I was a barefoot child. I would shun my shoes in favour of the lithe pleasure of unshod freedom. Much to my mother’s despair, I would shed my shoes and socks to run in fields, climb trees and clamber over over rocks never once thinking about burdensome things like safety! Then one day, my mother told me about ‘jiggers’ or the chigoe flea (I don’t recommend looking these things up). I never went barefoot inland again.
The things that we stop talking about have a cunning way of escaping our minds. So for years my memories of barefoot adventures slipped from me. Then, one evening in Zanzibar, we took advantage of the low tide and walked a way impassable during high tide.
Here, we spotted a young girl coming in with the tide. She had been collecting clams and despite being quite laden with them, she was at ease amongst the jagged rocks and the slippery seaweed underfoot. Barefoot she breezily cut across the sharp terrain. Barefoot.
I watched her mesmerised. In that moment I thought she was gliding. Then I remembered myself. I remembered my own barefoot days. I looked down at my own feet and though they were in the relative safety of my beach shoes, I could feel the threat of the broken corals and the sharp rocks beneath me.
And I thought to myself that shoes and fear made me soft, weak and wary.
We loitered on a bended tree while the tide begun to trickle back to the shore,from here we watched the sun set on another magical day in Zanzibar and I cannot forget how wonderful that young girl was to me in that moment.