During my trip last month to Hawaii I spent about an hour inside a Starbucks in Waikiki. The entire time I was there, from standing in line, placing my order and waiting for my tall half-decaf to be prepared, to sitting at a table with my iPod Touch uploading photos to Facebook and checking news, I was barefoot. Though I’d never been barefoot in a coffee shop before, it didn’t take much boldness as this place was literally across the street from the beach.
I remember how the concrete floor felt. It was comfortable, but tactilely interesting. Unlike many concrete floors that are polished perfectly smooth and level, this floor had texture, randomness, complexity. Wearing footwear as often as we do in our culture, we insulate ourselves from many pleasant tactile experiences, and foreclose memories of how places feel underfoot.
I’m pretty sure I’m more tactilely oriented than the average person. While some people speak enthusiastically about the the subtle flavor variations of wine, coffee, or beer, I don’t get that. I’m more in tune with how things feel. As a child I was always touching things on store shelves. My parents realized that this was an important part of how I learned about the world, and since I wasn’t damaging anything, they didn’t discourage me.
Now that I’ve reduced my use of footwear, I’m sensing more through my feet and getting a richer and more complete “picture” of the world through which I move. With each new barefoot walk, hike, or run, I’m creating memories that have a larger tactile component.
When I first got into barefooting it was all about running. Now I see it as something much broader. It’s gone from being something I merely do, to who I am. It’s occurred to me that I could have discovered barefooting much earlier than I did, but I don’t believe in regrets just as I don’t believe in focusing too much on the future. It is today, or rather, right this moment when our lives play out. And right now I’m barefoot and happy. That’s what matters.