Wednesday, May 19, 2004

And For All This, Nature is Never Spent

In the late 1800's Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote,

"And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod."

I think of this poem often when I walk along the beach barefooted. To be sure, the village of Ocracoke, like so many places, is constantly threatened by development. As beautiful as it can be, it also "wears man's smudge" so to speak.

But Ocracoke still retains a vibrant sense of community, a strong connection with it's 275 year old history, and is a tranquil respite from so much of the rest of the modern world.

And as I stroll barefooted along our pristine 16 miles of undeveloped beach I know that here is one place where foot can feel. The water is cool, the sand soft under my feet. At places I feel the rough "gravel" of thousands of tiny, broken pieces of shell. Elsewhere I feel the silky, fine grains of sand push up between my toes.

Sometimes the sand is searingly hot. It burns at the bottom of my "winter feet." I find relief in the shade of a cedar tree along the path that leads back to the road. Today I avoid the "pickle pears" that line the path, but I encounter a lone sand spur that lodges under my big toe.

I still can feel the earth under my feet.

And so I am reminded of Hopkins' next two lines, ones that call us to hope and optimism, especially here where bare feet are commonplace:

"And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things."

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:31 AM

    I have always felt that we need to at least find a way to walk on the earth every day...some folks have to really work at that as they travel from building to concrete to parking lot to building...but we need to detour at least once a day onto grass...or meadow...or woods...or sand.