I go naked in the woods

photo of a rhododendron growing out of the stump of a dead tree

I go naked in the woods.

Yesterday, on part of my walk, I took off my shirt and went topless for no reason.

Not no reason, though.

The first time I went naked in the woods, it was an apparent impulse. I didn’t have any idea why I wanted to. It was last winter, and it was cold.

I took off all my clothes and ran around playing on part of a large tree that had fallen in the woods, absolutely as naked as the moment I was born, cold and happy.

In the time since, I have almost never been in the woods and not wanted to take off at least some of my clothes. Usually I follow my wanting.

As usual, I experience the wanting as some kind of message, but darned if I knew what the message was. I just listened and did it.

Yesterday, I took off my shirt and walked through the woods letting my underboobs get some much needed air (yes, that means I was holding my breasts up with my hands as I walked, for those following along who don’t know what it’s like to be in a 46-year-old body with a D-cup endowment).

I think it bears noting that ordinarily, the woods are no place to be naked. Ticks. Mosquitoes. Brambles. Poison ivy. Nettles. Snakes. Even the usually innocuous leaves of a holly bush become something to be reckoned with when one is shirtless and holding up one’s endowment with one’s bare hands that would otherwise be free for pushing holly branches aside.

It seemed an odd impulse but, as I’ve remarked elsewhere, when my land speaks to me, I listen.

And here’s something I notice when I’m naked in the woods.

I pay more attention.

I watch where I put my feet.

I watch where I move my body.

I watch for tiny signs of anything that might cause me trouble.

I pay attention.

When I’m dressed, head to toe, wrist to shoulder, toe to waist, torso covered, hard soled shoes covering up to my ankle, I can blow through almost any terrain without much noticing it if I want to.

I can sit almost anywhere. I can blaze trails through almost anything.

I can exert my will upon my environment almost with impunity.

When I’m naked, I must give as much attention to the will of the land as I do to my own.

When I’m naked, there is no wall between us.

When I am naked, I become one with the environment.

When I am naked, I remember that I am not my land’s owner and master.

I remember that I am her companion and steward and student.

And that she has so much to teach me, so much, so much.

When I am naked, I cause less impact. I have more respect. I am forced to notice where holly and pine branches intersect my path and to move out of their way, rather than forcing them out of mine.

I become one with the woods, instead of above and outside the woods.

I don’t want to suggest that we all go 100% naturist, take it all off and run around in our birthday suits 24/7, and that that will fix everything. I don’t think that’s where this is going.

But metaphorically, yeah.

I think we all have physical and metaphorical armor we wear that allows us to ignore the damage we cause as we walk our paths. Allows us to push things out of our way that are inconvenient to us, without much thinking about the repercussions of what we push.

Allows us to march straight through warning signs and danger and ignore the signs of an Earth that’s calling out for our compassion, our attention, our help. Ignore the signs of our fellow walkers upon this Earth that we are harming them. Ignore their calls for compassion, attention, help.

It’s scary to take off our clothes in the woods. We started wearing clothes for a reason, didn’t we?

But maybe it’s necessary. Maybe it’s time.

Maybe your calling isn’t to go naked with the ticks and spiders. Maybe your calling is to go naked inside yourself and see what your Self has to say. Maybe your calling is to go naked among the voices of traditionally marginalized people and let their voices touch you.

Maybe your calling is to look inside yourself at where you’ve erected walls and armor that allow you to walk unheedingly through the world ignoring your impact on it, and begin the work of growing naked.

I go naked in the woods because the woods can teach me more when my armor is gone.

I am learning to go naked more of the time in more of my life. It’s a process.

Where are you ready to go naked so that the world can teach you more?