It’s a cold, wet winter day, spring is far off, and I am well past my prime, but I have a severe hankering to go barefooted. I used to jump the season a bit when I was a youngster. I’d start in March or early April—get rid of the old Keds and begin to toughen up my feet in the yard and pasture before I tackled the gravel driveway. It was great fun and seemed totally natural.
Now I read that scientists say there are health benefits to going barefooted: stress relief, better sleep, improved strength and balance, a boost to red blood cells—it even helps your ions to balance, whatever that means. I’m willing, even eager, to believe all that. But I also believe that we have a spiritual need to put bare feet on the ground.
Earth and ocean, mountain and valley—our world calls us to see, to feel, to touch, to connect with and appreciate the real vs. the fake. This is not to be a picture postcard or screen-saver experience. This is not some artificial long-distance “communing,” like that silly Christmas program, that fake fireplace and fire, which loops endless hours in a cold, off-putting way. This should be a plant-your-feet on the grass, in the warm sand, in the cool, freshly-turned soil-of-your-garden sort of experience.
I like to recall that scene in Exodus when God speaks to Moses and orders him to take off his sandals, “for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” I don’t read that to mean a special sanctification of one small plot of mountainside. If Moses keeps his sandals on and merely moves a step or two to the side, that’s not enough. I take it to mean that Moses needs to reconnect with the dust from which he was formed. All parts of that mountain are holy.
All parts of our world are holy. Shoes are made things, needed much of the time but a barrier between us and our roots. Sometimes we, like Moses, must remove them and feel the spirit in the earth.