Naked in Nature: A Call for Healing
I need to tell you something about this day in mid-January: the day I went out to the place where they were taken, I didn't know I would also be setting out to do this too.
Don’t get me wrongㅡit had been a while and I was hoping to again eventually, because doing this has been inspiring for me personally. It defies expectations set on me by my upbringing in pursuit of ideals.
I already love walking around in nature, and it's so healing to be naked in the woods. To stop and feel the breeze rustle the hairs on your arms and legs, to feel the sunlight warm your skin and feel its gentle energy soak into your being. But this photography, this work shares the beauty of that feeling with othersㅡ it invites the viewer to partake in that healing activity themselvesㅡa joyfully rebellious act in a society which asks us to hide and cover ourselves as if the body is to be ashamed of.
It was healing to walk around in the woods, in January, with snow still on the ground and breath still clouding the air-- but in being unguarded from that chill I could fully embrace it and come alive. I felt my senses sharpen and took joy in the sensations of dirt and logs and moss under my feet, tree bark on my skin, and the sheer reality of the wind. The liveliness in climbing boulders and finding my footing. Constantly shifting awareness between presence of being and the relationship of self to the sky. Being reminded of the multitudinous ways in which our amorphous bodies may have something in common with the ever-varied beauty in nature.
It was healing to walk around in the woods, in January, with snow still on the ground and breath still clouding the air-- but in being unguarded from that chill I could fully embrace it and come alive.
And today I come to you to talk to you about healing through nature, but today is not just about that.
Today I want to talk to you about how this is part of something larger, and how that concept is even remotely related to this philosophy, these ideals.
These photos were shot by another person. And that person is inspired by another person dear to him. And those two together have inspired me. And I hope to go on to inspire others. And it's essential to emphasize togetherness and collective unity as something intertwined so deeply with our humanity and our purpose here.
On the day that I came out to the place where these photos were taken, I just wanted to see my friends. I was feeling emotionally low and drained and depressed, and I hadn't seen them in a while and I needed to get away from this new home of mine, this one I was just starting to shape. And on this day in mid-January, my friends were free to have me over, so they did. So I came over and it was lovely to spend time with them and enjoy their company.
I hoped it would be a chance to defy that kind of self-defensive sheltering by being free and true to something that feels right to meㅡ something that feels honest and raw and celebratory of life and of healing.
Then, one of them had to go to work, and suggested that we go do this photoshoot. And I said yes on the fly because it just made sense to. Because I should try again. Because this is art out of life and I believe in art. Because it would be expected of me to need to be prepared to do something like this and on a day where my mind was caught in everything holding me down, as soon as the idea was brought up, I hoped it would be a chance to defy that kind of self-defensive sheltering by being free and true to something that feels right to meㅡ something that feels honest and raw and celebratory of life and of healing. Something I wish I could give myself permission to do on my own and alone, without worrying.
I feel like this is difficult to do on my own, in part because I'm a woman. If I go out into the woods, alone, it's not safe. I wish that I could just be alone in nature naked sometimes and not worry that someone might accidentally stumble upon me in a setting where this would not be normal to them or acceptable, in a setting where this isn't safe because I could get hurt.
If there was a place where I could just go on and walk around and be naked in the woods for a bit, and I wouldn't have to worry about people, I'd be doing it so much more often. I wonder if maybe then the depression wouldn't be so hard. If I'd be able to cope with more in my life.
The act of finding a beautiful place where there aren't people around and gradually becoming more acquainted and playful with the landscape does so much for the soul when otherwise you've been caught in your own despair. I remember cradling a piece of cut-up tree like a baby, pretending to scout something off in the distance, and doing other things while wandering around because nature just feels so safe to be silly in.
I'm not at the stage in my journey yet where I can ask myself if I'd be comfortable with others seeing me in person. It's easy at the most to share in this capacity with strangers and talk about celebration of the body and loving ourselves as we are and connecting with nature, but sharing with friends and family is too personal of a route to share this conversation with in this specific way. But everyone I've entrusted with something that shouldn't be such a big deal to entrust to others has been open and accepting of me as a human being, and it really didn't make a huge difference whether I was clothed or unclothed.
It is partially the act of being one with nature, and also being seen in the eyes of others. It is also in the collective acknowledgement that there is joy in embracing the whole of yourself as you are.
And not only that, but this entire action in itself of this photography in nature has made me feel that I really don't have to change anything about myself. I need to do my best to take care of myself and be healthy, and that will reflect inwardly and outwardly. It is partially the act of being one with nature, and also being seen in the eyes of others. It is also in the collective acknowledgement that there is joy in embracing the whole of yourself as you are and in connecting with nature to recognize the beauty in us all.
It is also the photographer who sees this beauty and shares it with others through the lens. It is in the modelling artist whose mind's eye is constantly active as she finds new ways to contort her body to express harmony and synchronicity between the body and landscape. It is in the occasional risk-taker who will step outside their comfort zone to try something new. It is within a community which will embrace us all.
I came to my photographer and model artist friends/adorable power couple and diehard sweet family because I was hoping to be healed spending time with friends. And that's what happened. Their company was healing, their words and laughter, insights and advice and encouragement, their ideas and their creative push.
There is the art, and there's the story behind it. The story behind this is that when this happened, I was down on myself about stuff and coming out into nature helped melt that away. That my friends see beauty in this and partake in this and make beautiful art about this and have shared that with me too.
That it's important who we keep around us because we do affect each other, and we're always looking to be surrounded by those whom we trust and who inspire us to become the truest we can be to ourselves. And that's important as well because the more you connect yourself and learn more deeply about your identity and motivation and dreams, the more focused and aligned and in-tune you can be to live a fulfilling life and hopefully in turn inspire others.
This was also something I was worried about that day. I was worried about the relationship I had to someone I cared about. They were inspiring me, but I wasn't sure if I was reciprocating in the same way. Maya encouraged me to be patient and to have hope. Sven gave me advice to follow that which is true to you, to pursue your interests and that which is calling you. When you align yourself with your purpose, the right people will find you.
This is so terribly important right now.
Being near my friends in this case helped me grow and it wouldn't have been possible to grow in this way without their care and acceptance. A few months later, I came back to the same spot where these photos were taken, this time with someone who has been healing for me to be around personally. I wanted to share this space with him which gave me joy in hopes he would also find it magical. And together we sat naked in nature as the sun set and became connected to it. And coming back to this space reminded me that even though so much happened since the last time I was here, that advice had come true.
We need each other to look out for each other. Life is so much more full this way. I've been living alone in this pandemic, and concerned for my health. I've been living alone and feeling isolated simply because I don't see everyone like I used toㅡalthough given the circumstances, I would rather err on the side of concern than risk my own health and that of my loved ones.
We need to remember that we're never really alone.
Many of us have been feeling a bit like this. But it’s important for us to find our own balance and yet still connect how we can. We need to stand together and support each other and lift up our community so that we all survive these hardships and thrive together.
We need to remember that we're not ever really alone. Layers of pandemic concerns and supporting and standing up with our Black community against systemic racism and police brutality, and the suffocating grip of an increasingly fascist administration-- there's a lot going on right now and we need to be supporting each other and kind on ourselves as much as we possibly can be.
We need to create places of enduring kindness to ourselves and to others around us and be listening, supportive, empathetic and understanding if we want to create lasting change and a healing environment. We need to take action and also create space to cycle that energy and prevent burnout and stagnation.
The greatest way to contribute to that change and to that healing is through our strengths and shared passions. By pursuing what you love and keeping your heart and mind open to the discovery and pursuit of this love, you can align with and connect with others to celebrate and uplift a cause. But it’s also important to be humble, and to keep your heart open to the unexpected experiences which may shape you along the way.
We need to create places of enduring kindness to ourselves and to others around us and be listening, supportive, empathetic and understanding if we want to create lasting change and a healing environment.
The political is relevant even here, and especially here, because every personal act is political, because to fully embrace yourself as you are is a radical act in itself, and it is so crucial for us to fight for everyone's right to build that peace and radical self-acceptance without worry for their life.
Sometimes one of the best places to create this space of enduring kindness and healing is while walking around in nature. But if you go, don't go alone.
Go with someone elseㅡpreferably, if you're reading this during the pandemic, go with someone you're safe with or don't have to socially distance with, unless you're just hiking. But go together, so that everyone's safe.
Maybe just go with those you know so you can find the beauty in nature together, and the happiness that is meant to be yours.