My hiking shoes have a set of rigid bumps molded into the soles designed to grip the ground I walk. They give me a sure hold on mother earth through the ups and downs along the way. At the time of writing this, I am at a state park for my fall retreat & fishing trip. State parks tend to be more developed to accommodate the public who need or simply prefer things like paved walking paths. Generally it has been my habit to camp in national forests with fewer amenities but greater opportunities for encounter with nature. This difference is noticed by my hiking shoes.
When we encounter a path that is too civilized, one with asphalt to smooth the way, my shoes complain. Those rigid bumps make a little grumbly noise. A feeling of discord is transmitted upward through the sole. My feet notice there is something amiss in this marriage, my shoes’ desire to grip meeting up with an unyielding surface.
Yes, my hiking shoes prefer, as do I, a path not so tame, so smoothly civilized. We would rather encounter nature in a more vigorous physical meeting. A sort of dialogue takes place when I walk a path where soil and leaves yield, perhaps reluctantly, to my passing. Something is there to be discovered in a hike where nature has its say. I enjoy visiting a place where nature persists in recovering its wildness, growing back where we human beings have passed. In this uneven path, my encounter with living nature, I have a sort of conversation. I discover a world not completely tamed. My shoes happily grip the skin of this old planet, and the earth yields but temporarily. The grass and other nameless plants are always creeping out defying the trampling feet. Tendrils of plants eagerly reach out between encounters, seeking to regain a place in the sun, like tribes reclaiming contested territory.
In this physical encounter with the untamed, I will have some trouble occasionally. I may stumble, get tripped up, feel an unfriendly scratch. But I experience a mating that is more fun, more delightful than the pavement could ever be. I see and feel the edge of a world of life, most of which is unknown to me. Some leaves or blades of grass come out to greet me tenderly, while others offer a gruff scrape. Sunlight blinks between the branches of a canopy over my head. I am happy in this walking. The little trouble I endure is rewarded every time. Sometimes it will include an animal that scampers quickly away, or a bird that noisily complains of my intrusion. I love discovering the unknown around me and even under my feet. I enjoy a place where I can plant my feet for a moment and know that when I am gone its life will go on well without me. My shoes prefer the road less traveled, a path that is not paved.
Copyright 2019 Stanley Hagemeyer