This evening after joining other women in World Dance at the gym, I left my shoes off to spare them from the light, irregular rain, and walked home barefoot.
I had danced barefoot indoors. Now I wandered barefoot out of doors. I did not go straight home. There was the later half of a summer evening still waiting to be tasted, like dessert.
On the way to the gym I had noted, in fact, a mulberry tree with ripe berries on it. I went to it, feeling the mulberries in the grass squish and stain the bottoms of my toes, and pulled down the branches to pick the lovely dark ripe berries hanging higher than the average kid can reach. I ate a few and then noticed the voices of an approaching trio - a man, a woman, and a younger woman. Possibly a family. I picked a handful of mulberries to offer them as they passed. It was a good decision. "What kind of tree is this?" they asked me, and, "Are the berries edible?"
I handed them each a mulberry and explained how they are tart when they are not yet ripe, and ripe when they pull easily from the tree. "Delicious!" they declared. They were from Alaska, they said, where they don't have trees that grow berries you can eat. I watched them walk away, murmuring about returning later for more, then I myself headed on, content (after just a few more berries, of course).
In the elementary school playground, another trio of people was perched on top of one of the large cement tubes. We had things like that in the playgrounds I grew up with, I mused as I crossed the park-like school yard and found my way to the swings. The black swings were wet with rain, but they can be flipped over to get a dry place to sit. The clouds were clearing and the sky was light with the remnants of evening as I pumped my way up into the lower levels of the trees. Across from me was a smaller version of the old-fashioned curved half-dome metal jungle gym they had at Bach school when I went there. Except the one at Bach was all different colors. There are no playgrounds like this in Ann Arbor anymore, I don't think. The cement tubes and metal bars have been cleared away in favor of wood and plastic. It's nice to go back in time every so often.
Eventually I drifted to slow, leaning my shoulders against the chains and letting my arms dangle, shifting my weight to balance on the swing without holding on. I pattered my feet on the ground to slow myself further, then jumped off on the next forward sway and took a few quick steps to use up the last of my momentum. As I expected, my feet complained about taking my weight on the rough ground. They preferred flying through the air.
I didn't mind the complaints. I remember what I went through as a child to develop decent callouses on my feet, and I'd like some semblance of them back. Experiencing pain is really the only way to get tougher, I thought, continuing the diagonal path that led to the street where I live, turning onto my sidewalk, and eventually climbing the old wooden porch of the house that I rent.
I have the privilege to choose whether or not to be uncomfortable, in order to change how I can go out in the world and experience it.
I am really very lucky.
(If you don't know why this text is green, you haven't been reading your daily dish. I support the people of Iran in their efforts to choose their own future.)