I remember once when I was a child that my father was about to punish me for some infraction. Perhaps I had refused to eat the brussels sprouts my mother had piled on my plate, or I may have complained that my little brother’s pile of brussels sprouts was not as large as mine, but no matter what the infraction, I had decided to run away. I remember dashing to the front door of our city house.

I recall fairly flying down the front stoop steps, my bare feet not even touching the cold brownstone, and heading out across the snow-covered street to the park.

Just as I entered the park, I heard the front door slam behind me, and I realized that my father was in hot pursuit. The winter wind, chilled even more by my running, felt cold on my cheeks, and I remember the sensation as my bare toes felt bitten by the snow-covered pavers that lined the park’s paths. I just ran faster.

In time, I glanced over my shoulder, and there was my father, just inside the park entrance. He was bent forward with his hands on his knees, a huge grin spreading across his face. I stopped my mad dash and turned to watch as he kicked off his shoes and then pulled off his socks and carefully stuffed one sock in each shoe. With a laugh, he called out to me, “Let’s circle the park … together … barefoot.”

I danced in the cold snow as he caught up with me, and then we turned to run around the park together, our feet flying over the snow, barely touching down.

When we turned at the far side of the park to head back home, I was amazed to see that my mother and little brother, also barefoot, were heading down the front stoop.

Laughing, they met us at the park entrance, and then, arm in arm, and not lingering in the least, we all returned across the street and back into the warmth of my childhood home.

I remember that I was amazed that my infraction was completely forgotten, and I knew that I no longer had any desire to run away. I felt completely loved by my somewhat stern, but ever-so silly, adventurous parents.

And today, as a light blanket of snow covers our creek valley world, I wonder if I should do as my parents did and join our shoeless animals as I do my morning chores, completely barefoot. I decide to take a survey.

I ask the pigeons what they would think.

They look down at me from their roosts, not even venturing out of their gazebo palace with the temperature in the single digits. They coo contentedly, puffed up twice their normal size, and cock their heads quizzically, letting me know that they believe that it would be a very wise idea to keep my boots securely on my feet.

I ask the goats, and they laugh with their “ba ha ha,” as they rub up against my legs and let me know that to go bootless would be a silly endeavor indeed. Perhaps I shall take heed, but I decide to ask again.

I turn to the chickens and ask what they would think of a barefoot farmer. They have gathered under the rabbit hutches, where there is no snow, but I have noticed that when they do venture out for a bit of foraging, they adopt a flamingo stance, standing on one leg with the other tucked firmly up under their bellies. In time they change their standing leg, and after just a while longer they return to the rabbit hutches, standing in close chicken
congregation.

“No, Christine, not a good idea at all to go barefoot,” they admonish me. I thank my flock of snow birds for their wise advice.

By the time I return to the cabin, chores done, I notice that my toes do feel decidedly chilly. My thick winter socks and sturdy leather boots have not kept winter completely at bay, but even though the outside temperature still hovers in the single digits, I feel perfectly warm by the woodstove, content with my memories of a long-ago barefoot dash through the snow.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.