I rose from the bed about 6 o’clock this morning, I went downstairs. On the grass outside there was a chilly layer of two, suggesting an almost-frost last night. And yet, the leaves on the maple tree outside the house are just beginning. It is most definitively spring, halfway or a little bit past, that complicated relationship between winter and summer.
I did tai chi in bare feet on the grass. I love the way that the damn grass feels on my feet, this cold wetness that speaks to the renewal of life. I think the cold ground actually aids my placement of my feet, because it is much easier to feel that my feet are in the right place, and that they are as rooted as they could be.
There is this sense, that when I work with bare feet on bare ground, that I am seeking some kind of unity with all life. The air I take it feels cleaner; the work-through of the forms feels more precise, more deliberate. Entities both large and small attract my focus, however briefly, to determine both threat and community. Here is a robin, there is a squirrel, this other is a moving branch. The wind touches my cheek lovingly.
There is a practical aspect, too. On the half-spin, and on the full spin, The ground does not accept the turn in the same way that the hardwood floor in my office does. The ball of my foot notices every bump, and every bounce. Physics and geology both say “this is not an allowable action.” There is, sauce, evidence that this maneuver should not be performed outside. It puts a lot of stress on the knee, especially on the knee on the leg and that is doing the turn. The ground does not yield to the spinning foot. The result is a spin which is more like a series of short hops, each of which breaks in contact with the ground, and breaks the power of the turn.
This morning, after tai chi, I go over to my favorite maple tree in the world. I press my back against the rough bark of its trunk, and rest for 10 or 15 minutes. This is part of the druidic work of the day, or of the week. Enter into relationship with a plant that is used to standing in one place for a long period of time, and see what it has to teach you. Over the course of this order-hour, my spine relaxes, my shoulders relax, my legs bend to support my weight. Bare toes press into a cool earth, calf muscles settle, and I guess what it might mean to have roots.
Don’t spin, the tree replies. Turn from the waist. Sift the dirt with your toes, and break the rock so that it becomes your nourishment.