Ethne Clarke asked what kind of boots I wear for gardening. Boots? What boots? My favorite thing of all is gardening in bare feet, the soles of my calloused feet directly connects my soul to the warm, wet, highly textured earth…it’s like a whole new 7th sense of summer experienced through my toes, like prehensile antennae, and a profound sensual pleasure.
It all started when I was a kid growing up on the 20th-century America’s first organic farm. When summer came my mom would let us out in the morning and then beep the car horn at night when it was time to come in for dinner. Did I wear shoes? No way. I didn’t even wear a shirt till I was 8 or 9. I could measure the progression of summer by how much easier it got to run over the sun-baked pavement macadam or gravel drive. The first week was always hard, but by the end of summer nothing could stop me!
When I studied Permaculture with Bill Mollison many years ago, I was fascinated by his feet. He rarely wore shoes (or if he had to, a pair of cheap flip flops) and as a result, the calluses on the bottom of his feet looked to be about 2 inches thick. Now THAT was something to be proud of!
Unfortunately, with my job and such, I can’t get close to wearing that sort of casual footwear, but at home I love to see my feet get so dirty that even scrubbing doesn’t get the dirt off. And here is why: it grounds me. Bare feet connect me to the earth in a way that I can feel in my whole body. The energy of the whole planet flows through my body like a radio current that harmonizes with my soul. But it’s practical too. Through my feet I can tell if the soil is good or not, and how much water it needs. Through my feet I can tell if the grass is healthy or sick…I can even tell if it’s organic or not!!!! Even the stones have messages – about temperature or time of day. I can tell how alive things are by how they feel beneath my feet.
Some people walk on fire to test their faith and their bodies. I look at gardening barefoot in the same way. It’s amazing what we can do when we overcome our fear, when we walk carefully, watching each step and feeling the universe through our soles. At first our feet might be too sensitive. But it’s like exercise – we build our strength and resilience over time and with use. Yes, there are some risks (the occasional step on a bee, a rose thorn, or a slug) but those risks remind us that nature has a voice, too. We can’t just run roughshod over her without consequences. Barefoot gardening builds trust, in nature, in our selves and in our gardens.
But it feels good, too.