by the time I was about ten years old, I had developed a habit of going on long strolls through my hometown and the surrounding countryside. My father, having watched "Crocodile Dundee" too many times, called these wanderings of mine "walkabouts," owing to the long stretches of time for which I would disappear. It was common for me, as a kid, to wake up early in the summers, pack a few light snacks and a beverage, and spent the entire day walking. At times, I didn't even return home until it was nearly dark

Obviously, being an active child, I went through a lot of shoes, so oftentimes rather than waste the effort treating blisters and athlete's foot, I eschewed footwear altogether. I used to cover dozens of miles a day on foot, and I rarely entered business establishments, so it wasn't usually an issue. If I needed to restock, I simply returned home briefly. That said, I realized quickly just how much we take things like shoes for granted. Shoes cut us off from the earth; they leave us ignorant of the subleties of terrain and make us clumsy. Walking barefoot during those summer days of my youth, I learned much about nature and my own ways of interacting with it. I learned how to supinate my foot when walking over hot sand; learned how to grip with my toes when climbing steep riverbanks or sandstone cliffs. Stalking wildlife through the woods near the old Air Force radar post, I learned how to walk so as to be completely silent, even in the densest underbrush. When the Lake brought sweet breezes from the North, I found myself appreciating the respite from heat more thorougly. I relished the way the wind brushed between my toes, and the way the morning dew cooled my soles.

Ultimately, I find that there's something to be said for that whole "barefoot hippie" thing. I don't much care for peasant skirts, but when I see young men with dreadlocks wandering around in windblown sarongs, I can honestly say I understand the liberation such affectations bring. Shedding those accoutrements of civilization can be refreshing, even empowering, and it can put you in touch with your world in ways you might not otherwise notice. It's about being free, about making contact with some ancient sense-memory of our long-dead ancestors. It's about reconnecting with something we've long since lost. On this long weekend, I'd encourage everyone I know to just, well, lose the shoes for a while, and see how different it feels.

Here's to being a barefoot hippie.

7 Comments:

Blogger cinnabari said...

Barefoot is the way to be, baby. Although the SoCal aesthetic of the flip flop cannot be underestimated (and really, close enough and still legal for stores!). Used to drive my mother nuts. Wear slippers! and You're going to get splinters from the deck! Bah. And then the years of kung fu... you get a real appreciation for the connection of chi to earth.

Besides. I hate, hate, hate socks.

6:08 PM  
Anonymous kesuka said...

Amen my brotha

1:31 AM  
Blogger essa said...

It'd be easier if we could just walk on Nature... on the Earth, but with so much man-made ground to cover, it's hard to go barefoot. I kinda like the smoothness of my feet! If I walked on concrete all day... they'd be rough. But, I will do as you request when I'm on the beach in a few weeks. Happy Independence Day, Milo. Thanks for spending it thousands of miles away from the country you defend.

3:40 PM  
Blogger cameo said...

the bottoms of our feet around here are always 'dirty'.

5:45 AM  
Anonymous S. R. said...

I'm too scared to walk barefoot. I'm afraid I would step on something, get injured, that injury would becopme infected....

I walk around my house barefoot and only wear flip-flops during the summer months.

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Sarah Riegle said...

i walk around barefoot all the time.... unless it's snowing. when it's above 45 degrees, the shoes come off (unless i'm in a building that requires them) and i carry them until i need them. i like the feel of the earth beneath my feet.

10:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too have eshewed the shoes and go barefoot all the time now. It truely is the only way tp be, at home, at work, wherever I go, I go barefoot. It's fun and feels so damn good.

9:56 PM  

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