I go for walks, runs or bike rides every single day, whether it’s rainy, windy, snowy or a heatwave. As a result of this I often walk along routes where mud forms. Sometimes I come home from walks and my shoes are spotless, thanks either to a drought, or paradoxically due to the rain.
Recently we had snow and it was cold so my shoes were relatively clean. I could come home, stomp a few times and my shoes would be clean. Other times, like the last two days I have found that the mud is sticky and hard to remove. It’s dry enough to behave like clay, rather than mud. It gets stuck between the studs that stop you from slipping. I tried skewers, running water, snow banks and most recently a brush that I keep in the post box, in the locked section. I don’t want to come home and find that the brush has been stolen.
I could simply get some slippers, and keep those in the post box, for when I go for walks, and for when I come back, but the problem of muddy shoes persists. If I don’t remove the mud then I need to change shoes twice when I head out for a walk, and twice when I get home. Four shoe changes per walk.
I am annoyed. We are in a pandemic and I feel uncomfortable for walking indoors with muddy shoes because, as an adult, if someone comments on mud, I have to avoid making a mess, from that moment forward. Not to care would make me a sociopath.
I’d like to add some contemporary context. We are in a pandemic. Millions of people are living with long COVID. One of the simplest ways to avoid catching COVID is to wear masks indoors. Everyone in the building looks at me strangely for wearing a mask, and yet they see me run up and down the stairs. That’s right, I don’t walk, I don’t struggle. I run. I use the lift twice a week, because of shopping. The rest of the time I run up and down the stairs. Everyone else takes the lift, whether for a single floor or not. I wear the mask as I run. It doesn’t bother me in the least.
My muddy shoes bothered at least two people. Mud is an ordinary part of rural life, and if it bothers people then a proper grate, and shoe cleaning setup is required.
No one has muddy shoes, but me, because everyone else uses their car to do things, whereas I do most of my activities by walking from home. This means that the car journey will not see mud fall from my shoes into the space beneath the pedals, or in the boot. I go straight from walking in mud to the building.
My old school had shoe scraping pieces of metal. In a previous age having muddy shoes was normal so society had solutions. Today driving is normal, so muddy shoes are an aberration.
There is a cruel irony in all of this. Cleaning mud off of shoes takes much longer than cleaning a stairwell. I know because I have to hoover my apartment almost every day when it’s muddy, and hoovering muddy floors takes seconds, whereas cleaning shoes takes minutes.
I wish that we lived in a society where people wore masks indoors during an airborne pandemic, rather than caring about a little mud. I’m especially frustrated because no one but me runs up and down the stairs, so no one but the cleaner sees the mud. It’s a problem because a cleaner complained once, in five years.
I miss the freedom of living in a house, where I didn’t have to worry about muddy shoes in a hallway. I miss pre-pandemic life, where I would take the car to do things with people, rather than alone. I miss pre-pandemic times, when there were advantages to living in society, rather than just disadvantages. I miss group activities, and the friendships that formed from life pre-pandemic, pre-fatalism.
My walks are about exploration and getting away from cars. Cars never slow down when you’re walking by the side of the road, so walking on the muddy side is safer. I also walk where it is muddy because I’m lonely, due to the pandemic, and my struggle to find work, and the effect it has had on my confidence. I walk where I walk because it keeps me from feeling depressed.
If I crossed single people, or if I crossed people that walked single file, during the pandemic, then I wouldn’t have developed this habit of avoiding people. Living in solitude is easy, until you think about what life could be like, out of solitude.
I like my walks and my activities. I like exploring and taking photos. I like seeing the changes from day to day, week to week and season to season. I like looking at what new books are available.
If social media was about social networks, rather than stigmatised as addiction, then I would be making new friends via Twitter, Mastodon, FaceBook and other networks, during this pandemic. As they are not I have learned to be in solitude.
It’s the lack of reward, from using social media, that has led me to blog again. When we blog we invest our time. We invest in learning to write, to think, to focus and more. We could even go so far as to say that writing is time spent being mindful. I enjoy blogging. There is a chance that no one will read what I write, but as I have said, it’s an opportunity to have a conversation with myself, through the written word.