October 21, 2016

Wild Woman

Wild Woman

They call us the Wild Women.

That’s our nickname. We’re a group of close women friends who go to the mountains every year for a retreat. We bring food, we take walks, we hike mountains, we build fires, and we walk a labyrinth. We’ve been known to strip off our clothes for massages, dance in the moonlight, and skinny dip in the lake. But mostly, we talk, sharing our lives, our triumphs, our struggles and our griefs.

Signing Woman, whose family owns the beautiful camp where we stay, tells the story that inspired the nickname. It was perhaps twenty years ago, on a fall weekend at the mountains, when the weather was unusually warm. Long Beautiful Hair, attracted to the clear water of the mountain lake and the sun pouring down onto her skin, decided to take a swim. She stripped off her clothes, keeping only her flannel shirt to use as a towel, and went down to the water’s edge without telling anyone.

Twenty minutes later, Signing Woman looked out the window and was startled to see a naked woman running across the lawn, wet hair streaming down her back, clutching only a flannel shirt. “Look,” she said to her friends. “What on earth – wait, that’s one of us!”

I think it was Makes Bread who grabbed her camera and snapped a photo of Long Beautiful Hair, smiling and radiant after her swim in icy cold water, drying herself with her flannel shirt as she came into the camp. And that story, embellished by several of the husbands who were not present, earned us the nickname Wild Women. Perhaps the reason the name stuck is because it’s appropriate to the place. In 1885, the legislature established a Forest Preserve in the mountains, saying that land should be kept "forever wild." That’s a sentiment that most of us women agree with: wildness should be forever.

So on our retreat this year, when I saw Long Beautiful Hair out on the deck, stripped naked to expose her skin to the sunlight, once again using a flannel shirt as a towel, I felt inspired to recreate the original photograph. She cooperated fully, dancing about the deck, smiling at the camera. “You want one for the naked photo project?” she asked. “I’ll turn away from the camera and be more discreet. You take it from inside to get the effect.”

I always let women choose the photo they want me to put on my blog. In the photo Long Beautiful Hair chose, she's standing demurely, using her flannel shirt as a towel, gazing out at the lake, her hair flowing down her back. You really have to be her friend and get to know her before you're allowed to see how wild she is.

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

October 14, 2016

Road trip in autumn


Every fall, I travel to the mountains for a long weekend with a bunch of women friends. This year, as we were figuring out who was going to go in which car, Birding Woman said, "I want to take a slow route and take photographs along the way. Want to come with me?"

I love a long, leisurely drive, especially on a sunny day in fall. We stopped at a lake where the water was so clear I could see little fish swimming by. We walked paths slowly enough to find woolly bear caterpillars — and make our predictions for the winter based on the fact that the bands of rusty brown were unusually long. We tramped through picnic areas where the wooden tables were already propped upright in anticipation of this winter's snow. We stopped to listen to birdsong, with Birding Woman identifying every bird she heard. We visited an inn that was set high above a lake. By the time we arrived at our destination in the mountains, we were filled with sunshine and sated with the brilliant colors of fall foliage.

Gone fishing