At the end of the chapter when she invited the reader to join in the practice of going barefoot part of me was all in and wanted to have all of us post picture of our bare feet walking where we live. But then I started to picture you. My mind went from dusty roads, to cold climates, to orphans too poor for shoes, to prostitutes wearing worn out high heels, to the crunch of leaves underfoot, classrooms where you are either teacher or student, villages and modern cities. Floors with carpet, wood, dirt. Part of me sighed and thought, Barbara what may work is some locations may not work in all.
“The beauty of physical practices like this one is that you do not have to know what you are doing in order to begin.”
OK, Barbara, you got me. This chapter has me thinking about feet, shoes, floors, and walking.
I was born to a shoe wearer and a shoe abhorrer. Shoes were for winter and school, we spent most of our summers barefoot and free. While others kids needed shoes to cross the street, not us, we had toughed the soles of our feet up through use and were able to dance back and forth to the neighbors across the street. You can guess that the foot ware freedom came from our mother.
Our father, on the other hand (foot?), was rarely barefoot. Seeing his feet was akin to seeing a wild animal, unexpected and exciting, ushering in a sudden quiet so as not to scare it off.
We also were floor dwellers. Playing games, coloring, and as the years went by, laying on the floor to do homework. This formed me and informed me, this business with feet and floors.
And then I moved to a culture with very different relationship to both. The floor was dirty and bad. The foot never to touch it. I look back on those early days when I didn’t know this, smile and shake my head at young, naive Amy and the cultural faux pas she made.
My teammate and I were in need of bikes and some students took us to the used bicycle market to get them, asking us to stay outside and wait for them, knowing our white skin and big noses would raise the price. So we waited. Time went by and we got tired of waiting and sat down on the steps. You can see where this is going, right?
We didn’t know. Culture training in California can only cover so much and we hadn’t talked about waiting outside of a bike market and being bored.
The students came out with bikes and looks for horror on their faces. At this point we knew something was wrong, but it was only later I knew the look meant: It’s true, they really are barbarians. Why else would they sit unprotected on the ground.
A bit of cultural awkwardness arose as two students pushed bikes towards us and others hurried to dig out newspaper from their bags. I can’t remember now if just one or both bikes were taken back in search of others, but as they left we were told to only sit on the newspaper. Emphatically, sternly, in slightly louder, clearer voices. I remember wondering how sitting on newsprint that would wipe off on my pants was worse than dirt.
One of my classroom rules used to be “no spitting.” In an era when so much has changed and 20 years of “Civilization Campaigns,” spitting is no longer talked about in cultural preparation and classroom management in the way it was. It seems quaint and sweet. But it was neither quaint or sweet to me in my classroom. It was necessary and gross. Why, because we had a different view of feet and floors. Different. I want to say mine is “better” and justify it was scripture, but that only points to how entwined these cultural norms can be with biblical ones. Lord spare us from a “Biblical Footwear” movement.
Living cross culturally has aided my awareness of pace and bodies. Feet and foot ware. In the not so distant past it wasn’t unusual to see occasional granny toddling around on feet bound in childhood, even then as relationship with feet, privilege, and sexuality changing.
This week we’re talking about healing — needing healing forces us to walk in shoes we don’t want and often at paces we wished moved faster. Do I hear an Amen? (Just heard from a friend whose daughter had an ear ache and it too all day at the local hospital to get medicine. All day with a sick toddler.)
These days our feet know the custom lines and waiting to board planes. I wonder how walking more would help our souls stay in our bodies. I love the convenience, air travel brings, yet can see the ways it confuses my soul to move so quickly from one land to another. Jet lag disoreints more than my sleep.
There is much to unpack from Walking on the Earth and I look forward to the comments. What stood out to you? How are feet and floors and walking viewed where you live? How did your childhood form and inform you? Passages that stood out to you? Thoughts that were stirred? It’s all fair game!
P.S. Next week we’ll looking at the practice of Getting Lost.
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Photo Credit : Gratisography