The human body is self-regulating. It knows what it needs. Most of the time, the body is able to find balance within itself, without dictates from the brain. The body always seeks balance. I got out of my clothe inside my tent. I stepped out and stood up, naked from head to toe. My body needed the warmth of the summer sun, the gentle breeze of fresh air. My body said thank you, this is right for all of us. I let my body tell my brain there was no need for feelings of anxiety or shame. There was no need for those feelings because there was no room for them. I looked for them in all the usual places; the way I hold my arm in front of my belly, the decline and forward pitch of my head, the small space between my shoulders and my ears. I looked but I saw no shame, no embarrassment, no fear. My arms were relaxed, my shoulders were settled. I looked up and out, my collarbones spread wide, heart open. What I felt was bliss. What I felt was, in fact, me. My body and my brain agreed. I had made a right choice for them both and all was in balance within me.
I didn’t think it was the right choice a few hours ago. I had waited until the last minute to gather some things from the garage, and I wasn’t finding what I needed. I still had many questions buzzing around in my head. Were the campgrounds guarded at night? Should I bring a chair? What if I hate it? The afternoon was now tumbling into evening and I still had not finished packing the car. This early morning I took the car in for an oil change, but I forgot to get gas. I had a 3 ½ hour drive. Campsites at Turtle Lake Resort are not reserved and are given out on a first-come-first serve basis. I was hungry and I was stressed and I was anxious. Even though I called the resort no less than three times with questions, and perused the website countless times, I still had more questions. Could I have a campfire? For a moment I thought I should just wait and leave in the morning. I didn’t want to have to set my tent up in the dark. I stopped buzzing around and ate. Finally fed, I decided that I still had enough time to drive up to Michigan before sunset–at least 5 hours of daylight left. As I finished packing the last bag, I thought it was funny how empty the bag was without clothes.
I loaded up, gassed up, and hit the road. My phone’s GPS was set to my location, an audio cd of Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State playing in the background. I really wanted to listen to Hunger, also by Gay, but it was already checked out. A few years ago, I had sworn off all fiction unless it contained aliens, zombies, superheros or dystopic elements, but this was a story that primarily took place in Haiti, so I was mildly intrigued. Stories involving the diaspora always make the cut. I was hoping there was mention of voodoo. There was none. I was about an hour into the trip when I realized I had no idea how late check-in was. A call was made and I was relieved to hear that they didn’t end check-in until 9 pm, so I had plenty of time. I decided if it grew dark before I arrived, that there would be plenty of light from my lantern to set up my tent. I was trying to find ease in my thoughts. I was committed to going. I had told a few people I was going camping. But only a handful knew it was a nudist camp. I didn’t want to be discouraged. And I didn’t want to cause unduly worry. I wanted to see for myself what it was like without the burden of the opinion of others. What a heavy load that is. To always carry the thoughts and concerns of others around. At best, it comes from a place of love. But often, it metastasizes into something that bigger than it’s own worth. I live a clothes free life, mostly in my mind, but as often as I can at home. When I know my adult children are gone for a few hours, I can venture out into the the kitchen, the living room. I’ve stolen small moments outside in my local national park. They were brief and filled with paranoia. I looked forward to discovering if there was anything to those secret, silent moments of bliss, in a space of safety and freedom.
Almost three hours into my drive, my phone is at 6%. Not only did it not charge, it continues to lose what little power it does hold. Four percent. I have at least 45 minutes before I reach camp. I exit the highway, pull over in a gas station and copy down the rest of the directions from my phone onto a sheet of paper. I shut off the GPS and plug my phone back in. It says it’s charging, but I’m not optimistic. I periodically check and it isn’t holding a charge. I’m berating myself and getting on my own nerves. I’m the person who sends the route to the phone AND prints off the map. I just got rid of AAA. I like maps. But I left the map in my purse and I left the purse at home because you don’t need a purse when you’re going camping. But you do need a map. Or a phone with a charge. I turn on the GPS and now it can’t find me. I know where I am but I am lost. I have my direction notes, but without the comfort of a delineated pathway, I feel scattered. My notes tell me to take a left off the highway, then a right and then a left again. I have the address. Seems clear enough, but I want to doubt it. My belly tenses and I sit up. I am stressed. I start to think this was a poor choice. I feel guilty indulging in this adventure, when I have so many serious responsibilities that demand attention. Traipsing around in the woods naked does not seem like serious business. A voice within holds steady to the cause and I continue the route. I cannot hear the narrator of the audio cd, which I decide is for the best. The protagonist is petulant and privileged and passive aggressive; she is a terrible character and I’m only listening at this point to rate my disdain, not pleasure. I decide to create another imaginary fear of the resort not having proper signage so I’ll never find it, as if that would be the point of not having a sign.
Turns out, they do have a sign. I drive in and feel a swell of relief wave through my body. I drive into the parking lot and walk into the office. There are about five people in the office and everyone is dressed. The women behind the counter looked up as I came in and smiled as they said hello. I took this as a good sign. I wasn’t completely on my own; someone I followed on social media was here, and had asked if I had arrived yet. I started to feel more at ease. When I finished checking in I was escorted on a tour by a short older man with a big belly, skinny legs and no pants. All he wore was a t-shirt and shoes. The first thing he tells me is the towel rule. “Ya know you have to have a towel with you at all times. Anywhere you sit, needs to be on a towel.” He walks me to his golf cart as he is my tour guide. We get in and slowly speed off. He says to me, “listen honey, if anybody gives you any problems, let the gals at the desk know. You don’t need to be harassed, and you don’t have to put up with it. So let them know at the desk, cuz they love kicking people out.” My confidence buoyed. He drives me around the resort and we stop at various locations so he can show me the amenities. The resort is billed as the premier nudist resort in the midwest. The facilities are functional and modest, clean. Amenities include an indoor and an outdoor pool, plenty of space for rustic camping, bathroom facilities, a lodge with game room, hot tub, pickleball, mini golf and an outdoor stage. This particular resort has residential lodging as well. On the tour, we run into my social media friend EarlD. He is an advocate of clothes-free living and runs clothesfreelife.com. His mission is to provide information and resources for people interested in clothes-free living, especially people of color.
I set up my campsite near the edge of the lake. It was music festival weekend at the resort. Several live bands were scheduled to perform in an open field near the front of the site. I regretted not bringing a chair. There were vendors selling big wide scarves with bright colors and jingly things hanging off the edges. There was a grill set up and run by staff, serving the average picnic fare, hamburgers, hot dogs and fries. We laid out blankets, grabbed something to eat, and listened to music. There were people dancing near the front of the stage.
Some set up portable gazebos and had lavish spreads of food. These were the glampers. Comfort made disposable, foldable and portable. After a while the air started to cool, and I was tired. We headed back to the campsite. The night sky is never as beautiful as it is away from the city. I am always amazed at the infinite number of stars to be seen. I saw the dippers, big and little, and I think I saw the three sisters. I told myself the next time I came out here I would research the night sky in this area so I’d know better what I was looking at.
That night I dressed for bed; sleeping in clothes at a nudist camp seemed funny but cold is cold. There was little to no breeze and my sleeping bag was a warm cozy one. In the morning, I got up fully dressed as it was still very cool, and headed to the clubhouse for a hot shower. There is a women’s side and men’s side, and a coed side. The showers are individual stalls and anyone can use any shower. It wasn’t crowded. One shower was being used by a man who mumbled what sounded like good morning to me when I came in. After my shower I walked around the clubhouse. The indoor pool was empty. I thought about a quick swim but put it off for later. The hot tub was already in use. I wasn’t feeling hungry even though there was breakfast being served. I walked back down to my campsite. I crawled back into my sleeping bag and read a little. I packed way too many things to read. After a while, the sun decided to join us, and it felt warm enough to disrobe. I had a small solar panel I set out to catch a charge. I spent most of the morning talking with my new friend, talking as we had for most of the night.
That first crisp morning, we sat outside our temporary digs and picked up where we left off in conversation, unpacking my reasons for coming to camp. The whole weekend felt like a master yoga class with an expert yogi and clothes-free advocate. The western world tends to think of the postures or poses as yoga. This is incomplete. Practicing the postures is referred to as asana in Sanskrit. Our yoga that weekend was organic and did not include one pose. I didn’t have the language to describe what we did until a few days later. Essentially we explored a different limb of yoga, the niyamas. Within that one limb of self-examination and self-discipline are five facets. Our conversation centered around 1)svadhyaya, or self-study.
I wanted to come to camp naked to see if being in a clothes free community was really how I thought it would be. When I practice clothes free living at home, it seems like the most comfortable, easiest way to be. I feel more myself without clothes, more at ease. There is no longer anything to hide, both on the gross, physical level with clothing, but also in a deeper, more subtle sense. I wanted to know what it was like to be around others who share that same value. I wanted to know what it was like to be my whole self around others. What I learned in this experience reinforces my belief that the first creation is the mental. Next comes the material or the physical creation. In contemporary terms, one might say, “if you build it, they will come”, or “as above so below.” Not once did I feel uncomfortable in my own skin. I was not uncomfortable, not at all, I felt free. Free enough to expand and take up space and exist fully in my very own skin.
When it came time to leave, I felt as if my soul was packing up all the wonderful energy I experienced to carry with me back home. All the nagging little concerns I had prior to coming just did not seem to matter. All the mind chatter about directions and battery percentage and rules dissolved away and nothing mattered except each moment that I was in my body. I was focused on being in my own body, I was not focused on anyone else. Instead of listening to my brain invoke messages that society teaches us about nudity, especially public nudity, I listened to what my body had to say. My body told me it was fine, that this was how it was supposed to be, that it was back in balance. The body has a wisdom, my body has a wisdom, and everyday I am learning to trust it more and more. This was my lesson, my svadhyaya.
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