My mother liked to make rules. She liked to say, “No going barefoot until the date of June 8,” which happened to be her brother Quinten’s birthday. It didn’t mean much, …
My mother liked to make rules. She liked to say, “No going barefoot until the date of June 8,” which happened to be her brother Quinten’s birthday. It didn’t mean much, especially in years when we had already started swimming in the pond in April.
I am not much of a rule maker, but “the barefoot rule” has become a way to mark time and, for me, June 8 has become the official date for the start of summer. As well as, incidentally, the only way I have ever remembered my uncle’s birthday.
My sisters, cousins and I ran around barefoot for most of our childhood. It was a rite of summer to ditch the school shoes and gallop into the freedom of vacation. It was liberating to feel the baked heat of the flat stones that made a path from the house to the road. Our feet toughened up from racing on the dirt roads and from running across the stubble left in the fields after the grass was cut and baled during haying season. I can tell you that stubble can be particularly sharp on bare feet.
Perhaps that stubble even prepared my feet for the rigors of ballet and the coveted attainment of my first pair of pointe shoes. I can tell you the constraint of pointe shoes is the exact opposite of the freedom of bare feet. There are many rules in ballet, and the ultimate ruse of dancing in pointe shoes is to make it look like freedom.
Throughout history, we have often labeled going barefoot as uncivilized, but recent studies show that going barefoot may actually be superior. Walking barefoot has many health benefits including helping to improve posture and blood pressure. In addition, according to a review published in the “Journal of Environmental and Public Health,” one study found that walking barefoot on natural surfaces like grass and sand boosted brain development. Barefoot walking is also said to do wonders for mental health, sleep patterns, pain relief and reduction of stress. Other research suggests that walking barefoot gives you calluses that may be better for your feet than wearing shoes, according to the website www.livescience.com. Back when I ran on grass stubble and studied ballet, I can tell you that I certainly might have been a good candidate for a study on foot calluses. But not today.
These days, I still roam around my house without shoes, but my tender feet can’t tolerate it outside for any length of time. The town recently spread liquid oil on the road in front of my house to keep the dust down. Between the sticky residue and the rocks, it is enough for me to pick my way across the road in order to get the mail from the mailbox. Listen to me—I guess I have grown old. But as I write this, June 8 is fast approaching. I may just kick up my heels and dance in the sun.