Sunday, October 10, 2004

I love being barefoot. I've been trying to explain this to my mother-in-law, and I just remembered that when I did my Senior Liberal Arts Tutorial (this mini-thesis sort of thing I had to do to get my BA), I explained why I love being barefoot (because that's what I called the little book I wrote: Barefoot). And since I really don't think I could explain it better, here is my essay on the subject:

I love being barefoot. I hate wearing shoes. Shoes are too constricting; they isolate me from my surroundings, prevent me from touching the world and allowing it to touch me. But when I am barefoot, I am free to experience life in a satisfyingly sensory way. I delight in the different textures I encounter underfoot: smooth tile, gritty cement, silky grass, endless variations of carpet.

This enjoyment of the sensory side of life constantly spills over into my writing. My poetry is full of tangible details: the fizz of pink bubbles, the bitter taste of medicine, the physical pain sometimes caused by writing, the satiny smoothness of a beach, the comfort of hot chocolate. I also try to include as many sensory descriptions as possible in my fiction. One of the two pieces in here mentions the pain caused by someone clawing at the walls of a hole in the ground; the other is full of polished leather, black gloves, muddy shoes, and yellow telegrams. While I feel fairly proficient at writing sensation-loaded poetry, I am continually struggling with how descriptive to make my fiction. I usually want to add more and more details, but I know that if I include too many, readers—especially younger readers, often my intended audience—will be irritated, and perhaps even find the descriptions too much to wade through.

Bare feet can allow me to experience new textures and sensations, but they can also be dangerous. I’ve lost count of how many toes I have stubbed, how many toenails I have ripped off, how many scrapes and bruises I have garnered in the past twenty-two years. But all the pain I’ve experienced in the past (and all the pain I know I will encounter in the future) because I eschew shoes whenever possible—all this pain does not discourage me from being barefoot. In fact, I learn enough from the bruises and torn toenails to make them almost worth enduring. They teach me the value of staying aware of my surroundings, of not taking life for granted. When I’m barefoot, I need to pay attention as much as possible to where I’m going, because if I don’t, that’s when I smash my feet into whatever random object is in my path. So despite the hazards involved, I continue to run barefoot through my life, enthralled with the way the world feels under my feet.

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