In Defense of a Simple Joy

Admit it: you ARE slightly jelly, bro.

A few weeks ago, I found myself at McIntosh Reserve, one of the best-kept secrets in my area. In spring, it’s a simply gorgeous place, with cool, quiet camping sites right near the river, trees in every shade of green imaginable, and Atamasco lilies blooming at Council Bluff. It’s one of those places that has a spirit, and I can feel that spirit best when the weather is warm. It’s the kind of place that gives me a hug when I get out of the car. Crowds usually aren’t too bad there, either.

No, wait. Forget everything I just said. It’s a crappy place, full of poison ivy and hawk turds plummeting from the sky. Yeah, don’t go there. Ever. Stay away.

One of the simple pleasures I indulge in while at the Reserve is hiking, running, and strolling “soles out,” as it were. I’ve been on the trails, along the camping areas, and recently on a couch-to-5K run in the large field adjacent to the river, all barefoot. And I loved every minute of it.

Something happens, something simple and old and charming, that I can’t get if I’m not touching the ground. It’s hard for me to be mean or too far into my head when I’m standing there, between earth and sky. I feel small, among the huge oaks and stones of the reserve. Not small in a bad way, small in the sense of being in my place in the world, in that environment. I feel…natural.

Instead of pushing nature away with walls and screens and wifi, I’m part of it. I hesitate to use the term “earthing”; I’m not sure that I’m ready to venture down that free-market-granola-strewn path just yet. When you talk about conducting magical electric earth energy, people look at you strangely, even more strangely than they did when they inevitably noticed that you aren’t wearing shoes. I will say, however, that after I run barefoot, there’s this quite pleasant electric sensation from my knees down, like the muscles are happy or something.

Going barefoot is a quite nice cure for excessive introspection. One thing that you’ll notice is that you, well, notice more. It’s as if all your senses, not just touch, come to life, and suddenly you’re aware of the path in front of you. You’re evaluating how to negotiate that patch of gravel, or the particularly treacherous mud slick up ahead, the one that could make you perform an impromptu split if you’re not careful.

I hear you saying, “But what if I step in something gross or dirty?” If you step in something, be assured: you will die. You will fucking die. That’s been proven by science. Legions of our ancestors perished from dirt exposure, and you are no different. Same goes for your kids. If they get outside dirt on them, they’ll explode, right after looking at you with big, dewy eyes that silently scream, “Why did you let this happen to me?” Then boom. Kidfetti floating mournfully to the ground. I know it’s true, because the TV, the Playstation, and the superfattygreasy kid foods told me so.

Barefooting requires you to assess the terrain in front of you rather than literally roflstomping it while your mind grinds over the same bullshit it always does when you don’t have a screen going bippy-bip-bip in your face. You can’t think about your bills, your ex, your deadlines, or when you think you’re gonna die. You have to be there, present and in the moment. Think of it as cheap and easy Zen.

After a day like that, as I swing in my hammock down by the river and gaze up into the branches, I often find myself thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great if it could be like this all the time?”

I’d love to go barefoot everywhere, especially in weather like we have here right now. I desperately wish I were one of those people who truly does not give a rainbow-colored shit about what people think, but I’m not. I remember I have restrooms and nuclear-hot parking lots to negotiate today, so I slip my Crocs on and head out, knowing I’ll joyfully kick them off in the car, but also knowing I’ll dutifully put them back on for that trip into the drug store. Would I love it if I could wake up in the morning, get dressed, and step happily out my front door and run all of my day’s errands sans footwear, and not have anybody raise an eyebrow? Absolutely!

This is after a 30-minute run over a grassy field, sticks, and some stones. Do you see any blood or exposed bone? Then don't be afraid. Try it.

Some people find feet ugly or offensive. I’m so sorry, I didn’t know that I grew appendages for the appraisal and consumption of the general public. You don’t want to see my feet? Well, I don’t necessarily want to run my eyes over your cottage cheesy thighs, or your husband’s hairy, bulging, exposed gut, or your grey roots that have grown out to the point that you look like a German shepherd. Or your face, which ain’t no oil painting.

But I have the civility to keep my mild distaste to myself, and not comment. People will go out of their way to tell someone that he or she ought to wear shoes in public, but let a woman walk in without a bra on, and the same thing will NOT happen. Not to say that going all chest-commando bothers me; I fully support jiggling in public; it’s going to be my foremost talking point when I run for office.

It’s the monocle-popping shock and horror that I find so irritating, so insanely out of proportion to the offense. I remember viewing a Today show video clip in which a panel of undeniable brain trusts was discussing people who take their shoes and (gasp) their socks off on long flights and dare to place their feet near someone else’s seat. From their scandalized tone and language, you’d think someone had carved out a pig’s anus, fresh from a carcass stowed in the overhead compartment, and draped it on an unsuspecting passenger’s shoulder during takeoff.

Granted, someone’s feet fresh out of a pair of shoes ain’t my idea of a good time either, but how bout some freakin’ perspective here: it just isn’t that bad. It’s at times like this that I realize we may be more repressed and puckerbutted in some areas than our Victorian forebears were.

Also, some say that going barefoot in public is disrespectful to the establishments that one visits.



Am I tracking in any more or less dirt than if I were wearing shoes? Perhaps a little more, but that’s what those rugs at the entrance are for. With a thin layer of good, clean dirt on them, soles don’t pick up any more or less dirt than shoes would anyway.

Some would say that a barefoot patron would lower the tone of the establishment, thereby dissing the place hard, yo. Many is the time that I needed some laundry detergent and a Milky Way, and upon seeing a barefoot patron, I knew that dive just wasn’t up to my standards, and promptly left. I would rather reek of sweat and never know the taste of caramel again rather than lower myself to going to that seedy dump.

Is it because my naked flesh is in contact with their floors? Maybe that’s the dark side of the sensuous enjoyment of barefooting, that I am somehow getting some free, unregulated, untaxable enjoyment out of their virginal floors.

Kiwis and Aussies are so much more sensible about this than Americans. In the mall, barefoot, no problem. Try that in the States and you'll be in a straitjacket before you can finish your order.

Oh, Dollar General, your floors are so…cool. So smooth and perky. Look at that cheeky shine. They’re asking for it, all polished like that. I’m going to press my naked skin against them erotically with every step. They like that, I can tell. They may look all clean and white, but I’m not fooled. Filthy whore-floors. My stroll down the aisles is just foreplay. After I check out, I’m headed round back to find that naughty little air conditioning drainage outlet and do unspeakable things to it. I’m going to pound your store like a cheap hooker, and there no way you can charge me for the privelige because there isn’t a “building sex” key on your register!

I simply do not understand this argument, how flip-flops, two thin flaps of neoprene between the floor of my local store and me could be the threshold between Downtown Abbey civility and uncouth, discalced savagery. Of course, I know what it really is: it’s fear of legal action. They’re afraid that if someone gets hurt in the store, they’ll be liable. You know what I say to that?

Caveat planipes. Let the barefoot beware.

I understand that by not wearing shoes I am taking a risk. I could step on an errant piece of glass from that broken jar swept up weeks ago. I could tread on a bee in the parking lot median, or stub my toe on an endcap–and I am okay with this risk. If I get hurt, it’s my fault and my problem. Mea culpa.

Wow, you use one Latin phrase, and it just won’t stop.

I guess I’m saying that we need to reassess how we see going barefoot. It’s not dirty. It’s not disrespectful. And if it offends you, look the fuck away. It’s time to take back the simple, free joys of life. Get out of the screen, get out of your head, and get into some mud. I promise you’ll smile.

Continue reading “In Defense of a Simple Joy”

Catching Up: The Fam

Oh, hey. You're still here? Really?

Been coming by, just checking in? No? I'll just pretend you said yes, then.

Anyway, pull up a chair! Here, let me dust that off for you. Have a seat, and try to ignore that cobweb cheekily tickling your ear. Enjoy this suspiciously old chocolate bar that I left the last time I was in here, on the house. Yeah, just break that part off. Don't feel bad; I wouldn't eat that bit, either.

So, how's every little thing? Really? Fascinating. Yeah. Yeah. Uh-huh.

Me? I'm glad I imagined that you asked! Let me catch you up on everything.

Proto-Katie. I've learned that when they get loose, that's when the trouble starts.



Meet Katie. Wait, she looks quite different now. Let me get something more current.

Yes, she is pretty much this photogenic and happy all the time.

She's now 7 months old, and quite possibly the most spookily happy baby I've ever seen. If she's not lonely or hungry, she's cool with the world. She came in at 9 pounds, 2 ounces, and for a while she was worryingly coasting on her ample birth pudge, but her eating picked up, and she's currently both fat and happy. Someone once said that the best things in life are round, babies and bubbles being chief among these, and that's certainly true in her case.

Daughters are, to be sure, very different animals. For one thing, they are very different in the behind-the-diaper area. When she first got here, I wasn't at all prepared for the fact that she would have fully complete girl gear at Level 1. O.o

I don't know what I expected, but now that I've had time to think about it, here's what should happen: Girls should be born with just a date down there. Maybe the word “Mattel” too, but that's negotiable. At about 18 (or better yet 30) the Vagina Fairy should visit, tap these proto-women on the crotch with a magic wand, and bink, lady bits!


But no. Instead, I have to worry about every boy's magic wand, from now until the day I die.

/target Boyfriend
/cast Scare Beast

Andy tells people that Katie is his baby. We've agreed to not really be concerned about that for the future.

Andy? Andy's fine, thanks for asking. He's doing okay: hard-headed, negotiating, but sweet. He loves to make Katie laugh. For all of my worries about who he's going to become, I think he's going to grow up to be a compassionate person, a good person.

Now, now I understand the saying, “Boys will be boys”. He dashes all over the house, runs in circles (while wearing socks on a laminate floor) right in front of the brick fireplace, and was recently busted at school for jumping on his cot during nap time–all this from a boy whose parents were total teacher's pets in school! Today he stepped on a kid's finger, pulled the hair of a different kid, and hit still another one with a shoe, but it was okay because Andy didn't use his own shoe to do the deed. /sigh. It's hard to be angry with a kid who thrives on making you laugh; even his teachers have trouble disciplining him through the smoke bomb of charm he can toss.

How's WoW going? I'll save that for the next time I see you. When you come back, I'll have everything dusted and the Rainmate cranked up, I promise. I want to whip this place back into shape.