November 17, 2017

Reaching for the sky


Our conference last weekend was held on a campus the size of a small city, nestled into a desert ecosystem. The walkways, shaded by tall arrays of solar panels, were crowded with students who are seemed to be in constant motion: walking, running, zooming by on skateboards, or weaving through on bicycles. Amidst this swirl of young energy, we conference folks gathered outside an art gallery to drink wine, meet new colleagues, and find old friends.

I'd been at the party for about twenty minutes before someone asked, "Who's going to pose naked for you this year?"

I looked at Sky Woman. We hadn't seen each other in a few years and were in the midst of catching up. "Want to pose?" I asked. I wasn't even sure if she remembered the project, but she grasped the point quickly.

"Naked?" she asked. "Sure."
 That's the level of cooperation I like to see in a friend.

"I just can't get arrested," Sky Woman said. "Or at least, if I get arrested, I need to be out of jail and on a plane on Sunday. I don't want to miss my plane."

"We're white, middle-aged women," I said. "We won't get arrested."
 "That's true," she said. "We're invisible. We can use that to our advantage."

We decided to meet early Saturday morning before the sunlight became harsh. I asked Local Friend, who worked on campus, if she knew of a private place where we could take a discreet nude photo. She said, "I can't think of any. There are always people around. We have 90,000 students."

She said helpfully, "But if you get arrested, call me. I'm good for bail." That was reassuring.

I'd seen a place earlier that I thought was worth exploring. It wasn't exactly private. In fact, it might well be the most famous building on campus. My roommate and I had walked past it every day, and we called it the Fancy Cupcake Building. Huge and circular, it was a performing arts center designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

When we met up Saturday morning, Sky Woman said she loved the idea of posing with such a famous building. And the campus, as we walked along, seemed surprisingly quiet. Perhaps all 90,000 students were still asleep.

As we walked, we talked about the grey hair and wisdom that comes with age. "I have no fucks left to give," she said. "It's very freeing. I wish I could give that feeling to younger women."

Sunlight shone on the long curving walkway that led up into the building. About halfway up, we paused. We had a great view of the campus, with parking lots below us. Sky Woman stripped off her clothes and began stretching in the sun.

"I think yoga is paying off," she called out. The sunlight bounced off the building, off her skin.

"Woo hoo!" Someone yelled from the parking lot. We both looked down. Cars were pulling in, perhaps to begin their workday. A woman had stepped from her station wagon, and she raised both arms in what we could only assume was an encouraging cheer.

Sky Woman laughed and reached toward the deep blue sky. I snapped the photo.

Read more about the history of the naked blogging project and check out the gallery of photos.

November 08, 2017

The naked splashing woman


Every fall, I join women friends for a weekend retreat in the mountains. We bring food, and books, and stories about our lives. We dance by the fire, give each other massages, and hike through gorgeous fall foliage. This year was no different. The lovely lodge where we stayed, with it's floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking a mountain lake, was filled with conversation and laughter.

But it was a somber weekend too. We're all in our 50s and 60s. We've all been through difficult life experiences. Many of us have aging parents that we help care for. Some of us have been through divorce or difficult break-ups. We've lost siblings and friends. None of us are untouched by death or heartbreak. We're a group of friends who confide in each other, who listen to each other's stories, and we talk as we eat or walk or sit by the fire.

None of us have advice for each other. We know there is nothing we can say. But just telling stories and knowing that your friends are listening: that has value. By Sunday, we were all feeling lighter, happier, and more at peace. Sharing burdens has that effect.

And the weather was in our favor. The sun shone down as if it were July rather than October. Few of us thought to bring bathing suits, but that didn't matter. Skinny dipping is our tradition, after all. As we left the lodge, bringing towels with us, I grabbed my camera.

"This will be the perfect setting for a naked photo shoot," I said. 
Dancing Woman shrugged, "I'm in."

There were a few motorboats on the lake, but I assured Dancing Woman that they were far away. She stripped off her clothes and waded into the water. "Splash !" I yelled to her. I stepped in the lake too, up to my knees, in order to keep the sun behind me.

Dancing Woman splashed, tentatively at first, and then in bigger and bigger splashes of water. Pretty soon, she was playing in the lake the way a child would, getting everything around her wet. Any self-consciousness disappeared as she danced along, spraying lake drops into the sky, so that it fell onto her hair, her bare arms, her whole body.

She kept going long after I was done taking my photo.

Read more about the history of the naked blogging project and check out the gallery of photos.