Naked In Nature

Read Time: 5 min (est)

As I lay there naked in the heavy dampness and slight chill with only the drizzle and the creek accompanying me in the blackness, I contemplated the existence of my earlier hominid ancestors sheltering such nights in caves. Fourteen hours later as I trekked the igneous rocks of that expansive “creek”—first upstream then downstream—the technological luxury of my Keen Newport H2 sandals leaves me feeling dishonest. Then the occasional wince and slight instability of my right knee following last night’s slip remind me that Australopithecus afarensis, Homo habilis, and Homo erectus lived but one misstep from agonizing incapacitation, secondary starvation, nightmarish predation, and merciful death. How long could one avoid absolute probabilities? Sitting later upon the sandy pebbles of the creekbed, corporeally sensing the water’s kinetic objection to my presence, I contemplated the persistence of Homo sapiens and the trajectory of humankind. Clothing was technology as much as fire and projectiles. But why do we today wear the functionless trappings that we do if not but as body cosmetics concealing the self-loathing and judgment that we evidently harbor against ourselves? Looking down I think, culturally-driven circumcision is barbaric; why do mothers perpetuate it but for aesthetics and homogeneity? Then I wonder, but how is that different from ear piercings? Did it all start with personal grooming? How long did it take Homo to begin biting his nails? How long did it take him to determine the optimal nail length to still serve as useful tools for exposing the flesh of fruits or for picking nits? When did Australopithecus or Homo discover the ability to replicate the ecstacy of coital and nocturnal emission through masturbation? How long should it take Homo sapien to abolish injustice and suffering?

I have hurricane Ida’s decaying tropical depression to thank for these meditations. Well, Ida and a cozy one-man tent that is not as weathertight as it once was. I suppose they also owe to the anxiety of acute life drama which drove me to this unplugged off-grid respit, the failed booking of my initially selected site, and the stolen sedan which is now a truck. I am on a private Hipcamp homestead. I messaged the homesteader about upcharging a rental tent but a further complication meant I had to choose between full-length slumber in my very wet and undesirably corrugated truck bed, origami slumber of my very dry but limited truck cab, or inclined slumber in my survivably wet tent. Then it hits me: yield fully to the wetness and go full-on 1969 Woodstock (whose famed nudity, according to documentaries, owed to incessant rain and mud slop conditions). I’m alone in the woods with no other campers. This is how the meditations started.

I’ve been to nude beaches in Europe. I’ve served as a nude model for an art class. I’ve crossed lockerrooms completely naked in front of janitors of both sexes. I’ve seen mardi gras and aboriginal documentaries on television. None of this felt weird to me at any time. Last night’s nakedness felt natural. The morning’s naked half-mile trail trek to my truck for dry clothing felt sensible. Interfacing with nature more directly felt contemplatively serene. At my truck, I texted my brainy neohippie homesteader about the night’s experience. “Beautiful,” he replied, and assured me that I might interface with nature however I wished. So I did.

So did the homesteaders at times, he subsequently texted. Shortly they invited me to the common area to socialize, in any state I pleased. I’ve never been a shy one, and I have long said that nudity is not sexual in se, but somehow approaching other people made me moderately anxious. Why did this feel differently than a lockerroom or a beach or an art studio? Why was I anxious and why did this anxiety do strange things to my anatomy? The sudden anxiety ficklily shrinks me to an unabating retractile grubworm, then induces a limp half chub upon my awareness of its condition, then repeats the ambivalent remonstration of awkward self-consciousness. Nakedness is natural and unembarassing, I remind myself, and I’m a fit 5′ 10″ × 175 lbs. What would be embarrassing is a social chub! So does my anatomy merely reflect a cognitive schizophrenia? I don’t really understand why my brain is boggled—maybe it’s the incongruity. Actually, though, the ancient Romans had this same view of the naked human form. Naked was not erotic so it shouldn’t be made to be erotic whether in coed bathhouses or in partitionless latrines. But there were elements of discomfort and unease even in that culture. Semitic circumcision, for example, exposed the glans full-time and an exposed glans symbolized sexual desire to the Romans.

I always thought that the Waldenesque simplicity of nudism made sense, but I don’t think that it is for me. Oh, I have no qualms about house naking. And there are non-recreational outdoor scenarios that seem really suited for naking. Like chopping wood in the 100° summer @ 95% relative humidity because every article of clothing drenches in minutes. Washing one’s car or dog, I also think, because one will immediately exchange those wet clothes for dry ones. I imagine that artistic expressions like painting or composition could be channeled by symbolically casting off the textile trappings of this life. I’ve even read of an African congregation that practices sex-segregated naked prayer as an expression of humility before the Lord. Naked yoga makes sense to say nothing of naked lap swimming. It makes no difference whether alone, segregated, or comingled; the focus is the activity, not the neighbor. Not so much naked basketball or naked hockey. But then there are those lockerroom oddities that stand around chatting in the buff. That one has always made my skin crawl. I realize these cats were just showering, and naked made sense there, but, dude, that context has passed already.

I am awake to my footwear that intercepts the sensory input from the ground beneath me. Removing them and standing upon the earth itself, I feel more connected to nature. I feel connected far more deeply than barefoot on the lawn or in the park. More deeply connected to Earth than at a nude beach. Now I’m sitting in the creek as I finish this post. The water carries the chill of an evaporatively-cooled protracted rain. I feel no warmth as I pee. It’s not gross. Nature carries it away and maternally cleanses me. My last awakening is my prescription eyewear, without which I cannot see my naked navel. I wish I had brought my contact lenses, but that would have blinded me to this final perception. Eons ago nature would have exterminated my genetic line for such myopia so these man-made spectacles remind me how distant I am from nature. And yet, if I were actually blind, would I be more joined to her? Would the lockerroom homies still strike me just as oddly? Would I have been anxious at the thought of hanging out with the homesteaders? Why should inferrable purpose strive with construable contrivance? Is social nudity contrived? I feel that the appropriate deduction is yes, but it is also no because that is how Homo began and how Animalia persist. It’s easy to decipher the false social code, but why can’t I decipher my own?

A few days ago I started (and nearly completed) a post on sexual versus anatomical nakedness. Seems precient (will link here will completed).

Naked In Nature - The Tent
Naked In Nature - The View
Naked In Nature - The Creek Upstream
Naked In Nature - The Creek Downstream

2 Replies to “Naked In Nature”

  1. Nudity in itself is not sexual, but has been made sexual because it represents vulnerability, and humans are so ego-driven that they fear vulnerability before anyone except their most intimate partners. Scripturally, nudity very often symbolizes shame as the result of arrogance, but nudity also represents innocence, humility, repentance, obedience, and judgment.

    • “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:25)
    • “and he stripped off his clothes also, and prophesied before Samuel in like manner, and lay down naked all that day and all that night.” (1 Samuel 19:24)
    • “therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked I will make a wailing like the dragons, and mourning like the owl.” (Micah 1:8)
    • “At that same time the Lord spoke by the hand of Isaiah the son of Amos, saying ‘Go, and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and take off thy shoes from thy feet.’ And he did so, and went naked, and barefoot. And the Lord said: ‘As my servant Isaiah has walked, naked and barefoot, it shall be a sign and a wonder of three years upon Egypt, and upon Ethiopia’.” (Isaiah 20:2-3)
  2. I am beset by a cognitive dissonance among naked people that congregate to be naked around other naked people and naked people who care nothing of naked interaction with naked people. True, it is logical to associate with like minded people—that is true of golfers and artists—so why wouldn’t nudists have social groups? But is there a difference between the one who patronizes nude resorts with constant social mingling and the one who nude homesteads, nude camps, nude swims? A nude beach or nude commune conjures an idea of experiencing life in a state of nature, and affords a location where none will take offense to the other. People would mostly keep to themselves, right? I would imagine that in a nude commune, a fellow homesteader might come by to borrow a lawnmower and such incidental nude interaction is unremarkable irrespective of either’s state of dress or undress. It seems to me that nudity is natural and therefore not objectionable in and of itself. To the extent that social nudity a renunciation of social contrivance and materialism, why is such protest conducted in seclusion? Shouldn’t there be open gatherings like a duly-sanctioned First-Amendment public demonstration to reclaim, if only for a few hours, the town square or main street? I’m perplexed by the nude churches that one can discover online. Certainly the God who created humans takes no offense and it seems fitting and proper in certain respects (for the congregants) but it also seems like an awkward distraction for to stand nude before the congregation. A temporary robe seems more fitting. But by the same logic that congregants nudity symbolizes a renunciation of materialism and an affirmation of humility, shouldn’t the leadership declare its equality and transparency? At the same time, though, judges wear official robes when presiding in a solemn capacity to symbolize that they act not as individuals but as agents. I am profoundly perplexed and unsettled by my inability to reconcile the paradox.

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