Barefoot in the Park, Maybe?

Since we’ve been sheltering in place, I am learning to go barefoot. No need for shoes if you never leave home, right? Except I’ve always hated going barefoot. I don’t even remember going barefoot as a little kid, except maybe once and the ground was hot and I didn’t like it and wanted my shoes. Not even at home. I always wear my “house shoes” indoors. House shoes are usually a ratty old pair of clogs that I replace every few years, maybe flip- flops if it’s a really hot day and I’m feeling daring.

Current clogs, only a year old so not worn out yet. They put 2″ between me and whatever lurks beneath my feet.

Until this summer. I’ve been wandering around the house with naked feet. Like Paul in Neil Simon’s 1963 play Barefoot in the Park (film version in 1967), I really need to learn to lighten up, be more free, not bow to the conventions of society. Robert Redford originated the role of Paul on Broadway and then went on to star with Jane Fonda in the movie. The plot revolves around newlyweds Paul and Corie. He’s the anxious, practical, worrywort of the duo, she’s the free-spirited optimist. She wants him to lighten up, learn to be easy-going, do things like going barefoot in the park.

I think Paul is unfairly portrayed here. He’s being sensible. Would you go barefoot in Central Park? I can’t even think of all the things that might have happened on the grass there, and I don’t want my bare skin touching anything down on that seething, germy, mat of who knows what. Corie could be in danger with her free-spirited shenanigans.

According to healthline, while there are benefits to going barefoot:

“The most straightforward benefit to barefoot walking is that in theory, walking barefoot more closely restores our ‘natural’ walking pattern, also known as our gait,” explains Dr. Jonathan Kaplan, foot and ankle specialist and orthopedic surgeon with Hoag Orthopaedic Institute.

Other benefits of walking barefoot include:

  • better control of your foot position when it strikes the ground
  • improvements in balance, proprioception, and body awareness, which can help with pain relief
  • better foot mechanics, which can lead to improved mechanics of the hips, knees, and core
  • maintaining appropriate range of motion in your foot and ankle joints as well as adequate strength and stability within your muscles and ligaments
  • relief from improperly fitting shoes, which may cause bunions, hammertoes, or other foot deformities
  • stronger leg muscles, which support the lower back region

All well and good and I want all of these things. But there’s the dark side, and that’s where my mind gets stuck:

Walking barefoot in your house is relatively safe. But when you head outside, you expose yourself to potential risks that could be dangerous.

“Without appropriate strength in the foot, you are at risk of having poor mechanics of walking, thereby increasing your risk for injury,” explains Kaplan.

This is especially important to consider when you’re beginning to incorporate barefoot walking after having spent much of your life in shoes.

He also says that you need to consider the surface being walked on. While it may be more natural to walk or exercise barefoot, without additional padding from shoes, you are susceptible to injury from the terrain (like rough or wet surfaces or issues with temperature, glass, or other sharp objects on the ground).

You also take the chance of exposing your feet to harmful bacteria or infections when you walk barefoot, especially outside.

ESPECIALLY OUTSIDE. There’s the kicker. I’ve lightened up to the point of going barefoot in my own home. I know what goes on on my floors. I have 4 cats and a dog. I won’t pretend I’ve never stepped in anything gross, like a hairball. But I keep the house pretty clean, and the cats aren’t allowed outside so don’t bring anything extra scary. The dog mostly is indoors watching Netflix on the couch.

My bare feet, just this morning.

Grass ( the lawn kind)–sounds perfectly lovely and innocent. Not. There are snails, slugs, ticks, possible dog pee, possible frog poop, weirdo insects and arachnids (like the well-named grass spiders) you don’t want to know about. Have you ever watched The Twilight Zone? Things can work their way into your body and eat you from the inside out. Okay, that’s being a bit melodramatic, but you get my drift.

Would you want to step on the grass funnel-weaver? Credit: © H. Bellmann/F. Hecker
Copyright: © H. Bellmann/F. Hecker –

Maybe I have a weird obsession with my feet. If you’ve read this blog before you might have noticed lots of pictures of socks and feet. I do not have a foot fetish, meaning its not a sexual interest. Feet aren’t really cute or alluring. It’s about my feet and where they go. Or don’t go.

I’m not the only one. When David Hockney does it, it’s art and worth lots of money.

David Hockney, Self Portrait, Gerardmer, France, 1975, © David Hockney.
Genevieve Cottraux, Homage to David Hockney, 2017.

Yes, I am actually barefoot outdoors in some of the vignette photos. I was delirious from lack of sleep after a week of living in a cabin in the woods with 14 other people, most of whom I had just met, at a summer residency in Maine. Lack of sleep can make you do things you wouldn’t do otherwise. And I survived.

This summer, I have progressed not only to going barefoot inside, but I even venture out on our back deck. But not a centimeter beyond that deck edge.

My toes are holding on for dear life. Don’t make us go beyond the deck!

We got rid of the lawn years ago. In drought stricken, dry California, it makes no sense to try to have a lawn. It takes way too much work, too much water, possibly chemical intervention. We put in low-maintenance (key words) perennials and mulch instead. Our dogs over the years have probably wished there was a small patch of grass for them. When walking our sweet Sadie (RIP), she would often pull us over to a neighbor’s lawn so she could lie down in the grass. But Sadie also liked to eat goose poop and roll in stinky things and swim in murky waters. So her judgement was suspect.

Sadie, sweetest dog ever, but maybe not the smartest.

Dog paws are made for going barefoot (barepaw?). Dogs look silly in shoes. They have those tough pads and little fear of germs. Absolutely, dogs can easily injure those paws, and please be careful with your dog out in the heat or cold/snow/ice.

These paws were made for walking. Image from Woof Beach.

Cats have lovely, soft paw pads. They need to be able to creep up on prey or on you silently. I’m sure outdoor cats build up tough paws, but the cats in my house have wonderfully sweet feet. My boy Butterscotch is a polydactyl–he has extra toes on all 4 paws. Not only is it adorable, it makes his feet more fun to play with.

Awesome cat feet.

Maybe my anti-barefeet sentiment comes from my mother. I don’t remember her going barefoot. Her feet were extremely ticklish, and we used to torment her when we were kids grabbing and tickling her feet. In self-defense, she probably kept those feet covered.

Is challenging myself to go barefoot really good for my self-growth and awareness? I doubt it. When Paul does it in Barefoot in the Park, he gets sick. (See, going barefoot in Central Park is hazardous to your health.) And he was really drunk when he did it. So maybe not a good role model.

He ends up with a cold, a hangover, disgustingly dirty feet, garbage on his head, a ruined suit and lost coat, and his marriage is falling apart. (Spoiler alert: all ends happily.) How is this good for you?

But I’ll continue to challenge myself to open my horizons. Baby steps–first of the deck into my own yard. Briefly. If I make it, then I’ll up the ante.

There’s bird poop in this ground cover, I am sure of it.

Do I feel more self-realized now? Not really. A lot of things I’ve been told over the years would be good for me didn’t make me feel any better. Mom, liver and onions? Really? How was that supposed to be good for me? (I refused to eat that dish and Mom didn’t push it, to give her credit. Maybe she could see the impending plant-based diet switch in my young eyes.)

I’ve made a point to work on overcoming phobias. And this is an actual phobia–it’s called podophobia. I won’t pretend mine is that severe. I am perfectly willing to be barefoot in bed, or in the shower. My own shower. Other showers may require shower shoes.

According to Very Well Mind, approximately 7.1% of Americans experience social phobias, and almost 10% specific phobias. A person can suffer from more than one kind of specific phobia. I suffer from social anxiety, plus fear of water (aquaphobia), podophobia, telephonophobia, and coulrophobia (fear of clowns).

If you aren’t afraid of this face, I worry about you.

I also hate crowds, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I have agoraphobia. Needless to say, you won’t find me talking on my phone barefoot in a crowd of clowns at a water park. Unless I am calling 911 to get me out of there. NOW.

Clowns at a water park, image from Montgomery Community Media.

You can find lots of information out there phobias, fears, and overcoming them, like this article on This Way Up. Community service done, now I have to go wash my feet.

Peace and hugs.

And do whatever you have to do to make sure you vote in November. I will go barefoot to the polling station (but with a mask) if I have to. It’s that important.

Magazine Ad For Register Your Discontent, Vote, Barefoot Guy in Voting Booth, Youth Citizenship Fund, 1972

Crafting My Way through Crises

It’s been a long time, friends. I haven’t felt motivated to write in months. Doing nothing is exhausting, draining all energy and leaving me sitting here at home watching time slip away. I’ve been at home, sheltering in place from the coronavirus pandemic, since mid-March. I was able to work from home for a while, but when those opportunities ceased, I resigned from my job rather than risk going back to work. I am incredibly fortunate that I have that flexibilty and I do not take it for granted. It was something Bob and I sat down and thought long and hard about, and I think it was the right decision.

I intitally thought I’d get so much done around this house, organizing and cleaning and whipping everything into shape. Nah. Hasn’t happened. I am glad to know it isn’t just me though. Natalie Morris, writing for Metro in the UK, posted about why lockdown is so tiring. There are physical reasons for it:

Dr Diana Gall, from Doctor 4 U, says it’s normal to notice your energy levels flagging when you’re not doing anything.

She says it can become a bit of a cycle. The less you do, the more tired you feel, so the less you do.

‘When you’re lacking any sort of physical activity, and your body spends most of its time in the same position, whether that be sitting or lying down for long periods of time, its ability to take in oxygen decreases and you will notice a huge drop in energy levels and motivation,’ Dr Diana explains.

‘The reason you feel tired, lethargic and lazy after doing nothing is simply because you’re allowing your body to feel that way as it is tired from the lack of stimulation and movement that it is used to.’

She says that if you aren’t keeping active, less oxygen will be getting to the blood which will increase the feeling of tiredness, which could also leave you feeling sluggish and irritable. Not great if you’re trying to keep the peace with your lockdown buddies.

Foster kitten Storm demonstrates exhaustion.

I was doing things, like making masks for my neighborhood back when it was so hard to find them.

Masks, a must-have accessory.

We are still fostering cats and kittens. I’ve been reading. A lot. But nothing that really requires much getting off of my butt.

Lockdown buddies and sisters, foster kittens Mouse and Minnie.
Books I’ve read during quarantine on the left, Bob on the right. This doesn’t include the many audiobooks I listen to while crafting.

The basic answer: get active, and your energy will increase. The more you move, the better you’ll feel. I tried that. We pulled the trusty old treadmill out from behind the piles of stuff in the garage, and I set myself a goal to walk briskly every day. At first I was going for about 30 minutes, or the length of the show I was then watching on Netflix. (The Chef’s Line is a great cooking competition from Australia; highly recommended.)

Hosts/judges of The Chef’s Line. I love them all!

After I finished the only season of The Chef’s Line available on Netflix, I moved on to The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. What took me so long? I love this show!

If I had realized sooner that it’s from one of my favorite creative teams, Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino, I would’ve been on board at the beginning. They are the team behind one of my favorite shows of all time, Gilmore Girls, and the short-lived-but-I-loved-it Bunheads.

I will never get tired of Gilmore Girls. Ever.
I wish more people had watched this charming show.

Another plus to Mrs. Maisel? Tony Shalhoub, star of another one of my all-time favorite shows, Monk.

Mr. Monk, you are my hero.

Tony Shalhoub plays Abe Weissman, Midge Maisel’s quirky and annoying yet lovable father.

Longer shows got me walking more, until I was doing at least 3 miles every day. I even lost 5 pounds (that I had gained earlier in the pandemic, thanks to a combination of being lazy and one of my other pandemic hobbies, cooking.)

And then California went up in flames. Again. If you doubt the reality of climate change, come to California. But bring a mask, not just for the pandemic but because breathing the air here is a bad idea idea right now. You can see, taste, and feel the air; it has texture. That is not a good thing.

That’s smoke; normally we can see out over Oakland.

So we stay indoors, whereas one of the things we did enjoy earlier while sheltering in place was our backyard, playing as novice gardeners and prettying up our little sanctuary space. We put up a little greenhouse, ordered vegetable seeds and starts, and optimistically puttered in our garden.

Grow little plants!

The garden has looked so pretty (until the heat and smoke and drought and…) that we got married out there! Virtual weddings are a thing now.

The altar in the backyard.
Bride and groom!
I even made a vegan wedding cake!

We jumped on the bread baking bandwagon. Thus the 5 pounds. Which I cannot afford. I already have a pretty significant amount to lose without bread weight! But it’s been delicious.

Bob bakes, and grows a Covid beard.

Finally getting to the title (I didn’t forget), Crafting My Way through Crises, I have been spending most of my time drawing, painting, and crafting. Nero might or might not have fiddled while Rome burned, but I am making art until I have to round up the animals to evacuate, if that becomes necessary.

Many organizations and artists have figured out using Zoom and other virtual meeting platforms to hold classes.

Zoom class in progress.
The results.

I subscribed for a while to The Crafter’s Box, and have many kits to work with, trying new things, like wood burning and paper quilling. Some didn’t go as planned, others were delightful surprises.

Basketry project gone awry.
Wood burning. Not too bad for a first try,
Paper quilling, a quiet, meditative craft.
Animals in colored pencil.

I even painted a mural on the storage closet doors out on our back deck.

Artist at work.

A group of dear friends started a collage group, where we send each other kits and post the results on Instagram. A lot of people are doing this; check out #collagein20 if you are interested in seeing more. Start your own group!

One of my collages for #collagein20

Now that I am not working, I have to budget carefully, but due to my acquisitive nature, I have art and craft supplies stockpiled to last me a while. And since exercise requires breathing and the air is chunky, I am back to sitting on my butt, making stuff. Miniature books. Mosaics. Who knows what else I might try!

Mosaic tray I am working on.
Sashiko embroidered pillow I made while watching the Democratic National Convention.
Miniature book.

One of the organization projects on my list has been my room that I don’t know what to call. Studio sounds like bragging. Office makes it sound serious. “My room” sounds like my teenage bedroom from the 1970s. I haven’t done much organizing, but I’ve done a lot of playing!

Here we are nearing the end of August. Our cars are ready if we need to evacuate from the fires. I’m still not sure how evacuation during a pandemic is supposed to work. Hopefully, I won’t find out first hand. In the meantime, I will be here fiddling, I mean crafting, while everything around me burns.

Peace and hugs. Stay safe.

And PLEASE, vote in the November election. Our country, our future, our lives depend on it.

Vote 2020 presidential election buttons; Creator: JasonDoiy | Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto