In normal times we can walk along clean paths, without walking through the mud because we can walk within a meter or two of people. During a pandemic though, the recommendation is to be at least two meters from people. Many agricultural paths are not that wide, especially when people walk two or more abreast.
This means that if we’re walking alone either we have to give in to not respecting the two meter rule or we walk in the mud, fields, or other. It also means that rather than take the usual walking paths that we have taken for years beforehand we are now migrating to the edges of roads.
We are exposed to the cars driving too fast and too close. We are exposed to grass that has grown tall, and thorns, and the noise of car tires on tarmac. Before the pandemic I would not have noticed that noise, but now I can’t stand it. The sound of tearing, ripping or similar sound. The sight of people staring at their phones whilst driving too close to us, in their cars.
Over the last eleven months I have found a route that I like to walk, where I don’t need to avoid people, avoid the noise of cars, avoid having to overcome my fear of dogs, and in most cases, avoid having to backtrack to avoid walking within two meters of people.
Of course I am eccentric. We’re in the eleventh month of a pandemic. I have spent this time in pandemic solitude and it has had an impact. I question whether the passion and pleasure I take in walking along quiet routes is a coping method, a way of dealing with the solitude, of being solitary rather than lonely.
Recently I learned that a cleaner complained about the mud I brought back into the building but this year has been quite wet. I also found that the quietest, safest walking routes, are also the muddiest.
The school where I went as a child was built between 1901 and 1902. As a result of this it had metal projections near the entrance so that you could scrape your shoes before you went into the building. Those are not present on modern buildings.
Modern buildings, and modern carpets are designed for car driver dirty feet rather than rural dirty feet. They are decoration rather than of any use. We live in an age where despite being parents, with young children, many people have grown out of the habit of dealing with mud. We live in the tyranny of the car driver. An entire building’s footprint is devoted to cars, but nothing is kept to clear muddy shoes of mud.
One of the issues with modern expectations is that people get into their car, drive to do their walk, and then drive home. If you leave your home without taking the car, then the absurd reality of getting muddy shoes, and for the shoes not to dry and flake before you get home is alien.
In a normal situation either mud would flake from my hiking shoes into the boot, or they would flake as I drive the car home, on the driver side floor. Cultural norms have forgotten that there was a time when getting home with muddy shoes was ordinary.
I took a picture of a building where people would come home with muddy shoes. Society says that it wants us to reduce our carbon footprint but muddy shoes are a distant memory. Society has forgotten about the habit of walking locally. Society has forgotten about the need for proper shoe cleaning options by the door.
I did try four solutions. The first is to find a puddle, and try to evacuate the mud from my shoes that way. It does work to some degree, but then you leave a mess of wet, rather than dry mud. The second option is to walk during a rainy day. The advantage of rainy days is that your shoes are cleaned by the rain constantly, so you often get home nice and clean. The third option is to walk on a snowy day, as the snow will wear away the dirt and mud from your shoes. The fourth option is to scrape your shoes with a pointy thing. I tried with a screwdriver and with a bike tool for removing tyres.
Although it may sound counterintuitive I found that the best way not to be have muddy shoes is to walk on a rainy day because the rain will drain away the mud and dirt. It may seem counterintuitive but rain really is the best. The second
Spending time outdoors and coming back muddy is nothing new. It has been part of my character for less time than I can remember. I see no problem in a little bit of mud because mud is very easy to clean. It’s especially easy to clean when it’s dry, rather than wet. When I started to make a conscious effort not to bring mud back into the building one day I noticed that instead of nice, healthy organic mud, one day we had the dirty traces of petroleum based wet dirt on the floor. We had pollution from too many people using cars.
As messy as mud may make hallways look I think the black traces of carbon rain is worse. The door mat is good at pretending that the problem doesn’t exist, but when you see the traces after a day of rain, you think “If only it was mud. If only I picked up a shoe and noticed a spider scurry away.”
As unsightly as mud is, things can live in it. Nothing lives in the polluted water, from a car based way of life.
I’d like to conclude with “I did think of taking my shoes off as I came into the building, to avoid muddying the floors, but then I thought of everyone else not doing that. I also thought that it’s a shame that other people do not get muddier shoes, because then I would regain my freedom. Walking in the mud is a freedom that we have lost over the centuries.
It is not unusual for me to take my trousers off when I get home, and to rinse them in the shower, like I used to do after going scuba diving.
If I was a cleaner I would have said “Since the floor gets messy so quickly it may be worth me coming two to three times a week to clean up.”