I spent the majority of every summer barefoot, running through my grandparents’ yard in Clyde, Ohio, though the ditch and past the row of pine trees, underneath the front porch and back behind the barn that left white marks on our fingertips as we ran our ringers along its wind-battered sides. I loved the way the grass felt underfoot, soft and green after a quick morning rain or crisp and sharp as our parents’ voices when a drought threatened.
There’s something to be said about walking over the earth barefoot, through grass and dirt, mud and gravel, but nothing felt so wonderful as the warm stone circle in the back corner of the yard I roamed over. I knew every inch of my grandparents’ property, around the house where the pricker bushes pushed us at least three feet away from the farthest outreaching branch to avoid the ever-frightening situation of our feet up in Grandma’s lap and needles and tweezers poking through the skin that withstood so much. I knew where the sharpest rocks were in the stone driveway, towards the edges where hardly any cars were driven, and where the gravel was crushed so much that it felt like powdered sugar between my toes. After the white blossoms fell from the cigar tree, my cousins and I would pile them up and imagine that we were running through sweet-smelling clouds as petals got caught between our toes in a euphoric and angelic sight and finally we would collapse in them for the sheer enjoyment of sinking into the whole cycle of things. But of all of the places I felt on the bottoms of my feet, the stone circle was still my favorite.
It was only about four feet across in any and every direction, although I never bothered to measure it. I assume it was made of concrete, but nothing like the concrete that paved our sidewalks at home or covered the bottom parts of the walls in our classrooms. It was dark and mottled, littered with colonies of insects and each crack was the home to some new and interesting plant that sprouted a multitude of colors. It wasn’t a perfect circle, straight on some edges and cracked and crumbling on others, but there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. The sweet summer sweat on dirty skin, the smell of cut grass and thunderstorm, the gold foil sun high in the sky never felt better than it did from the stone circle that sat tilted in the back corner of my grandparents’ yard.
Summer is sacred to children, sacred in a way that adolescents dismiss and adults have lost complete sight of. In the early mornings, when the grass is still wet and cool and the air was thick with moisture and mischief, before the rest of my cousins arrived, I wander outside to watch the sun reflect off of the roads. I love the way it gathers in shimmery pools where the road dips and disappears and fills with water, but always drains before I can reach it, before I can baptize myself in the sun water. The roads and their images are fleeting, but my stone circle always remains.
I felt most content there by myself, when I could enjoy everything that encompassed me, in me and outside of me, through me and beneath and above me. The warmth from the sun was somehow captured in the small circle I lay in, climbing up through my clothes and onto the small of my back, my hip, each shoulder and arm. It was almost intimate, trying to push as much of my body against the stone at one time-starting with the souls of my feet. Most of the time I imagined the circle conforming to my body, curving to fit the curves I barely had as a child, trying to sink into the stone, to disappear and to be seen. But most of all, to feel.