My first tour of duty with the US Air Force sent me to Tucson where I worked long hours patrolling the infamous Airplane Graveyard in the Sonoran Desert. A bit south lies a charming artist colony called Tubac. Founded in 1752, it's the original European settlement in Arizona. Cooler than the major cities in that region, the town sits on a chaparral covered with cottonwood, mesquite, and acacia trees. I highly recommend visiting there if you're nearby. A bit further south lies the border town of Nogales where I once bought a Mexican blanket that to this day is still my favorite snuggle buddy.
If you head still further south and east, roughly below the line that divides New Mexico and Arizona, you wind up into the Sierra Madre mountain range, and among them are six canyons formed by six rivers that eventually release into the Gulf of California behind the Baja peninsula. They are collectively called the Copper Canyons, perhaps for their green and gold coloring, but likely also for the mines that dotted the region. Among those canyons live the Rarámuri Indians (dubbed the Tarahumara by the Spanish). Originally inhabitants of most of the state of Chihuahua, they managed to avoid conquer by the Aztecs, Spanish, French, and Americans and currently have a population of around 60,000 people. They achieved notoriety in recent years for their athletic prowess as long distance runners, logging miles that exceed three to four full marathons -- without stopping!
The Rarámuri captured my interest because of the footwear they use to achieve these amazing feats (feets). Commonly known as huaraches (a more generic term for Mexican sandals made of woven straps), their shoes are simply a hardened (but not rigid) sole with leather thongs laced around the instep and ankle. Originally of leather, soles were later cut from sections of tire treads. More modern materials use rubber sheets designed as shoe soles for more-substantial footwear and substitute synthetic lace cords for rawhide.
Simple technologies used by indigenous people intrigue me. Drums were the first of these to catch my eye, then hammocks. It's the wisdom behind these tools that really lights my fire. The sandals are made from materials readily available and re-purposed. They are a minimalist design that leaves nothing to waste. Sustainable, simple, traditional. They allow the foot to move freely, strengthening the natural physiology rather than insulating it from the outside world.
Barefoot running enthusiasts say that modern shoes create a cast around the foot prohibiting natural movement and weakening our natural biological design. I wore a modern version of these sandals for most of last spring, and summer, and autumn, I'm inclined to say it's all true. My gait and posture realigned. Foot, hip, ankle, and knee problems I was attributing to increased weight and age were all eliminated. And it didn't require intervention from western medicine nor chiropractic adjustment. All that improvement came from merely walking more closely with the earth....
When I study and visit so-called primitive cultures around the planet, each and every time I learn a bit more about how the old ways help make my life better. Western society thinks it knows what's best for the world, but more often than not this isn't proving to be so. That's why my work has come to focus on timeless principles for modern society. I say sustainable, simple, and traditional are good things to model. I hope you'll see it my way, too.