Let's get naked, people!
Summer has won its battle against Winter. The Wise Old Holy Man retreats to his home somewhere beyond the North. His young apprentice, filled with virility and possibility, celebrates the victory in magnificent sunshine-pleasing clothes. His success will be short-lived though. The old man will remain quiet for a few months to allow for youthful boasting. He will do this because what the wise elder doesn’t possess—and he knows his strengths and weaknesses—the young man possesses. He knows the youngster’s victory is necessary for the perpetuity of life. So he obliges himself to the realm of the vanquished and exiled. Sometimes, strength is found through accepting the essential growth that comes from defeat and the self-confidence in knowing that his time will rise again. Accepting his weaknesses, being vulnerable, showing courage to see the value in the opposing season--that is wisdom.
It’s absolutely gorgeous here during the warm season. The Gros Ventre Wilderness has its appeal to those who know where and how to find it. Cornflower skies are accented by cumulus shades of pristine whites to subtle greys. When the sun is standing-still, the clouds are edged by bright outlines of white gold and rays of angelic white-shell spread outward like celestial spokes with the horizon as its wheel.
The clouds move slowly in a northeasterly way, blanketing the midday sun for brief moments, to bring a gentle, occasional breeze to cool my burnt neck and shoulders.
I am here alone—that is, a no other human being kind of alone—so, naturally, the first thing to do is get naked. This is a lesson I learned from my uncle from a different season, Edward Abbey. To be naked physically helps a man feel naked inside, vulnerable, free to carry on, make mistakes, take risks and fail, and to be open, and perhaps to give my ass a chance to acquaint itself with the sun.
We tend to get naked for two reasons—cleansing and lovemaking. Both I will keep in mind here. There is a kind of cleansing that happens when the breeze rushes through your nether regions. That cleansing, obviously, is not of soap and water, but of feeling something that only a person seeking openness can feel. The lovemaking is not with a beautiful woman, although that is welcomed here, but with the on-goings of the landscape—an intimacy felt in the heart, toes and fingers that reveal what has been missing while on my temporary confinement to urban life. Nakedness, ironically, doesn’t expose much of what is outward. Nakedness reveals more of what is inward or, for that matter, what is missing inward.
We need more nakedness, more vulnerability, more humility. And we need more natural places to strip down to our epidermals.
Let’s end the shame of our bodies. After all, shame of our bodies says something about our shame of the Earth’s body—and what a beautiful, fertile body it is! Everything here follows the way of the young apprentice. Bear’s are copulating, elk are caving, firs are pollinating, flowers are blooming, and hermit thrushes are singing. Everything here expresses itself more or less in the loveliness of the female body.
Indeed, I’ll admit that the female body is much more attractive to look at, especially through the eyes of love. Maybe I’m biased.
And I’ll admit that happenstance sex does a great disservice in that it turns the female body into an object of exploitation and selfish satisfaction. Maybe I’m too soft on that, the man's man would say.
But, if we exploit the female body, and live in a way that objectifies the woman, chances are we will do the same with the Earth body. How a man treats a woman he loves relates to how he treats the deer. And, of course, how a man treats his mother relates to how a man treats our Great Mother. And, while I’m at it, since all of this flows from trickling melt into third order streams eventually to find its way into humanity’s current, how we treat our elders—including our sick and dying—relates to how we treat our earth elders, our ancient ancestors who long ago spoke the same language as us.
Indeed, long ago, the old people say, we spoke the same language as other animals or, rather, we spoke their language and even could mate with them. But, instead of embracing this as a gift, we began to use it as an advantage and to hell with the needs of the animals. That didn’t last long.
The bear, the master spirit of all the animals, called together a great council. The humans were not invited. They discussed the exploitation by the humans and felt they were endangered. By the end of the council, after all had spoken, the Great Bear decreed that all animals would begin speaking their own languages and go about their own ways as this was essential for carrying out the Great Mystery’s vision. Ever since then, we have been lost and all the more dependent upon the ways of animals. Before we were as free as all the other animals. But now, the animals own us because of their preknowledge of creation—something we do not have—and the secrets they hold about themselves and the intricate, complex relations they have with the land, water and air. Even our most sophisticated biological research has trouble figuring that out. New revelations are constantly being revealed about our assumptions and the errors of our way.
The river I am sitting by is cold and murky, filled with a fast moving current of snowmelt from up high. Once Summer breaks here, it does so in a hurry. The massive amounts of snow and ice above treeline start as droplets to become gallons and drainages, which then become third, second and first order streams, which then become rivers. A few drops per minute here and there spread across millions of acres of alpine surface and flow into a 30,000 cubic feet per second congregation of a flooding river.
The water looks dirty, but it tastes wonderful. It includes eroded red sandstone and silt that has within it granules of igneous and metamorphic rock scoured off by glaciers. To wade in with nothing on but skin is not exhilarating, but releasing of ego and opening to of the heart. Suddenly, the nakedness of the body becomes the purity of the river and the tiny droplets of ice melt from up high.
Then and there for a brief moment, I am returned to my childhood views of the world. And, perhaps I didn’t know what it was when I was ten, but I know now. I thought I felt an ancient language within my blood. I thought I saw something about this place that helped me understand and speak to the coyotes, black bear and magpies who live here. And so, at the very least, I am now aware of just how important the child’s view of the world is. There is real wisdom in it, and we ought to listen to our children.
For me to be reminded of the youthful view, the summer view, and to to experience that view from within rather than from without, requires getting naked and wading into the world. I’d recommend it. There isn’t enough nakedness in the world. And the world needs your humility and courage to be vulnerable and open. The world needs the child living within you.