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Walking Lightly on the Earth

I have had a pair of moosehide moccasins for five years now that I absolutely love. I love them because they remind me of how I have had the way I look at the Earth and how the way I approach Creation care has been changed by my Indigenous friends and neighbours. I love my moccasins because they remind me of a wise older First Nations woman I met at an Indigenous cultural center at the beginning of my own journey of discovering what reconciled relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people look like. It was the conversation I had with this wise older First Nations woman that really encouraged me to purchase my own pair of moccasins. That memory continues to encourage me to wear my moccasins often and to remember the deep connection that we as human beings have with the Creation and the responsibility we have to care for this world we have been given.

As I stood in front of a glass case holding a pair of beautifully beaded moccasins, Norma came up behind me and asked me what I liked about the moccasins. I quickly answered that I could not get over all of the beautiful beading that made this pair of moccasins unlike any other pair that would have been made by the same artist. I told Norma that I thought the moccasins told me something of the person who made them – the time, energy, and thought they put into the design as well as the perseverance it would have taken to complete such an intricate design. I think I told Norma five or six times that “they are just so beautiful.” After having a discussion with Norma about the technique that would have been used to make moccasins as well as the gathering of resources that would have taken place for just this one pair of moccasins, Norma started to tell me why she loves to wear her own moccasins.

Norma explained that, traditionally, moccasins were made of a single piece of animal hide or, at times, a few pieces of hide sewn together in different ways. She described how this hide was able to keep feet warm and somewhat dry, but that people who wore moccasins needed to be aware of where they were walking to ensure they did not wander into deep puddles of water that would make their feet wet or among stones that could be very sharp and could pierce into a person’s foot. As Norma explained the care she takes in each of her steps when she wears her homemade moccasins, I started to get a picture of the way Norma experiences Creation. She ensures she looks down at the Earth before she takes her steps in her moccasins. As Norma talked about walking around swampy areas of her property and avoiding areas that she knew would have animal burrows, I got a beautiful picture of the way she cared for Creation in a way I had never really thought about before.

As Norma walked away, I looked down at the rubber-soled boots I was wearing, and I thought about the last time I really looked down to see the steps I was taking. I thought about the many times I had walked right through puddles to get to my car a second quicker or the times I kicked stones out of the way of my path to try to get a more solid footing or the times I walked on someone’s lawn instead of using the sidewalk just because I could in my solid, synthetic-fabric footwear. As I continued walking through the cultural center, these thoughts filled my mind. I was left wondering…what if everyone wore moccasins? What would our world look like if we all wore moccasins?

On my drive home from the cultural center, I continued thinking about the steps I take each day – here and there and everywhere. I started thinking about the footprints we leave on the Earth when we walk. I thought about how these footprints represent the journey we are on in our lives as well as the travels we take throughout our lives. This quickly got me thinking about the ecological footprint each one of us is making on the Earth (probably as a result of the many geography classes I took in university). As I sat in my car, I realized that the steps I take or, rather, the choices I make in my life have a profound impact on the Creation that Creator has entrusted to me and all human kind. I realized that just as I have not been looking down to see where I am stepping as much as I maybe should, I also have not been looking down at the Earth to see the “footprints” I am leaving all over Creation when I make decisions to drive instead of bike or to throw away a recyclable item or to waste water or to not pick up the garbage I see on the ground. It was in this moment I realized I had to start wearing moccasins in my everyday decisions to ensure I was protecting the world that Creator had given me. I had to start wearing moccasins so I would think about the footprints I was leaving behind on the Earth.

When I wear my moccasins, I am reminded of what Norma said to me as I stood by the beaded moccasins in the cultural center, “My moccasins allow me to walk close to Mother Earth. My moccasins allow me to feel her beneath my feet.” It is these words that remind me to care for Creation and lessen my ecological footprint so I can continue to walk many steps among the beautiful Creation that Creator God has given to us. When I wear my moccasins, I remember to watch the steps I am taking so the generations that come after me are also able to walk among this beautiful Creation that tells of its glorious Creator.

[Image: Joseph Visser Photography]

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