The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.
Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made
is star-stuff too?
– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –
dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.
Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.
Sunday, 7 July 2013
The next field, cut presumably last week or so, has already been cleared of its hay and the grass is short, turfy and very soft to the soles of my feet. Growing grass is more refreshing, of course, to step on than semi-dried cut grass. Under the trees at the borders there's just a little wet earth: I relish its slight give and ooziness, minimal though that is, in the heat.
Over the little wooden bridge and into a field of long meadowgrass, tipped with mauve and silver flowering heads, and the russet of sheep-sorrel. The grasses sigh against my bare legs; leave a tide of slightly-damp seeds. Here I walk more slowly, more mindfully, as I can't see so well what I'm treading on: it's slightly damp because it's early and because the grass is long, so there may be slugs (and treading on a huge black or brown-and-orange field slug, feeling its viscous squelch between your toes, is an unpleasant experience, and it takes ages to get rid of the slimy feel), and there are both thorn and holly trees close enough to have scattered prickles. Also this field has occasional outlying slate slabs, once part of some sort of causeway leading to the old stone clapper-bridge that the farmer in his wisdom partly dismantled last year, where a snake would enjoy sunbathing. It's good, walking slowly and watching my feet: I'm more aware of every part of my foot and how it makes contact with the ground, aware of all the muscles and bones that have carried me so many thousands of miles in my life (leaving on one side all the extra walking I do, simply giving the dog her daily minimum I know that I do about 700 miles a year).
Over another stile and this meadow too has been left long, though sheep have been here more recently, and more recently still Simon, who works so well in harmony with the land to bring out its best, has started to take out some of the scrubbier bushes by the brook to allow trees to flourish, and has cut a small path through the meadow. This grass is gently stubbly, maybe a day's growth.
Four different experiences – six, if you include the damp earth, and the brook I dipped my feet into – and my feet are in heaven.
I come out onto the tarmac of the lane with its scattering of dirt, gravel and twigs, and decide to walk home barefoot too. This is harder going – of course – tarmac has no give and flex, doesn't respond, or yield, to a foot the way grass and earth do. But it's the little sharp stones that are the issue. My feet are soft, now.
I realise it must be more than two decades since I routinely spent all summer barefoot. Being brought up and continuing to live in the country (and also being a hippy), it was natural to walk barefoot as much as possible when I was younger – at least a great deal of the time.
When did I stop? Even when I was a shoemaker, making shoes from natural materials that were actually good for people's feet – pretty, colourful, made-to-measure, not clumpy but still foot-shaped – I mostly preferred the barefoot way, though I wore them, to show them off, when I was working from my workshop that was open to the public. I do have a memory, though, of excruciating pain after my daughter's flighty little mare leaped sideways once and landed on my (stupidly bare, in this case) foot, breaking two toes and severing my metatarsal ligament. Perhaps that was when?
Gradually, I guess I got absorbed into a more conventional way of living.
Well, you know, stuff that. It's back to barefoot for me a bit more now, after this morning! Time to toughen my soles/feed my soul up a bit more.
I notice that few people are comfortable walking barefoot. On my Ground of Being courses, outdoors on eg Dartmoor, I invite people to take their shoes off. Hardly anyone ever does; but I was very touched when Dominic, who has come to GoB and also came to Iona with my retreat group this year, thought to take his shoes off to walk the labyrinth. It really does make a difference to the experience. Why do we resist? Is it the dirt? Dirt washes off! – though it's true that it takes a good scrub at the end of the day, and I suppose that people resist the aesthetics of engrained dirt and calloused soles.
Against that, though, aren't we already far too insulated from the earth in our man-made soles, tin cars, synthetic carpets, concrete environments? How on earth can the earth's subtle energies get through to us, keep us whole and healthy?
Along with every other animal, humans have walked barefoot and slept on the ground for the major part of our evolution. Our deracination, due no doubt to varied causes, has been exacerbated by urbanisation, industrialisation, technology. In our computer age, this disconnection is the norm.
So we're ignoring a major source of health and wellbeing. Some say that the surface of the earth contains continual healing energy. The ground provides subtle electromagnetic charges that can affect the many systems of the body; insulated from these by our lifestyles and the materials we wear and use is rather like forgetting to plug a lamp into a power socket and then complaining it doesn't work.
What if this physical disconnection from the earth might have impacts on our physiology, state of mind, sleep patterns and stress levels? It certainly has an impact on the life of the soul, the felt warm experiential life of connectedness.
The answer might be so very simple.
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