13 November 2014

It is cool to slosh around

‘I can’t stand seeing paddy fields like this!’ a 13 year old girl blurts out.  The said paddy field had probably been ploughed a day or two previously.  Ploughed but not evened out for transplanting.  The soil was upturned.  There had been a lot of rain and so it was all a mess of earthy lumps.  All muddy.  One would describe it as ‘dreary’.

Her father, who for whatever reason was fascinated by the entire process of rice production including the transformation in color, tried to turn ‘dreary’ into something positive, said ‘You know there’s beauty in all the stages from ploughing to…’

She didn’t let him finish:  ‘No Appachchi, you don’t understand…when I see paddy fields like this I just want to jump in, shoes and all, and just slosh around!’ 

It’s something any child will understand.  Adults tend to forget such joys.  Mud and puddles are fun things.  It’s lovely to splash around.  It’s as lovely when one’s bare feet sink into the cool mud.  Of course you have to clean up later, but then again the wonderful thing about ‘later’ is that it is certainly not ‘right now’. 

The little girl has sloshed around in mud enough, with and without shoes -- enough to know the joy of feeling the earth beneath her feet, whether it is muddy or not.  Sure, it’s not fun when you are walking on a patch of pebbles barefoot.  You can cut your feet.  You can step on an odd-shaped stone and sprain your ankle.  That’s no fun.  But then again you can pick and choose where you want to keep your feet.  You can pick and choose when not to venture out barefoot unless of course it is absolutely necessary that you do so. 

Think of grass.  It’s cool, especially when it has rained.  Grass by the road on hot days is certainly kinder on your feet than the road itself.  Think of the beach.  There’s hot sand that burns and then there’s the mushy, cool sections you can dig your feet and toes into because the waves keep it wet.  Even roads that you would not want to step on without footwear at noon have a special texture during and after it rains.  The cement floor feels nice and cool too, at certain times of the day, but only if we take off our slippers, sandals or shoes. 

Not all terrain invites us to toss aside our shoes and take a walk.  But we can always find a bit of earth that will not hurt or burn but instead cool and heal.  The earth is not made of sand, pebbles, grass, weeds, concrete and tar.  It is made of heat and coolness.  Some places are warm.  Some are hot.  Some are cool.  Some parts are hard and some are soft.  We can bounce along on certain surfaces or, like the little girl said, sink our feet in and slosh around on other surfaces.  We won’t know these things if we are scared to kick off our shoes now and then, however.

Several years ago, in a small village called Walgama, not too far from a town called Rambukkana, a bunch of children were playing near a tract of paddy fields.  There was a rock about 100 meters from where they were. A little girl, about 5 years old, walked along the path that skirted the paddy fields towards the rock.  When she was about half way there, her older sister, the same girl who was agitated seeing the ploughed paddy field, felt an urge to somehow beat her kid sister to the rock.  She knew she couldn’t catch up if she took the same route.  She had to cut across the paddy fields.  The fields had been ploughed and readied for sowing or planting.  The niyaras or bunds that separated each liyadda or plot were all repaired and freshly coated with mud neatly leveled.  In a few days it would be rock hard, but at that point it was made for slipping and sliding.  She would have known the risks.  She just ran. Like the wind.  She didn’t make it to the rock before her sister did, but she didn’t slip, slide or fall either.   She must have known something about how mud feels on the soles. 

It’s good to feel the earth beneath your feet.  The earth has so much to teach us.  But we must be properly dressed if we are to learn the lessons.  Sometimes ‘dressing’ means you have to take off your shoes.  Like when you enter a place of worship.  The gods take care of you if you are respectful and have faith in them.  The earth does too. 

Other articles in this series: