“When I was younger I used to see the earth as a fundamentally stable and serene place, possessed of a delicate, nearly divine balance, which humans had somehow managed to upset. But as I studied trails more closely, this fantasy gradually evaporated. I now see the earth as the collaborative artwork of trillions of sculptors, large and small. Sheep, humans, elephants, ants: each of us alters the world in our passage. When we build hives or nests, mud huts or concrete towers, we re-sculpt the contours of the planet. When we eat, we convert living matter into waste. And when we walk, we create trails. The question we must ask ourselves is not whether we should shape the earth, but how.”
–Robert Moor, On Trails: An Exploration
I looked down at my feet to see that my toenail polish had grown out almost completely. My cuticles were overgrown and my feet were beginning to look like hobbit feet, as if I had been walking barefoot all over town. “I am not grounded,” I thought to myself. When I go for long periods of time ignoring my feet is typically a sign that my life is out of balance. I use my feet to bounce between activities, staying so busy that I’m not listening to my body.
I’ve felt a surge of energy, a sense of urgency and internal chaos propelling me from an old way of being into a new space. While these feelings cost me sleep for a couple of months, they eventually launched me into a new job, a home and a mindset of “What can I do?” versus being overwhelmed by impossibilities. I still waver between the two, but I am conscious. Shifting perspective and regaining power in your life requires a conscious evaluation of thoughts–choosing the words and the tone in which you speak to yourself. This I am learning.
Walking barefoot realigns my body to the frequency of the earth. It requires slowing down, noticing the sensations of every jagged edge, every soft clover and prickly vine. I feel the crunch of autumn leaves and the comfort of new growth in between my toes. My body relaxes as I take small steps through the wilderness.
“If you don’t ask the right questions, every answer feels wrong…”
With new opportunities at my fingertips, I’ve felt overstimulated and indecisive. Spending my days in an office, listening to the hum of the air conditioning and absorbing the light from the computer screen magnifies my need for nature. On my breaks I place my hands and feet on the earth and rest against a tree, relaxing into the stability of these familiar friends.
I ask myself, “How is this going to work? How am I to keep my balance while working 8-5 in an office?” As I balanced on one foot in yoga class yesterday, I was reminded of what keeps me grounded. When I feel miles away from leaves to weave through my hair, I can remain focused if I have a goal in mind. I must keep my eyes steadily fixed on what I know for sure, the truths about who I am and where I want to go. The questions are evolving. “How can I make a difference where I am? How can I use my skills and knowledge to influence my team?”
As the sun sets, I drive to a nearby trail. It’s cold and grows darker by the minute, so I grab my headlamp and begin to walk. The rocks exfoliate my skin and my bare feet burn from the frigid cool air, winter rising up from the ground. I keep walking, small steps, allowing myself to feel what is there. I notice the cool, smooth sinking sensation of mud and sense the excitement bubbling up towards my shoulders. This feels like home.
Pressed beyond the boundaries of my comfort zone, I seek to create rhythm. After taking time away from my yoga mat, I learned that in a time of growing and expanding my horizons, it’s important to allow my body the benefits of familiar places. The shapes and the sound of my breath as I transition between poses feels easy… and it’s nice to have something come easy when everything else is a new challenge. I remind myself to participate in community with the people who feel like home, my dance teacher and my spiritual guide both infuse me with encouragement and hope. As long as I tread lightly… as long as I am more mindful of how I am shaping the trails within my corner of the universe… this year can be different than the last.