I hadn't intended to take a naked photo on the trip to the State Where People Eat Potatoes Less Than You Might Think. After all, this wasn't a conference; it was an executive council meeting. And I honestly didn't have time to blog. In our guilt over the carbon footprint of our meeting, we were determined to make every minute count, and that meant we were meeting over breakfast at 7 am, eating lunch while we worked, and continuing our discussions into the dark. We were making our way through a packed agenda, and there was no time for such frivolity as dancing naked on the tables, although we did take time out one morning to walk up the street and observe a fox eating a dead squirrel. Watching animals eat dead things is a high priority amongst Friendly Green Folks.
I'm not sure how the topic of my top-secret pseudonymous blog even came up.
It may have been at dinner when almost everyone was drinking wine, and some of us were talking about blogs as the "new" nature writing. It was a serious discussion about bloggers who write about place, who write about nature, albeit in a virtual medium. We were talking about blogs like Creek Running North by nature and science writer Chris Clarke and the blog Out with Ari: Life as a Canine Naturalist by Kathryn, who writes about what she has learned about the natural world through walks with her dog. We were discussing bloggers like Rana from Frogs and Ravens, who writes such wonderful descriptions of the natural world, or Lorianne DiSabato from Hoarded Ordinaries, who keeps a place-based blog, or Chas S. Clifton who writes about nature in the Southern Rockies.
This thoughtful discussion about blogs was interrupted by a waiter who arrived with long wooden pepper mill, asking each person if they would like some "fresh pepper." Unfortunately, I cannot hear a waiter asking a question like that without remembering the famous "Fresh-a-Pepper" skit from Saturday Night Live in which the pepper boy wields his phallic looking pepper mill in a highly suggestive way, causing the customers who asked for fresh pepper to writhe and moan in their seats. My attempt to insert a thoughtful analysis of that skit into the conversation was deeply appreciated by Colleague With Southern Accent, who kept sending the waiter over to give me more pepper, just to see how much I would blush.
I think it was the very literary discussion of the body and sexuality that followed that led me to declaring that someone at the table needed to pose naked for my blog. Strangely, no one questioned my purpose. In the tradition of literature professors everywhere, they jumped immediately to the relevant point: who should be the lucky person to get that place of honor?
An international argument ensued. British, Canadian, and American accents swirled about the table over the plates of food and glasses of wine, each person explaining why someone else at the table needed to be the chosen model. As usual, the men in the group did a whole lot of joking about the photo and made gallant statements about how naked photos were a tradition that needed to be upheld, but when faced with the prospect of stripping for the camera, they balked.
The newest member of the group, the Canadian professor — who had just met most of us for the first time that afternoon and who had been happily drawing a map for me on the paper table mat — went suddenly quiet. The British professor to my left , on the other hand, seemed tempted by the fame of being part of the first international naked blog shot, but he kept changing his mind. Colleague With Southern Accent, who had earlier declared that because he was the oldest person in the room, we need to all treat him with respect, or at least, considerably less derision, kept volunteering everyone but himself.
In the end, the woman who posed was the obvious choice. I needed to take the photo in natural light, before our early morning meeting, and she was getting up early to go running, a wholesome choice. She has a blog, a sense of humor, and a cool tattoo. And she's efficient. While our colleagues were still milling about after breakfast in the big living room of the B&B, she slipped away with me to one of the covered porches, where she stripped off her clothes despite the chilly air, posed for a photo, and then got dressed and back into our meeting room before anyone even noticed she was missing. If you read my blog carefully, you'll be able to figure out who she is, but I am trusting you all to keep it a secret. I promised her that my readers know how to be discreet.
Anonymous blogger, watching through the curtains for the first morning light.
(Readers who want to know the history of the naked photo tradition can check it out here and here and here and here and here.)