Sunday 26 July 2020

Today's ZKV by A.L. Snijders : 'Barefoot'


Out in the wood only my face and hands are bare – I have to be able to look and blow my nose. The rest has been carefully covered, to keep out ticks. These tiny creatures can cause Lyme disease. When I came to live at the edge of this wood fifty years ago, the ticks used to fall out of the trees and bushes onto the unsuspecting walker, seek out naked skin and latch on. Later on, the naturalist theory changed – the ticks did not drop down but lived on the ground and would crawl upwards if you sat down for a moment to take a look at a lovely spot. The owner of the estate where I often walk has adorned the oak trees in which the processionary caterpillar lives with warning strips of police yellow tape. I always thank him with a short prayer, although I don’t know if that does him any good. I’ve been talking about natural phenomena for fifty years now, whereas before then I used to live on Oudezijds Achterburgwal and so I talked a lot about whores and pimps. This is a variant of the saying: He who pays the piper calls the tune. I have recently got to know a handyman gardener who was not born in our country but in Brittany. He is a Frenchman who is at present living in our country and who also speaks our language – I approach him with great respect. After work, he takes a swim in natural water – a woodland lake or a lively stream. Yesterday he went walking barefoot in the wood, I was greatly surprised. I knew that he regards me as a complete blank as far as nature is concerned, but the fact that his bare feet shocked me he simply found too much. The misunderstanding increased further when he told me that he had soft soles. He showed them to me, feet have to be soft, for then nature responds with softness. He believes that nature adapts itself to human behaviour. He asked me if I would like to check the softness of his feet, but if you’ve lived on Oudezijds, you don’t do that sort of thing. I would like to travel with him sometime to the bay of Mont Saint-Michel, where the water streams in and out with great rapidity at high and low tide. He was out there so often on his own as a young man that he became a connoisseur of that treacherous area. That is how his image of nature has been formed. I naturally don’t join him in the water, I stand at the water’s edge for hours just watching – an interested outsider.

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