Barefoot in Massachusetts

Barefoot in Massachusetts

My feet are dirty

And I couldn’t be happier about it.

I knew the spate of warmth we had a while back was a false spring. Lovely, though it was, the floors in my house and the ground outside were still too cold to be comfortable in bare feet.

There’s some Appalachian folklore about the earliest it’s safe, in terms of health, to go barefoot, but I couldn’t find it with a casual search and I’m too lazy to do an exhaustive search. If memory serves, I believe the old wives declared that it was the appearance of dandelion blooms that signaled the ground was warm enough to shed shoes.

My yard is a spanse of bright yellow dandelions and my feet are gloriously dirty.

I awoke yesterday knowing that the weather forecast was calling for warmth and sun. I planned a day of gardening. The house was already warm enough that there was no need for My Beloved Robe or house shoes. I poured coffee, opened the patio door to let the dogs out, and ending up letting myself out too. The grass was dewy, but warm and the morning sun was spotlighting the patio table and chairs. I sat on winter-filthy furniture, drank coffee, and watched the dew dry on my feet. Periodically, I ambled about the yard taking inventory of the plants – what made it through last summer’s drought and this winter’s horror and what didn’t. Though the plant inventory was depressing, the day was too beautiful to grieve.

I decided a shower was in order. I took great delight in getting out of the shower and not immediately breaking into goose bumps. Really, I’m easily amused. If I wasn’t already giddy from morning coffee on the patio, getting out of the shower and not rushing to swaddle in layers of terrycloth before hypothermia set in would have been enough to make the day a success.

I pulled on ratty jeans and an even rattier t-shirt and returned to the garden with Great Plans of yard cleanup and double digging. Hours later, I was still sitting at the table. Apparently, I just needed to wallow – barefoot. In the sun. With coffee.

I moved to West Virginia (the first time) on my 15th birthday. I have never really understood this whole barefoot hillbilly thing in the sense that running around barefoot is somehow unusual. The first 15 years of my life, most of it spent it California, Hawaii and coastal North Carolina, I spent barefoot. In fact, my first consumer act as a West Virginia resident was to buy a pair of shoes – it was cold in Bluefield in August.

In Hawaii, we wore shoes to school, but once there took them off and placed them in a box next to the door. Every morning began with us lining up to take our shoes off and toss them into a large wooden box. And no, this wasn’t some small school on a deserted island somewhere – this was a Marine Corps run elementary school on a major base. I have no idea what the shoe thing was about, but assume it had something to do with Japanese cultural influences. Many of my teachers were Japanese.

In North Carolina, I wore shoes in school, but not to or fro except for the “winter” months – loosely defined as November through February. My best friend incurred the wrath of her father when it was discovered that she had managed to fly from North Carolina to New Jersey for a summer vacation only to arrive in New Jersey without any shoes at all. My brother did the same thing the year he spent the summer in Michigan.

In fact, my shoe mania wasn’t indulged until I moved to West Virginia. At present, I have in excess of a 100 pairs of shoes in my closet. I will often buy shoes and then wait for the proper ensemble to appear to go with the shoes. I love shoes. And I love taking them off.

One of my first acts at the office is to kick my shoes off. In fact, I keep a pair of slipper socks at the office for the winter months. The rest of the year, I run around the office in socks or hose or (gasp) bare feet. I once worked with a guy from Ethiopia. In his country, bare feet were a sign of abject poverty and quite shameful. He was appalled anytime he walked into the office and noticed my naked feet. Walking about in socks didn’t seem horrify him the same way.

When the weather is accommodating, I take my shoes off in the car for my commute home. I also tend to forget to take them out of the car so there are months of the year when I have half a dozen pairs of shoes in the car. I can’t remember where it was, but I did live somewhere where it was illegal to drive barefoot. Imagine – shoe police.

Barefoot in West Virginia

Barefoot in West Virginia

I’ve run around barefoot in a number of states and foreign countries and the only time I hear hillbilly jokes is in West Virginia (or if my travel partners know I’m from West Virginia). More importantly, I am never the only person running around sans shoes. This barefoot thing only seems to be an issue here.

A month or so ago, I was staying at the Marriot in Charleston. Through a comedy of errors that was that (very long) day, I ended up with a foot injury that while not immediately noticeable precluded the wearing of shoes by the end of the day. Fortunately, we were having false-spring. I probably would have anyway, but I ended up padding through the hotel barefoot after I changed into jeans. I’m no-doubt responsible for some out-of-state guests leaving with tales of barefoot West Virginians.

Why is this cheerful little flower so hated?

Why is this cheerful little flower so hated?

So it’s mid-April, the ground is warm, and I’m barefoot. For the next 5 months or so, I will begrudge every second I’m in shoes. This is more than habit. I seem to need the contact with the earth (and concrete, gravel, carpet, etc.). I think better in bare feet. I’m happier. I’m certainly more comfortable.

I definitely need a pedicure.  And I’m curious as to why people wage war against dandelions.  They’re such cheerful, hardy little things.

8 thoughts on “Barefoot

  1. I am like you regarding barefootedness…especially in my office. I am barefoot or at least, sock-footed most of the time. I have slippers for winter but otherwise I prefer the freedom! Barefooters untie…and unite!

    Absolutely! Barefeet for everyone! –C

  2. Yes, by all means go barefoot! I love being barefooted myself and although work at the office precludes it, I divest myself of shoes as soon as I get home, especially this time of year. Having spent a better part of my youth in desert environments, going barefoot was difficult if not downright dangerous. Now I enjoy the freedom of naked feet.

  3. One of the few things I remember learning in college was from a “myth and the hero” course: going barefoot => at oneness with nature, associated with boys before the start of their quest (ie leaving the garden/loss of innocence).

    To wit: note Summer Glau’s feet in Firefly and Serenity.

    Re: your dandelion pic — do you gather them for eats? Good with mustard/bacon sauce we used to get at Dutch Pantries… For giggles, do a google on dandelions and rubber — I think a dandelion variant, Russian somethingsomething is a source of synthetic rubber.

    In other news…hi! 🙂

  4. Love barefoot, and love dandelions. Haven’t seen any here, yet. But temps went into shorts and tees range this weekend, so they should pop out in the next couple of days…

    We’re back to rain and more reasonable temperatures, but I’d sorely like some sun. Welcome! –C

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