Naked in the Bush

exposing body image issues's picture

by Judith Brisson

I spent some time in Nature this week, a respite from the break-neck rhythm of the city that slows only in the wee hours. Something about being in Nature makes me want to rip of my clothes, and roll, like Margret Atwood’s heroine in Survival, in the clean filth of leaves and mud.

It’s an instinct I felt the first time I moved to the countryside as a young mother. Never having truly inhabited the forest before, I would sneak out of the house when things were quiet and disappear into my secret, sacred moss-covered spot where I would strip down to my bare essence and sit on a rock. It took a few weeks before I understood this compulsion: it was the expression my desire to fully connect with the natural world around me.

It was if the natural world had its own set of eyes free from comparisons, judgments and assessments of the sort that one feels when walking into a Gamercy Park party dressed in gardener’s clothes. One yearns to be engulfed and caressed by the gentle brushing of leaves, washed by the tender drizzle of rain and not ranked by brands, labels and looks.

In this context, naturism might be one of the most profound expressions of our unity with the world around us.  Naked and vulnerable without weapons or tools and susceptible to the ire of the elements, we don’t wage war or spawn arguments. The experiential barrier that clothing would normally provide allows us to press up against Nature, molecule to molecule, and that transcendent experience penetrates our very pores. We can really feel from where we have come and face, with relative calm, our final destination.

And so at beautiful natural locations everywhere, where local cultures permit of course, one will find the nearly nude frolicking, splashing, reveling and expressing this essential unity with nature.

I reviewed Desmond Morris’ ethnographic survey on the sexes a couple of weeks ago, where the renowned zoologist seeks answers to questions about sexual dimorphism in human behavior thru a sort of cross-cultural analysis. In the series, the cultures that often appear to be the least hierarchical and the happiest in general terms are those that live in close proximity to the natural world. They also happen to be the most naked.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no cow-admiring Cripple Billy (The Cripple of Inishmaan), in fact I’m something of a rural refugee: I don’t see the future of humankind’s happiness nesting in the naked abyss of the elements.  But I do think that there is a deep and transformative healing that can take place if one seeks out Nature’s touch.

I remember as a fourteen year old cycling to a distant mountain, Mont St-Hilaire, and climbing it barefoot. When I reached the summit, there was a man in his thirties wandering around naked amongst the trees. I was terrified, but stood my ground – no naked guy was going to deter my enjoyment of viewing the St-Lawrence Valley. Nervously I glanced around before beginning my decent. What would possess someone to do something like that, I wondered?

He didn’t seem to be an exhibitionist; he hadn’t masturbated or waved his erection at me and he hadn’t threatened me in any way, yet I found his behavior compelling.

It is only now in writing this reflection that I might have some understanding of what the naked guy on the mountain was up to. Maybe he was just communing with his natural god and I was intruding on his experience.

As more and more of us live in urban centers and live out our lives without experiencing a close relationship with nature, in the same manner we distance ourselves from our essential nakedness. I wonder if that loss manifests itself in part at least through a negative body-mage:  since we are divorced from nature so too we are divorced from our own bodies.

Existing as a pulsing organic cocktail of heavenly elements we are, each in our particular alchemic way, a beautiful manifestation of Nature. And there seems to be something about being naked in the bush that leads directly to this sentiment.

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