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.