Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lighter than Air

This post is inspired by an event which transpired about two months ago, and which has stayed with me this whole time. I was bothered by it then, but I never blogged about it and I wanted to say my piece before I let it go for good.

So back in the early spring, I had been getting into trying MovNat. (If you're unfamiliar with MovNat, head to I was running around on rocks, balancing on logs and beams, and just generally having fun. Well, there's a beautiful park here in Bellevue with a botanical garden, and there's one section of the path that winds through the gardens and is lined with these nice big rocks. They're perfect for jumping on. So this is what I was doing, when along comes the park ranger. He proceeds to ask me just what it is that I'm doing.

I felt a wave of embarrassment at first because here I am two years shy of forty and I'm jumping on rocks like I'm my son's age. But that quickly passed when I realized that I was in a public park, and who cares if I'm having fun pouncing on rocks. So I proceed to tell him that I was simply working on my balance, etc. He doesn't really let me finish, and then scolds me by telling me that I will "scuff the moss off the rocks".

I stammered an apology, and moved on, running barefoot down the gravel trail. It hit me within two minutes that his entire argument was nonsensical. And the reason it was nonsensical was because he was making the rather bold assertion that my bare feet would somehow damage the natural environment. And he had no idea just how light I am when I am barefoot.

Now, I'm a heavy guy. Marriage, a job which has me sitting at a computer all day, and age have conspired to turn me from a once-skinny string bean into an oafish gorilla-type. I'm not happy with the number that the scale continually tries to convince me that I weigh. But despite my weight, I know that when I am barefoot (or even in flip flops), I am distributing that weight evenly across the entire surface of my foot, the way that our foot has evolved to operate. So when I land even my bulk on the rocks at this park, I don't leave a single mark behind, nor do I feel any movement of moss being dislodged. I've become so light on my feet that I no longer make that ubiquitous slapping noise when I wear my flip flops. Going barefoot naturally pushes you to walk "lighter".

Barefoot Ken Bob describes how, when Harvard professor Dr. Daniel Lieberman tested Ken Bob's barefoot running to ascertain his kinetic impact, both of them were surprised to discover that Ken Bob showed NO discernible impact while running barefoot. What's possible when running is even more possible when walking. Or when jumping onto rocks.

Which brings me back to the point of this post - I'd like to say now to the park ranger what I wish I had said then: "Hey, buddy, chill the f#$& out."

There's an old trail saying that says "leave nothing but footprints". Well, I live by that credo, and I've even aspired to take it a step further, because when I go barefoot hiking, I find that even with a careful examination of the trail, it's tough to see even my own footprints (yes, I check). While I may not actually be lighter than air, I certainly feel light enough to not have to worry about destroying the ecosystem of the single most prevalent type of growth in the state.

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