June 25, 2009
Naked in morning light
When I arrived in Beautiful Island City for the Friendly Green Conference, the first thing my roommates and I did was walk to a grocery store to buy food and flowers for our dorm suite. The second thing we did was yoga. Within minutes of getting back to our shared lounge, we had moved the furniture to the side and stretched out on the floor. Smart Articulate Roommate With a Lovely, Lilting Voice led the yoga session, telling us when to bend and to breathe. I’d spent the day scrunched into cramped airline seats on three different flights, so stretching those muscles felt wonderful.
In academia, conference organizers often don’t recognize that we have bodies. I’ve been to academic conferences with programs so jam-packed that there were no slots for breakfast, or lunch, or supper. I’ve been to events where I had to rush from session to session with no time to even use the bathroom. The intellectual stimulation of an academic conference is wonderful and fulfilling, but spending a whole conference sitting at sessions held in the basement of a big hotel can leave me reeling out of balance, like my mind has been ignoring the fact that I have a body.
Friendly Green Conferences, held on college campuses rather than big hotels, are different. Perhaps because our focus is on environmental issues, the organizers recognize that our bodies can’t be ignored. Even more importantly, the Friendly Green Association strives to be a community, rather than simply a space for the intellectual exchange of ideas. The value of a conference comes not just from the brilliant thoughts presented by speakers, but in the face-to-face conversations we have with colleagues from all over the earth.
The Friendly Green Conference schedule included generous time slots for meals and bathroom breaks and discussions outside in the sun. Friday afternoon was set aside for field trips: after several days of intense intellectual stimulation, it felt great to go ocean kayaking and to swim in icy water. The Friendly Green Conference was an atmosphere conducive to talking about the concerns of the body, from the way our bodies react to toxins to the ways the dominant culture can encourage body hate.
Throughout the week, conference participants kept offering to pose naked for my blog, but since I didn’t carry my camera to sessions, it seemed easiest to choose one of my roommates. That's the tradition, after all. When Lilting Voice volunteered, I thought that some kind of yoga pose would be fitting.
“I’ll put a blanket on this table,” I said. “The texture will work well with your bare skin. The early light’s just right.”
The lounge area was already decorated with a vase of flowers – and a string of chili peppers that EcoWoman had brought. (We like to make ourselves at home, even in campus housing.) As I moved the flowers off the table, Lilting Woman said, “Why not leave the flowers?”
“No, that would look fake,” I said. “Why would you be lying on a table with flowers?”
“Look, honey,” she said. “Let’s acknowledge that there’s some artifice here. You didn’t just come across me lying nekkid on a table.”
She stripped off her clothes and climbed onto the table, her hair in the ponytail she wears whether she’s doing yoga or chairing a meeting. “How’s this?”
Lilting Voice is a leader in the Friendly Green Community, someone who knows how to get things done while somehow being polite and tactful and friendly. She’s a woman who nurtures the intimacy that can happen when people spend time together. She and I are the same age, and we'd been already been talking about our bodies, comparing stories. Despite a bit of artifice, it felt natural to be taking a photo of her as she sat naked in the early 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 and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.)
Posted by jo(e)