The Barefoot Pilgrim
to all female barefooters who can identify with it.
a hot summer afternoon in Oxford, the temperature has reached 91
degrees which makes it the hottest day of the year so far. You emerge
in the distance from the far side of Radcliffe Square cutting a
unique figure which instantly catches my attention. You're a petite
student girl of around 21 years old, slowly meandering beneath the
eminent domes and spires. You stand about 5' 3" in height with a
wild mane of auburn hair and a white flower placed in it. Around your
neck hangs a loose garland of daisies recently picked in the
university parks. In one hand you are carrying a brown course book.
First I notice
your full length milkmaid dress. It is pale green in colour with the
ruffled hemline sweeping along the ground half a pace behind each
footstep in petticoat like waves. As you walk it undulates in a
rhythmic dance interspersed by tautness in places as your ankles
demand forward motion of it. Now as you approach closer I continue to
observe you in an idle study. On the pale flesh beneath your
collarbone is a striking, dark brown henna tattoo in the form of a
pentagram, a symbol of nature spirituality. You cut a beautiful
figure, yet radically different to the other girls around town.
Obviously you are no follower of the fashions at present popular
among young women, one might even call your look slightly eccentric.
Personally, I applaud you for choosing to be different from the crowd
which demonstrates intelligence over mindlessness. Beauty and
intelligence are your watchwords. You appear completely relaxed, your
gentle walking movements being almost set to slow music. This
graceful manner contrasts starkly to that of the other people dashing
around busily pursuing their affairs.
look to your feet and assume you must be wearing thin flip-flops or
Indian cowhide sandals probably obscured by the large ruffle as it
sways along, My attention is now more focused. Closer yet, I still
can't see any footwear, where is it? Now I'm really curious. A sudden
realisation jolts trough my brain, “She's BAREFOOT!” Of course!
This is why your body language was so different when I saw you across
the other side of the square. It makes you someone special in my
book; a rare and beautiful creature who dares to defy conformist
humbug in order to express your own spirit. In your eyes fashionable
flip-flops and absurd platforms are to be eschewed as both dangerous
and unnecessary. After all what is a sandal but a sole and a few
straps to hold it on? Why bother with overpriced fig leaves to
placate convention when one can experience the far greater pleasure
of having bare soles in direct contact with ground. It also doesn't
cost anything either which makes it the world's cheapest, yet most
elegant fashion accessory. It makes SO much sense!
you pass slowly in front of me, one small, happily bare, foot emerges
from under the dancing ruffle to reveal nearly its full length. I sit
fascinated, admiring its ascetic beauty, its smallness and
appallingly dirty condition. A large blotch of dark grime has been
ingrained on its upper part by the constant wiping action of the
dust-laden hem sweeping over it. The toes, though slightly short, are
perfectly formed, free from nail polish and a little splayed as is
natural from years of freedom. The black street dust has risen up
between the big toe and the next one fanning out above the area where
they join. All of the toes in general have been given a liberal
coating of the ubiquitous black powder. When you step forward, they
splay out on the paving slab, lifting from it very softly as if
giving it a tiny kiss.
gaze turns upwards to your face. It is attractive though not in an
artificial way. The cheekbones are high and well defined but any hint
of severity is dissolved by a kind mouth and eyes which smile. One
might describe your face as pretty in an earthy, real kind of
attractiveness. Your expression is so far away. Are you pondering
future exams or indulging thoughts of sweet romance? Or are you
enjoying this moment, spreading those dusty toes as you step gently
on the sun-warmed slabs? Your hair is a wild mountain of
chaotic, auburn locks cascading to your waist in a torrent of untamed
beauty; handiwork uniquely crafted by mother Nature's own genius to
perfectly compliment your barefoot lifestyle. Often in its
unruliness, it partly falls over your face obscuring one eye and is
quickly brushed clear by a sweep of your fingers. The white flower
nestles on the upper right side of your head to symbolise your love
of nature. The bloom is a rose, which though made of trimmed cloth
appears totally authentic in every respect.
tiered cotton dress is of the early 1970's , yet rendered timeless by
the swish of its own undulations syncopating with those of your
female curves. Its your favourite dress, purchased as a lucky find in
a charity shop some years ago. You chose it because it's sensuous,
made of the lightest Indian cotton, yet in no way lewd or tasteless.
Now it's showing signs of wear with threadbare parts around the hem
and the stitching coming apart in places. In some ways though this
only serves to add to its charm. Its such a special dress that you
lovingly repair it and have vowed to wear it until it falls to bits.
The true essence of your uncommon beauty is the alchemy of all these
things; your hair, smile, magic dress and body language all woven
into living poetry by the catalyst of your barefootedness.
you are ahead of me the lilt of your dresses lower ruffle reveals two
small, very black soles ingrained with the graphite-like summer dust.
As if to pick up on my thoughts you pause and raise one foot behind
you to check its colour. The folds of soiled Indian cotton fall away
to reveal a truly filthy foot. You look at its sole over your
shoulder and giggle to yourself in amusement and satisfaction.
Your heart beats faster, the combination of bare feet and hot
sunshine becoming ever more intoxicating as you walk along. Mmmmm,
the pavements heat feels so blessedly delicious that you're
transported entirely beyond the cares of this world into a heady
place of rapture. Your being inwardly revels in the sheer bliss of
caressing creation with each filthy sole gently placed on the hot
ground. A caress which is reciprocated as the sun's heat is conducted
upwards from the pavement, back through those same soles saturating
your body with its energy. A feeling of great gratitude flows though
you for this interplay of the spiritual and the sensual. Waves of
relief and tranquillity lap over your mind, you are filled with
gladness simply to be the person you are at this moment in time. You
close your eyes and look upwards to the sun feeling its life-giving
radiance beat upon your face. The moments pure joy is overwhelming
and spontaneously you twirl round twice in celebration giving thanks
to the universe for its abundance. The dresses fullness billows out
to its full extent, tourists stare in wonderment but you are
oblivious to their existence.Laughing you enter the huge iron gate of
All Soul's College. An enormous ornate sundial dominates the North
wall of the quadrangle throwing its shadow across arcane numerals. I
take a final, farewell look at you beautiful, barefoot student.
You're now walking over the cool flagstones of an ancient cloister
chatting animatedly to a female college acquaintance.
those summer feet are hidden from view by a low wall yet as always
your body continues to undulate with the same lilting poetry. It's
clear to all who have eyes to see that you are a true barefooter and
I wish you much luck in my heart. I asked a college porter if he knew
your name and he said it was ASTRID.
The Barefoot Pilgrim email@example.com