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Easing the Journey Through Shadow & Light

  • Dawn

Feet On the Ground

Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week: Lean Against a Tree

Trees are amazing creatures (see "Feet On the Ground" below), offering human beings many benefits and gifts. Whether you lean against an ancient giant and get a sense of the goodness of slow growth or find a sapling that bends in the wind, modeling flexibility, you won't be sorry if you befriend a tree.

Feet On the Ground

The other day I was perusing the list of articles we get via our browser feed. (So many interesting articles, so little time!) I came across one on the benefits of walking outside, barefoot.

“Ooh!” one part of me said. “That sounds interesting.” Another part, possibly but not necessarily wiser, replied. "Today? It's rather chilly out there. " And, for early October in central Virginia it was--about 50° Fahrenheit.

But the adventurous part took over. So I headed outside before I even read the article (with, at that point, boots and what I call "fat socks" on) and hauled one of the outdoor chairs under our huge old oak.

I chose that location for my barefoot experiment because I had recently heard a Radio Lab episode on the amazing interdependence of trees and soil fungi. Basically the fungi, which they said can amass as much as 7 miles of micro-tubules "in a pinch of soil" (yes!), dissolve minerals from the soil and offer them (via the tubules) to the trees, which in turn provide sugar from photosynthesis to the fungi. And the fungi affiliated with any given tree can spread way, way out, sharing nutrients and information, forming an interactive network of trees that can extend for miles in a forest. So, I wondered if I might somehow be able to connect with all that activity under my feet.

Off came the boots and socks. As I stood up, I realized I had made a smart location choice for another reason. There was some old rather decayed mulch around the tree and the soft wood chips weren't that cold. After standing still for a bit, I stepped off to a more bare area, watching carefully for sharp twigs. And cruising yellow jackets.

Quite a bit colder. But still okay. I could feel just a bit of squishiness from our recent Ian-related rains--it was kind of fun not to worry that I was getting my feet dirty. Then on to grass, which had been warming in the sun. Lovely.

I confess, I think I was hoping to somehow hear something from those fungi microtubules, or maybe some celestial (or terrestrial) voices. Instead, my feet simply felt a little more awake than usual, my little metatarsals marveling a little at the unusual temperature.

But as I continued to stand there quietly there was, perhaps, something. A soundless sound, way down deep. Maybe. Echoes of love? Of connection?

I did feel a little more ahhhhhhhhhhh after wiping off my feet and donning socks and boots again.

That article on walking barefoot catalogued some of the research-backed benefits of connection with the earth. Whether via bare feet, leaning against a tree, gardening (especially without gloves), even swimming, direct contact with the earth seems to help:

  • improve sleep

  • regulate blood pressure, hormone secretion and many other functions via circadian rhythms

  • reduce pain and inflammation

  • decrease muscle tension

  • lower stress

This is amazing stuff. Check it out. It gives a whole new meaning to "feet on the ground."

Until next time,


Photo credits:

Ginkgo tree, Joel Neff, unSplash

Fungi tubules, Dylan Fisher, KUOW radio

Bare feet, Alberto Bigoni, unSplash

Trees, Simon Wilkes, unSplash


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