Earthworms’ Castings

With Jean Ponzi

Lost My Shoes

The first time was surprising.

I keep my shoes in the same place, on the bedroom floor. I put most things in the same place, to remember where the heck I put whatever-it-is. But that day, those shoes had been right where I left them . . . and a day or two later they reappeared.

The second time I knew where I took them off, before they vanished.
I was decorating friends’ screened-in porch with colored lights (LED, of course). I needed something to stand on. The nearest item was a cushioned chair. It was muddy outside, so I before I climbed up on that chair, I slipped off my shoes (sandals, Birkenstock, basic black).

I finished my festive lighting job, padded into the house to stow my tools, and detoured to fix myself a nice iced coffee. Coming back to the porch I found – no shoes.
Once can be an oddity. Twice in a couple of weeks is a pattern. What is the message afoot here, Jean? I felt I had to consider deeply.

This friends’ place is out in the country. Summer bounty was all around: wild flowers, cool grass, mulched paths; mossy patios, wraparound porches; pasture, gravel road, spring-fed lake; ticks, chiggers, mud.

It’s one of my favorite spots on Earth.
Hmmm… Earth. Nature. A country place I love.

In my work, I give a lot of talks. I go about (wearing shoes) admonishing folks to connect with nature. “We human beings NEED nature!” many people hear me preach.
I counseled myself: Jean, this is one of those grow-and-change deals. Go walk around without your shoes.

Now I am truly not a neat-freak. Especially, as my husband knows, where piles of stuff on horizontal surfaces are concerned. But I care how my feet feel. I can’t fall asleep if they’re icky. I need to at least wipe them off with a cool, damp washcloth. Then, happily: ZZZ zzz…

But that was not nap time, it was a moment of opportunity. Shoe-less, I stepped off the porch and into nature.

I wandered along the garden paths, heard birds, felt the breeze. I didn’t stroll all the way down to the lake, but I meandered for quite awhile, intentionally aware.

Oh sure, I noticed a gathering dusty coat of particles. But that was just the surface of a focus through my feet. I encouraged myself to feel grassy tickles, hot stone and refreshing shade. Spikey mowed plant stems and insects crawling. The only thing missing was a trickling creek.

City feet are really not prepared to hike out into a pasture, but they can be ambassadors, even matchmakers, for an urban individual to enjoy a little toe-dance with her nature re-connection desires.

It was only a couple of hours before my trusty Birks popped back from oblivion. They were near where I had shed them, neatly stowed on my friends’ porch, in a bin full of sandals.

So I lost my shoes and found… a bit of empathy. How might my fellow humans feel about Nature? Do we even realize we are disconnected? Maybe bugs repel us because we don’t learn to observe and enjoy them. Maybe natural forces have wrecked our home, or simply backed up stormwater in the basement. Thoughts like these were a flood of realization, walking awhile in the shoes of perception about nature.

Everybody wears shoes, and we all have experiences and reasons that feel important (therefore feel valid) to us. A person coming with her We Need Nature sermonette needs to tack a layer of compassion to her soles.

It’s not fair, or effective, to just talk about connecting. Nature needs us to love her through real connection.

Connection found (I do prefer) while wearing my shoes.

Catch Jean Ponzi’s weekly Earthworms KDHX podcasts, for Green Views You Can Use, at Earthworms.kdhXtra.org. And tune into “Growing Green St. Louis” Saturdays 3-4 pm on the Big 550 KTRS-AM.