I rarely walk barefoot, but some sensations lodge forever in our minds, like the cool feel of a spring lawn, the heat of sand as you race down the beach to the water, or that “what was that” fear when you touch the mucky, slimy bottom of a lake.
This week I walked barefoot through a Chinese Garden.
Several times a week for the last 18 months, I’ve walked through the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland’s Old Town neighborhood, one of my favorite spots in all of Portland. During my visits I’ve seen guides suggest to guests that they take off their shoes to feel the different mosaics, as the mosaics change among the courtyards and paths. Only this week did it finally dawn on me to take my shoes off.
I often visit the garden with nothing in mind other than to relax and other times I try to be mindful of what I’m observing. Either way, I tend to notice something new with each visit. Nearly a year into my visits, I finally noticed a sculpture of a squirrel, and over the course of the seasons I watched a tree start in spring with red leaves that turned green as summer arrived.
One of the first things I noticed when I started going to the garden was the different mosaics.
I was standing in the Plum Blossoms on Cracked Ice Courtyard, when I realized I had never walked barefoot in the garden. I took off my shoes.
Suddenly my view changed.
Okay, not quite like that. (But I suppose that’s the view my toes had.)
First, there was the cold of the stone. Followed by noticing the feel of the different patterns, some smooth others bumpy. Then, however, it was as though the souls of my feet were allowing me to see.
That’s not quite right.
Rather than looking at the garden, I had a greater sense of place, my presence in the garden.