September 17, 2018

Wildflower: Naked in the campus garden


When I read creative writing at conferences, I don't use pseudonyms. But otherwise, the way I write an essay isn't much different than how I write a blog post, except that it gets revised a million times. So I shouldn't have been surprised when I read an essay at the Maple Leaf Version of the Friendly Green Conference, and a woman in the audience — I'll call her Wildflower -- came up to tell me that she'd recognized me from Blogging Days of Yore.

Any blogger knows what happened next: we immediately began talking as if we'd known each other forever, comparing notes about which blogs we read, and sharing intimate details about our own lives. By the time we left the building to walk across campus for lunch, she'd agreed to pose naked for my blog. It's a tradition, after all.

"Let's go to the botanical gardens," I said. The gardens were marked clearly on the campus map. I wasn't sure how private they'd be, but all that lush green would make a lovely backdrop.

So we walked quickly along the road, talking the whole time, and soon we came to a small gate: the gardens! Stepping past the gate, we stepped into another world: one where ferns brushed against our legs and flowering trees dangled their branches into our faces as we walked along the path. We were both still carrying laptops and wearing conference nametags, but even so, I could feel the weight of the conference slide off my shoulders as we followed one curving path and then another.

We weren't alone. A young couple wandered hand-in-hand, a teenage girl had stopped to sketch something in her notebook, and a man in a blazer was checking his smart phone as he walked. But I led Wildflower confidently towards the back of the garden. Surely we could find a private spot.

Once all humans were out of sight, Wildflower stripped off her clothes and stepped off the path, walking carefully to make sure she didn't tread on any little plants.

"Listen," she said, turning her head slightly.

Perfect, I thought, I'll get a photo of her listening to birdsong.

But it wasn't birdsong she was hearing. The noise grew louder: squeals, chatter, laughter. As Wildflower posed naked amidst the trees, we could hear the unmistakable sounds of a party. I could even hear the clinking of glasses.

Had we walked in a circle back to the entrance? Was the botanical gardens holding some kind of gala event?

I snapped the photo quickly, and Wildflower began putting her clothes back on just as a man in a white dress shirt and black pants came around the corner. Curious, we walked towards the party, which was easy since it was about twenty feet away. The gardens, in turns out, had more than one entrance. In my confident stroll to the back of the garden I'd led us right to the back gate, and to a reception held just outside the gate. We waved to the bartender as we walked through, and then found our way back to campus.

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

September 12, 2018

Candles for Algernon

I couldn't figure out what the smell in the kitchen was. Finally, I pulled out the drawer underneath the stove and there, at the very back, was a dead mouse, caught in a mousetrap that I'd left there last spring. I pulled the mouse out and gave it a proper burial by tossing it into the woods, and then I scrubbed the linoleum.

But still, the odor lingered. So I grabbed the two small yellow beeswax candles in glass votive candle holders that were sitting on a windowsill. I lit the candles and set them on the floor in front of the stove. Surely that would get rid of the smell, now that I'd removed the source.

My youngest son, With-a-Why, the only one of my four grown children still living at home, came downstairs and looked at the candles curiously.

With-a-Why: What's that?
Me: There was a dead mouse.
With-a-Why: So you're having a vigil?

Yes. That's it exactly.

March 21, 2018

Naked in the sunshine state


Last month, when my usual conference roommate had to cancel her plans to come to the Big Creative Writing Conference, I found myself scrambling at the last minute to get a roommate. I sent out a plea, and within a few minutes, Gorgeous Writer Who Likes to Ski sent me an email.

Her quick willingness to invite me to share her room was lovely and gracious, but seconds later, another email chimed in. Her message got right to the point: "But I'm not posing naked for you."

Well, then.

I figured that with 10,000 writers all gathered in one place, surely I could find another volunteer.

First I asked a certain Red-haired Activist, who keeps promising that he'll pose SOMEDAY. I suspect by now that SOMEDAY will never come, but it's a tradition me to ask him. At the end of a ridiculous conversation in which he made promises about poses that weren't even possible unless he was secretly a contortionist, he admitted, "I'll probably never pose. I'm really just a tease." Yeah, I knew that.

It's my experience that women are more likely pose anyhow. "It's because we're used to it," one woman said when we talking about it at the bar. "We know it's expected of us."

"But this project subverts that," said another woman. "We're used to posing for the male gaze, but instead, we get to choose the pose that we like."

I love how my women friends get me. And I love how quick they are to volunteer. I turned to my friend Free Woman and said, "Hey, what are you doing tomorrow morning?" And she responded, "Posting naked for you." That's the attitude I like to see.

We were in the Sunshine State, so of course we immediately made plans to take advantage of the warm weather. "I've got a balcony," she said. Perfect.

It was still chilly outside when I arrived at her room the next morning. Free Woman and her partner had just finished eating breakfast on the balcony. I began moving the furniture into the room while she looked down at the river walk below, a lovely and it turns out, a very public place.

"There's a whole group of people just standing there," she said. It's true. I'd seen them on my way up. They were waiting for a tour or something.

"Oh, they aren't looking this way," I assured her. So she stripped off her clothes, while I tried to wedge myself into the farthest corner of the tiny balcony. I wanted to get her whole body into the picture, but the size of the balcony made it difficult. I could probably have gotten a great shot if I'd climbed onto the railing and leaned way out, but we were several stories up. I thought risking my life for the project might be just a bit much.

Free Woman's partner sat inside on the bed, looking at his laptop. That's usually what happens when there's an extra person in the room during a photo shoot. They generally try to stay out of the way. But then he looked up. I could tell from his face he didn't think me climbing up onto the rail would be such a great idea. "Take the shot from here," he said. "You could frame the shot with the door."

I moved quickly inside. "Just act natural," I called to Free Woman. But she wasn't even listening. She was leaning on the rail of the balcony with one elbow and looking out to see if anyone was looking at her. That's when I snapped the photo.

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