February 28, 2016

Here to There

My feet don’t like shoes and rarely feel comfortable in socks. They have been married to Rainbow Hemp flip-flops for at least five years. The bottom of my feet are worn and calloused and usually dry. They have created a thick later of dead skin just in case the flip-flops wear out. A home made armor of sorts. They love the touch of sand and the salty sea. They feel the burn of the hot concrete at pool’s edge. They’re not pretty. And they’re not meant to be. They’ve been around and have served me well.

The pinkies are disappearing. It’s like they have an evolutionary head-start and could be gone in my lifetime. They shed the pinky-nails years ago. Now they’re just stumps with a clump of calcium at the tips. They both fold under the nearest toe like runty piglets snuggling for shelter. The nails on the big toes are made of stronger stuff. They are currently coated with specks of weeks old golden nail polish. They like to be lacquered, usually in black, somehow makes them feel more masculine when in polish. They’re saying, "yeah we are wearing ladies paint, but damn it, look at us- we are rugged and can walk miles in bare-feet. We have been to nearly every continent and recently learned how to run long distances. We can do anything."

My feet are covered with large veins and hairier than I remember. Small tufts on every knuckle and a bigger patch on the crown. As a teenager, I suffered from long-term athlete's foot, which was ironic because I rarely associated myself with athletes. For years, I tried to rid myself of the fungus, apparently all I needed was a good pair of flip-flops and the open air. The skin between my toes is drier now and crackles like a reptile’s, the way I imagine a good foot should. One toenail has inexplicably turned black. It doesn’t hurt, so I am hopeful it will not fall off and cause me pain or intervene with my running schedule.

I have been an American size ten and a half since I was in high school and my left foot is almost a half size bigger than my right, so it is more like an eleven. When I have to wear shoes, my feet prefer Vans, though they miss Doc Martin boots. At the moment I have three pairs of shoes- one pair are brand new and the other two are in various states of decay. My feet wear shoes until they fall apart. They never wear leather.

My feet like to hike and trek and stand on paddle boards. They wish that they could have learned to surf, and although they feel cramped they miss being shoved into fins. They have never climbed a mountain and are wondering what the hell we are waiting for. Mount Kenya is right there they tell me every time we go to Daraja.

My feet feel strong and solid and literally ground me, although the ankles feel more and more frail each year. The finger-prints have been rubbed raw and tell few stories these days. Or maybe there is only one story all feet tell- memories blurring together one step at a time. Walking in circles until we all lay down.

My feet don’t like the cold or snow or being bundled up. They cannot breathe and feel suffocated in that darkness. They have not smelled in years and they are proud of this fact. Open air feet are free and happy. They are my roots, each tendon playing its role like a sophisticated machine.

I love my feet even if they are ugly and old and weary and tough. I love that they are both still working like champions to take me from here to there and back again. 

Survived a late Sunday afternoon Ikea run, but we needed a few things- my bedside lamp just stopped working. Came home with a plant/herb shelf for the balcony I am pretty excited about and Mairin bought a stand up desk for her classroom. I spent an hour putting the things together, switching back and forth between a zen-like calm proving to myself that I am a mature and confident man, and a frustrated rapid breathing monster who just couldn’t get that damn screw in straight to save his life. Such is the art of mindfulness.

Looking forward to growing some flowers and herbs on that shelf in the next few weeks. We have four small balconies and except for two small pomegranate trees we have little else in the way of greenery. I hoping this shelf will change all that. It’s funny how a busy life will force you to forget the little things that could bring you joy.

The night ended with me snuggling Kaia on the couch as we watched Supergirl. Made me think about how big she is getting and how soon she will not want to snuggle with her dad anymore. I remembered her as a toddler in Doha and as a little girl in Jakarta and I swelled with an unnamable pride and a crippling sadness. I spoke with my mom today and she said how much she missed me. I wonder how much she misses the times we shared on a couch as she held her baby. This parenting thing seems to get harder and more complicated the longer you do it.

My mom told me that they published one of her poems on the Tassajara website. Here are a few lines I found:

The little girl within,
surrounded by the mountains,
grounded on the land,
with the intention in her heart
to walk the path of compassion
on this earth.


  1. My feet too remained dry, cracked, callous. It has much to do with living in the dry climate of Arizona, but also as I rarely wear socks when just walking around in my tennis shoes. I enjoy walking outside barefoot, out in my yards tepping across the rock pathways, sans shoes. Shoes on the beach violates my soul.

    I wrote something long long ago, pre-internet, pre-computer, that I doubt it even exists-- how my feet got smart.

    I never hiked as a kid. I walked, explored the neighborhood, but going off into the woods was something I did not even do until high school. The irony is that this became my favorite activity, a place where I might feel something akin to a spiritual feeling. Out in the wild.

    The story is my friend, Jimmy. He was by far the coolest kind in our group- athletic, classic blonde hair / blue eyes, always a bit of mischief. He got beer easily, he had pot, he played Led Zeppelin loud in his basement.

    This one time maybe in 11th grade, early Spring, Jimmy did not show up to school. We heard from his girlfriend that he escaped to the woods, a place known as Morgan Run. Three of us decided to go out Friday afternoon and check up on him, with the directions she provided. There was a spot where you had cross Morgan Run, a creek. You had to step put on two rocks, then hop on and off of a tall knife shaped rock in the middle. I was sure i would fall into the cold creek, but somehow I stumbled my way across.

    About a mile in we found Jimmy, smoking a cigarette, next to his small tent, and he smiled when we showed up, especially was we had snagged a few beers. We talked, found out he just goes a bit stir crazy in town, and likes to get out in the woods for peace. I never even thought about doing something like that (I was definitely a dork).

    As dusk moved in, the two friends I came with said they had to get back home (one worked, the other??). It seemed wrong to go, so I surprised myself when I said I would stay overnight. Jimmy was the one in the group I knew least, and he beamed and said, love to have you "Al" (who called me "Al"?). We walked back with them, and again, I surprised myself in getting across the stream.

    The two friends took off. Jimmy and I headed back to the camp spot. He was ahead of me on that stream, and I stepped 1-2 on the first rocks, then up on that knife shaped rock. Then I felt myself rock forward, then back, then forward, then back... and I fell into the cold stream. Jimmy, ahead of me, spun on a rock, and lurched, and he too fell in the stream.

    There were were both soaked, in weather than was likely going down to the 40s. We shambled back to the fire, and spent an entire night trying to warm up at the fire. I don;t remember sleeping that night i the tent, I was shaking so much I could not fall asleep.

    Maybe I over dramatize the event in hindsight, but it was an experience that bonded me and Jimmy as friends. The morning brought sun, light, and life. We made it back, crossing the stream with a bit more confidence.

    For some reason, the experience made me want to do more hiking and camping, maybe it was the facing something and getting through it. The idea of being self contained for a few days, away from society, melded with my puny teenage angst.

    In a few years, as a Geology major, hiking and camping became part of the routine and my recreation. I noticed something; that when I started doing this, my feet always seemed to be stubbing against rocks, or stepping on the one that was least steady. I always had to watch my feet, to gauge where I should step. But at some point, my feet seemed to get smarter, and so smart, that when I hiked, I could spend more time looking at the places around me, than watching the ground.

    My feet got really smart, so that they just motored along.

    The last 10 years or so, my hiking has tailed off some (excepting outings like a Grand Canyon hike last April with Todd Conaway), and it seems like my feet lost some of their intelligence. But I know they just need to go out more.

    That's my foot story.

  2. Hi,
    My barefoot journey started in 2006. This is the nacient blog about it http://iambarefoot.blogspot.com/

    I didn't take off my shoes to prove anything. My family didn't want to be around me. My feet reeked.

    I admire cody lundin and am better for knowing him, but it's not a form of imitation.

    Foot health, that was the first reason. Then I discovered 101 more.
    I feel closer to a primal humanity. To animal. to nature.
    I pay more attention, go more slowly, and am awakened by the sensations of the moment - all qualities that are part of a healthy life path.
    I feel stronger, and judging by the utterly stunned reaction of perfect strangers, I must be insane.
    "Where are your shoes", "Don't your feet hurt", "You're crazy"
    These are from people I don't even know, people who would have nothing to say if I hadn't taken off my shoes, which could be the thing that is most striking: going barefoot brings me closer to people. It creates an opening that had been plugged up with shoes. I'd like to say they are filled with compassionate wonder, reaching out to me from lips loosened by the sight of a man's toes. It's often scorn, disgust, walking barefoot on a bathroom floor. Mister, the soles of your shoes collect more shit and are harder to clean than my feet, and besides, I don't eat with them.
    The danger. Oh, the broken glass everywhere, the rocks and prickers. Truth: the most blood I've lost came from stepping on broken glass in my own bedroom. I think I broke a toe stubbing it the road. That's a lesson: that the hardest thing on a bare foot is pavement. Once you get off the roads things go better.
    Wearing shoes indoors is an affront to many cultures. Not us. Bare feet are considered ugly in American.
    Isn't barefoot the ideal? It represents the beach, green green grass, childhood, pregnancy, freedom without care.
    I love most of all, when my love says to someone, "He can run barefoot across the desert floor".


    Thanks, man