Photography by René Treece Roberts
One other amazing thing that came out of the Promoting Passion Convention and our conversation with René was me trusting her to take a picture of me naked. I've been wanting to do this for years, to overcome my hate for my body and to begin loving it, begin seeing it through the eyes of others as a body, skin and flesh and bone, and not as an object to handle and hurt and invade.
It was chilly in the night, after the hot sun of the day, and I shivered as I was pulling off my sweater, my shirt, my pants, my underwear. Then a curious thing happened. As I walked barefoot on the prickly ground, the air around me solidified and clothed my skin. I was warm. I was warmer than when I was clothed. I felt clothed by the air better and more snug and comfortable than by my clothes. The air clothed me completely. There wasn't an inch of skin that wasn't protected, and yet I was naked. There was freedom in standing on the rock, in the mountains, in the middle of night, bare as I was born. Yes, you can explain this phenomenon with body's temperature regulation and the way we were supposed to coexist with our environment for thousands of years, and so on. I chose not to. I felt submerged in a poem of my body. It sang a song to the night and the stars, and they replied, and we were one. There was no fear, no shame, no pain, nothing. There was just me, and the rocks around me, and peace. Never before in my life did I feel at peace with my body, and that night I did. It was akin to baptism, only in nature. Nothing separated us, and we were one.
It seems a simple thing, getting undressed on some path in the mountains and walking around naked. But it's not until I did it that the barriers fell off and I realized I didn't need all those layers, like crutches, to hold on to. Clothes, shoes, phone in my pocket, bag, wallet; stuff. I forgot how much of my identity was trusted to things that were just that, things, but not me. I stepped on some cacti when I was walking around in the dark, and it was painful and funny and humbling to realize that had I trained my feet to walk on earth, I would've hardly felt it. Or I'd known where to step in the dark and how to navigate by smell and sound and know my way without looking. There were some animals shrieking, maybe bats, maybe something else. And I climbed on the rock, and I waited for René to get her camera ready, and I didn't know what to do with my hands. There were no pockets to put them in, I had no phone to check, no pants to adjust, nothing to fidget with. Then I stopped fidgeting and just stood, breathing and staring up at the stars.
And the time stopped.
I can only tell you I wish I did this every day, every night. I wish we all did it. It made me pause, made me slow down. It stopped the chatter in my head. It grounded me. It stilled my fears. I think if in that moment a wild animal came at me, a predator, a cougar, we would've stared into each other's eyes and parted in peace, each going on our own way. It was akin to the initiation experience we used to send our youths in the tribes, to survive in the wilderness for a number of days and nights, to find your spirit, your core, to become enlightened and come back to your tribe as an adult. I came back changed. Something about my body being in the open air naked changed in my mind. It seems almost silly to me now that I was ashamed of it. That I thought it was ugly. I fell in love with it.
The power of stripping naked.
That's exactly what writing does. Strips you to the core. It's scary, yes, but it's also exhilarating. Try it. When that cougar comes, your inner demon, you might look it in the eyes for the first time, and you will part in peace.