Today on my walk I did something different.
At the start of the trail, I took off my arch-supporting runners and my sweat-wicking, odour-controlling socks and walked barefoot through the woods.
I had to really concentrate on where I was going, to really look at the dirt of the path, the rocks, find the patches of still tender green grass on the side, avoid the roots and mud.
The difference to walking with shoes was both dramatic and subtle.
Because I could feel every part of the path with my feet, and I had to slow down, it was as if I was seeing this forest and this trail for the first time.
It felt…different…because for the first time the soles of my feet were greeting this landscape. And when I paused, I could sense a subtle change in the way this forest, this beautiful piece of nature reached out to me; no longer disconnected by the insulating rubber barrier of my runners, I felt recognized and yet at the same time undetectable, almost invisible.
As if I had become part of the forest,
a rock on the path,
a fly in the air,
the dancing leaves on the tree.
Birds seemed to startle at my quiet barefoot approach in ways I hadn’t noticed when I walked (probably faster and more stridently) in my shoes. I had to slow down. The bugs, the squirrels, the blackbird all got a good look at me.
Near the end of the path I was slow and quiet enough to notice a pitter-patter on the long grasses and low bushes next to me. The sky was blue, cloudless, and I could see that it wasn’t raining…so I peered closer…and discovered that it was in fact raining caterpillars, from a nest high in the tree above. I laughed, for this felt like a perfect ending to my barefoot roaming, the fuzzy brown tent caterpillars, in their cozy fall sweaters, free falling and dreaming of flying again, with white wings in the autumn breeze.
I share this because all of my barefoot walks, but especially this one, continue to show me how nature is not for me, it is part of me and more importantly I am part of it.
I am learning to listen when it calls, to walk the forest paths barefoot when I can, so I can slow down, so I can be found again. The forest tells me I belong here, just as I am.
Her dirt is still between my toes, and on my heels, now on my kitchen floor, I feel young and alive and somehow free. I have found the way home, it’s right outside my door, it’s right outside your door.
My bare foot prints in the dirt are an invitation answered, a longing understood and redeemed, a deliberate stepping into the great cathedral.
Won’t you join me in the woods?
Walk barefoot in the fields, by the river.
Let yourself be found.