“Could you walk with me on my land sometime this spring?” a friend recently asked. She wanted to see what the land might reveal to us about who it is, how it has come to be as it is, what it needs and wants from its human tenants. In thinking of how to tune toward this walk, I randomly open David Abram’s Becoming Animal, right to a walking-on-the-earth invocation: “An old, ancestral affinity between the human foot and the solid ground is replenished by the simple act of stepping outside without shoes.”
Do we dare walk barefoot, my friend and I? I immediately think: Yes! (and immediately after that I’m tempted to qualify: But we could carry slight shoes, in case her land has a swath of blackberry brambles as dense as those where I live.) Barbara writes that the glories of “no shoes” appealed to her long before she had any knowledge or experience of the Nature Spirits and the living earth. As a girl she chose to wear Indian moccasins so that she could feel the earth through the soft leather soles. “In my high school days,” she says, “I lived at the beach and had the habit of going barefoot all summer. One year I took my shoes off the last day of school and didn’t put them on until school opened in the fall. Those were the days you could enter a restaurant without shoes. My body knew things my mind was totally unaware of.”
OK, so no shoes. That’s a beginning. Then we need an opening ritual. This friend has a rich experience with Hawaiian chanting, so perhaps she can do a chant for the land, and I can do Barbara’s ritual for creating a sacred space. And no talking! or only during planned intervals. My friend recently gave me a massage, and we agreed that chatting interfered with our following of the energy and the magic of her hands. The land is the same—it can’t communicate and the energy can’t blossom if we’re not totally attuned. We could form some questions before we go out, elaborating from recognition and gratitude and “How can I serve you? What do you want me to know?” And then we could stop in a beautiful spot to compare notes. Suddenly my doubts subside and I have confidence that we will learn something, that, really, we will know what to do.
I read more David Abram. “I begin to sense the carelessness with which I’m commonly clomping around, greedily amassing sensations. My legs inadvertently slow their pace as the sensitive presence of the land seems to gather beneath my feet, the ground no longer a passive support but now the surface of a living depth; and so my feet abruptly feel themselves being touched, being felt, by the ground. My steps slow down further. . . My feet are like ears listening downward, and a dark rhythm rises up into me from this contact—a pulse that slows down and deepens the private beat within my chest.”
The nature spirits through Barbara add an ethereal uplift. “Enrich your experience of walking with consciousness as a blessing for the earth. Think of your feet as radiating love into every step, leaving footprints of light and love. Whenever your feet touch the earth say hello to the Mother, the angels of that place, and its elementals. When possible have your feet on the soil when you walk. When on concrete, see your feet going beneath the surface of the earth. Send love through your feet to the earth and through your eyes to all of nature around you.“
I remember a powerful dream of walking dusty roads in medieval Europe with a group of women. We separate for a time and I am aware of the heat on the soles of my feet, electrically sensing the path I am to take, following the energy lines. Even now, several years later, I can still feel the warm pattern on my feet.
Now the gnomes turn us toward the conscious joining with nature: “The earth is asking you to live your life as an integral part of it—seeing yourself as one with it—by breathing consciously, opening your heart to the faerie beings and living creatures around you. As you walk on the earth, ask how to interact with that particular place. Speak to the devas and elementals of the place. Ask how you can assist them and how they can assist you. Speaking to them and expecting an answer is an enormous assistance in helping them relate with a conscious human being.”
To expect an answer takes me a step further than just remembering to acknowledge and praise. It requires me to have more courage and more trust.