It's a particular feeling, the earth beneath your bare feet. For city folk the experience can be rare indeed. In the summertime, I try my best to find clean-enough looking patches of grass to wriggle my toes in, but I'd be lying if I said that the search always offers a kind reward. In the city, even sandals can pose summertime hazards. Spend an afternoon walking in a pair of flip flops, and you'll realize that city feet are perhaps meant to be kept somewhat better protected. For this city-dweller, the lesson isn't easily learned. Despite all prior experience, I've left the house on many mornings having done little more than slip on a pair of leather flip flops and trade one cotton dress I call a nightgown for another that I call a sundress. When I return home mid-morning, a thin black line of grime has already formed at the edge of my heel. At the front door, I kick off my flip flops and tiptoe across my apartment floor. Standing fully clothed in the bathtub, I attack my heels with soap and a pumice stone, scraping off the city street that's made its way onto my heels. More often than not, the water runs gray.
This week, I'm at my parents' house, just two hours from the city but in a place where I was taught that toughened and callused feet were a virtue. In the summertime growing up, my sisters and I would demonstrate our toughness by the ease with which we could walk across a gravel driveway in bare feet. By the beginning of August, we'd winced our way across the pointy stones enough times that our heels had the balls of our feet had formed their own leathery protraction. We giggled behind our hands at out-of-town cousins who took the grassy way around.
I'm getting in as much bare footed time as I can manage, but if my ten year-old self could see the way I just picked my way across the driveway, she'd be cackling.