I miss running barefoot – there was something about running with the spring in your step, pushing gingerly against the grass, feeling the strength of the stride move through your legs and through your toes that made you feel powerful, or free, or wild. When I first started early on, I always felt sore and achy at the bottom of my foot, like pinpricks lived there. We’d joke that running the lake barefoot was safe–so long as you didn’t step on the needles. A few times I felt a sharp pain and swore I did step on one… only to find out that I was fine. But as the calluses built, your stride adjusted and you would feel safer, and the stones wouldn’t cut you anymore and you’d run a little faster, leaning into the slicing chill, ignoring the numbness of running on wet grass on the north end of the lake and run home in darkness against the dotted glow of Lake Merritt’s necklace.
My grandfather (ah gong, or 外公, but we call him gong gong), driven by winds of Communist change, arrived in Taiwan in the 1940s. He was a Fuzhou businessman, 26 at the time. He was a businessman, relatively wealthy and educated, and fled from the incoming Communists.