Monthly Archives: November 2013
On The Broken Road: A Journey to the Magical Other
Healing the Soul, Skyclad – Volume 1
This is the first in a series of stories that takes the idea of being clothed by the sky, being au naturel, as a means of healing trauma. The main character of this story is introduced is a scene where he is nude. His nudity is an unconscious response to trauma, a response that is healing on different levels. I use the term skyclad intentionally because it has a spiritual connotation that goes back to the beginnings of humanity’s response and relationship to itself and to its creator.
Our creation story begins with humans in a state of perfection and holiness, unclothed in the Garden of Eden. A traumatic act caused this state of holiness to be broken. Feeling the shame of this trauma, and all victims of trauma feel shame, humans hid. We are told that we can return to the Garden of Eden, to heaven by doing the work to regain our innate holiness that remains within us. The real journey we all take is about healing the soul and regaining the purity in which we were created. Our creator knew us as perfect and good when there was nothing to hide and nothing to hide behind. Heaven isn’t clothing optional, nor was the Garden of Eden. You have something to hide? You can’t get in.
Trauma takes many forms: physical trauma, relationship trauma, psychological trauma, emotional trauma, and identity trauma. Trauma is real and it marks one for life. One can’t wish it away, or drown it with alcohol, or wipe it out with drugs, or erase it with therapy, or ignore it by filling life to the brim with things and activity. Rather than ignore trauma, we learn to see it as it is. Only then can we make choices to learn from the trauma and heal.
I will posting links that will allow you to download an e-book version for free, as well as for the purchase of a print version. Print versions will be available at a price that includes cost of production along with shipping.
I am bringing a small part of my novel here, one of the scenes from the Strawberry Fields Summer Festival that took place in August of 1970. As I mentioned in a previous post, I was there toting a 12 string guitar and thinking I was in heaven as I listened to most of the performances. It was a unique moment in Canadian history that will never be replicated for Canada has changed and can’t go back to the way it was, even if it wanted to do so. Now, the story:
As Donald drove in through the gates into the Mosport Freeway Race Track grounds and found a place to park, the three young men saw that the radio had not been exaggerating the numbers of people at the site. If anything, it seemed they had under-estimated. There had to be over a hundred thousand people there instead of the predicted fifty thousand. It seemed that the number of people in line behind them would soon take that number a lot higher. They had each paid their fifteen dollars at the gate and walked down a dirt road to the camping area. They had planned on being early so as to have their tents set up near the stage where the musicians would be playing. With almost five hours to go before the first act would appear on stage, they saw that there was no way they could get a close site. The got as close as possible and left Rainier to set up the two pup tents while Derek went back with Donald to get the larger tent that Donald was going to use. It wasn’t long before all was set. They had time to kill and a lot to discover while waiting.
As they walked around the grounds they passed a group of about fifteen naked young men and women splashing at the edge of a dugout. Derek snickered and told Donald that they should go back to the dugout and join the nudies. Rainier shook his head. He just couldn’t understand what was happening to his friend. Over the past few days, Derek was so totally out of it, that Rainier was beginning to think he would have to take him to a psych ward, the same as he did with Céline. He wasn’t yet aware of the fact that both Donald and Derek had been swallowing tabs of LSD, acid. It wasn’t long before Derek and Donald decided it was time to take a time-out for a joint or two.
Rainier stuffed his backpack into the back of the tent, took his guitar and went wandering around the site hoping to find a good spot to watch the performances that evening. He spotted a group of four young people, two guys and girls, who were all playing guitars together. As they noticed him, they called him over and encouraged Rainier to join in on the jam session. They played for more than an hour. As they took a short break and talked about the music to come with performances by Luke and the Apostles and Feliciano, one of the girls began taking off her clothes saying how hot she was. It was hot, very hot. And so when she challenged them to do the same, saying it was time to get real the rest of the group soon found themselves naked.
With their clothing in a heap, and again playing their guitars, a bigger crowd of listeners gathered some of them stripping off their clothes and then dancing to the rhythms. Someone was passing out glasses of Kool-Aid and bottles of water. Rainier hated Kool-Aid, as it reminded him too much of poverty, and happily accepted water to quench his thirst. After another hour, he found himself the only one still playing. The others had stopped and were now swaying as though hypnotized by the music that could barely be heard for the increasing noise of the festival crowd. There was little doubt that the kool-aid had been spiked with LSD.
Rainier decided it was time to head back to the tent and make himself a bite to eat as he was hungry. He hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast time. The groceries were in Donald’s tent so Rainier shouted out, “knock, knock” before entering. Not hearing anything, he walked in and saw Derek passed out in the tent with a skinny, long-haired girl who couldn’t have been fourteen years old sitting dazed beside him. Both were nude. Surprised at the sight, he suddenly realised that he had forgotten his clothes where they had fallen while playing with the others hours earlier. How hadn’t anyone noticed and commented on it to him as he walked back to his tent carrying his guitar? Grabbing a loaf of bread and a bag of chips which he tossed into his little tent; and then putting on a pair of shorts, he left and went looking for his lost clothes.
Rainier was still wandering around, still in search of his clothes, when the music started playing. There were too many people around for him to locate the place he had been playing with the others. It began to seem a hopeless task. While walking, searching the ground for his clothes, he passed by a quite a few Volkswagen minivans decorated with swirls of colour and paisley flowers, and all the colours of the rainbow; he passed old buses, small circus tents and thousands upon thousands of people simply sitting or laying on the ground. He knew he would never find his clothes, and that he should just give them up as lost. After all, he had only lost a pair of cut-off jeans and an old tee-shirt.
He tried to retrace his steps, looking for the landmarks he had made during the search. He was surprised more than once seeing people making out on the ground, oblivious of the people standing around them, some of them watching them as if at a show. People selling weed in vans with their doors opened for all passersby to see the joints, water pipes, hash pipes as well as roach clips and more. Some were selling more booze that he had ever seen in one place. Everything was in plain sight with no fear of police and arrests.
Though the sun was setting, the heat was still almost unbearable in this swarm of bodies that were in constant motion. It was relief when Rainier finally reached his tent. There was no way he was going to move from the spot until noise and swell of bodies came to a rest. He also realised that he didn’t need to get any closer to the stage. He actually could see the stage from where he was sitting, though the people on the stage were not very big or even recognizable. More importantly, the sound system ensured that he could hear the music over the constant hum. He had already eaten the chips and was still hungry, so he decided to eat some of the bread with peanut butter, the only sandwich filler he had brought along. He searched in Derek’s empty tent and found a couple of bottles of Coke and took one of them. It would have to do for the night as that was all there was to drink. He definitely wasn’t going back into Donald’s tent to get something out of the two coolers of food and drink that they had brought with them.
Rainier woke up late the next morning. He had only slept about five or six hours, but the tent felt like a sauna. Crawling out of the tent, he saw that there were still people arriving at the festival site. Rainier felt grubby and sticky and he needed a shower. However, there wasn’t any chance that he’d find a shower on the grounds. Remembering the dugout that he had seen when they arrived the day before, Rainier thought it would be good enough. At least it was wet and would cool him off. Taking a towel out of his backpack, he walked towards the entrance where he had seen the dugout. It was impossible to walk in a straight line to get to the entrance road as the tents, vans, and scattered cars weren’t parked or set up in any kind of order. As well, many had simply spent the night in sleeping bags on the ground in whatever spaces they could find. Even though so many were sleeping, he could hear the noise of incoming traffic and excited voices.
There were others who had also woken up and were sleepily wandering in search of toilets or perhaps friends they had lost sometime during the party that had gone on until the first hint of dawn. Reaching the road, the way became easier. There were still cars and vans coming into the grounds having to drive to the distant edges of the festival site in search of a place to park themselves for Saturday’s festival program. Rainier spotted the dugout and saw that he wasn’t going to be the first into the water. There had to be at least two dozen people already splashing at the edges of the pond. Like the day before, all were stark naked.
Rainier was careful in choosing a place to put his towel and shorts before joining the others in the pond. He stood on the edges with his feet in the water for a few moments before he walked further into the pond, making his way towards the centre where he could hopefully swim. Rainier reached a spot where it was deep enough to totally submerge himself and then swim a bit, mostly treading water and feeling the water move across his body. He was a comfortable distance from the others and was able to watch them while he moved slowly through the centre of the pond. He hadn’t brought any shampoo or soap and began to wonder if he could share a bar of soap that was being passed around on the edge of the pond. The idea was enough to have Rainier bridge the distance and then hold out his hand as though he was next in line for its use. A young woman with long, dark brown hair and a dark complexion saw his hand reaching for the soap. Giving Rainier a smile, she simply said “Peace, Man,” as she passed it on. He quickly soaped under his arms, his genitals and then his hair so that he could pass the bar of soap on to another guy who was waiting his turn.
After almost an hour in the pond, Rainier climbed back onto the shore and retrieved his towel. The air was more than warm enough with a breeze to dry his body, so he just towelled his hair. Standing there, not self-conscious of his nudity, he folded up his towel and placed it on the ground for something to sit on when the girl who had passed him the bar of soap asked if she could use the towel to dry her hair as well. Rainier was quick to give her the towel and watched her use it. He couldn’t help but notice the thatch of black hair that hid her vagina and the dark aureoles that surrounded the nipples of her full, young breasts. She saw him looking and smiled. Then, handing him the towel, she walked off to join up with her group. As they left the pond area, she turned back, gave Rainier another smile and a wave of her hand.
Rainier turned back to look at the others who were still in the pond and to sit. There wasn’t any rush to get back to the tent. Besides, he would likely want to go into the water again simply to cool off before heading back for something to eat. As he watched, he noticed how there was no one making out. He wondered about it after having seen people unabashedly making out the evening before on the grounds, wondered why there was a difference. The scene was as innocent as one would find at a normal swimming pool with people simply having fun in the water. Maybe, he thought, it was because they weren’t stoned or drunk. They were simply young people having a good time.
Hunger pangs told him it was time to head back to the tent and get himself something to eat. Once back, there was still no sign of Derek or Donald. Rainier went into the larger tent, opened up the cooler and took out a carton of juice and broke off a hunk of cheese. The cooler was still full of most of the stuff they had brought to the site. Taking the food and juice out of the tent, he returned to the front of his tent, sat down and ate while waiting for another day of music to begin.
As I sit here this morning wondering what I will write about, with too many ideas racing though my head, I turned to a collection of images that are resting on my desktop, images I have both taken and collected from other places. I think back to a number of years when I was constricted, barely able to breathe for the tightness in my chest and the vice-grips that had imprisoned my soul. None of it made sense as I had a good life as a parent and spouse with a good career that had earned me a lot of community respect. What had been responsible for my dark state of being within the embrace of family and community? What had changed between then and now when I can once again breathe without worry of the shadows that are still present on the periphery?
My writing since that time of darkness, a writing that had found its way into a number of formats – discussion groups, poetry, reflective journals, blog posts and stories that acknowledge the reality of darkness that broods with a life of its own, within the compass of my life. As the stories emerged, I found myself battling the emerging monsters and ghosts, never able to defeat them, but finding a way to co-exist with them. I created a space where whatever and whoever it is that I identify with as my self, a legitimate space hard-earned.
As the spaces opened up and breathing returned, somewhat to normal, other images of the unconscious emerged, images of those moments in time when I had previously felt whole. More often than not, the images showed a transparent self, one that didn’t hide in closets or in cardboard boxes. I saw myself without the borrowed clothing of others. Yes, I saw myself without clothing, daring to be exposed to the universe. Of course, I was a child, a youth, and later a very young man when these rare experiences were lived. To be graced with these images bathed in light in a world and life that was otherwise darkness, allowed me to remember, to re-member that child, youth, young adult into a much older adult. And so I dared to search again for those spaces and places where I could risk being authentically and transparently myself.
My life has changed, dramatically because of my work with writing and with my risking being vulnerable. I have learned, perhaps for the first time, that it is okay to be me. I now know that I don’t have much choice but to be authentically me if I am to continue breathing without the power of the darkness once again imprisoning me so that I become only a shell of a man.
I am just over a third of the way through the re-write of my NaNoWriMo challenge novel which involves the removal of a few scenes that don’t fit in the global sense, the story line. I didn’t really know what that story line was really going to be when I began writing; I simply let the words come. Now that I am aware of the story that was trying to tell itself, the story is growing in the re-write phase, growing slowly.
In my last post, I talked about the flower children, or as they are better known, hippies, as representing a new collective mythology. As I wander through that myth, I am finding more and more natural experiences of nudity, of being clothing free as an expression of freedom and honesty. Being nude in group settings was about trust and respect in the group. Contrary to what media would say, it wasn’t about communal orgies. Yes, people fell in love and yes, they celebrated their love by making love – no different than experienced by others who kept their clothes on.
There wasn’t a sense of having to prove anything. Sometimes clothing was worn, sometimes clothing was discarded. The intention was to celebrate freedom, freedom of choice. Nudism groups today are too often fundamentalist, demanding and expecting themselves and others to conform – nude twenty-four/seven – in order to be considered true nudists. It becomes and either/or dialectic that isn’t much different than assault on human freedom that is practiced by all fundamentalist groups – religious, political, social, economic – an assault that leaves too many broken. Fundamentalism is the wellspring of war.
The flower children knew this and so was born a brief moment in time when all of this was rejected and replaced with an authentic and transparent way of being. “Make love, not war,” was the mantra. And, that making love wasn’t about sex. Young men and women gifted the angry responses, the soldiers, the police – with smiles, flowers and songs that celebrated a real love for life.
And this, is the thread which I found emerging in the story of one young man wandering through that time in our social history.
The novel that is currently in progress tells the story of a young man, a folk-music playing flower-child of the late sixties who was hitch-hiking across Canada at the time of Woodstock with his young lady love. He is the quintessential Flower Child, the precursor of the hippies of the early 70s. As all good stories go, he loses this young woman and finds himself again wandering across Canada and north-western USA in search of healing a broken heart while playing music.
He makes it to Canada’s version of Woodstock at Mosport Freeway, Strawberry Fields in 1970 where there were some of the same musicians as well as other famous name groups of the day. Half a million at Woodstock and a quarter of a million at Strawberry Fields.
I was there, and like many there, I took my turn bathing in the pond shown in this newspaper clipping.
So, my novel’s main character has authentic experience upon which the tale is told. His wandering continues until he eventually meets a long-haired girl and falls in love, love at first sight. There is more to the story, but enough said.
In a way, this tale is mythology made modern, with the hero wandering through darkness, fighting the forces of darkness, battling the complexes of life and monsters of archetypal proportions, a story told over and over again in our small personal dramas in our ordinary lives.
I know, it makes you want to read the novel, doesn’t it?
This could be me as I write my novel which is as much mythology as it is about the reality of being human in the modern world. Like this woman, I write without the covering of clothing. Barriers between self and ideas are discarded as well as the inhibitions. The only differences between her and me would be the trivial facts of my using a computer, being older, and also being male.
My writing has become a way of being in the world with the recent engagement with a Novel Writing Challenge. The challenge of word count has been met, but their writing is far from being finished. I have begun to re-approach what has been written in order to prune away the trash and fill in missing holes. As this process continues, the word count rises, but more importantly, the story takes on its own pulse, its own urgency to exist.
I haven’t been here much because of the writing. Hopefully, this will change as I slowly go through the re-write process without having the pressure of time, of deadlines.
I found this post title at a website called Fully Disclothed, a blog site that brings the words and photos of people in Toronto, Canada as an act of disclosure. As I wandered through the site and listened to the words of those who took photos of themselves, or had a trusted person take their photos, I realised that what I do here at Through a Naturist Lens, is much the same.
Over the many, many posts, regardless of whether I use images of myself, of nature, or of others, I am always disclosing, discovering and curiously becoming a healthier person. Do we realise that everything that we post, whether on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other media – reveals to ourselves and others something about which we are usually unaware? Do we dare stand back and wonder at the images, the comments and the attitudes?
I am writing a novel as many of my readers are already know. It is a work of fiction. Yet, can a work of fiction really be all fiction? I doubt it. It is impossible to keep the unconscious self contained because none of us know, let alone control, those things about ourselves hidden in the unconscious shadows. But they do appear in our words, in our attitudes, in our images we paint, draw, photograph; or the images that get noticed.
My daughter shared this image on Facebook this morning. I have to say that I am proud of her for rediscovering her authority as a woman. Though she is a woman and mother of two, she will always be that little girl who changed a man into a father. As a woman, I am awed by her strength and her fearlessness. Obviously, she takes after her mother.
As parents, what do we want for our children? Do we really want them to be held hostage by fashion and by all those “isms” that tell them that their bodies are to be disliked if not hated. We somehow honour a tale, Garden of Eden, that blames women for the fact that to be human is to suffer. Is it right that we teach our toddlers to put their clothes back on, that it is bad to be naked? And we do this because … ?
You know and I know that the only thing that counts is love. Yet, we teach our children to distrust, to disparage, to deny, and that they somehow aren’t good enough. It’s sad that we gave up authority of ourselves to religions, to governments, to the opinions of neighbours, and to the nameless power behind media that somehow has found a way to channel all of that abandoned authority over self into profit.
I dare you to reclaim your own authority. I challenge you to ask questions and only listen to your soul for the answers.
I’m bringing a second part to the story which is drawn from Chapter 2. For those interested, I have completed Chapter 3 and more than 5,000 words for these first two days of the NaNoWriMo challenge. Let me know what you think so far.
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The day was warm and sunny as Hubert walked through along the Sparks Street Mall. He had been dropped off in the city by his father who claimed to have his own prospects of work. Hubert still had about seventeen dollars left from a part-time job he had found in Vancouver. He bought a book of bus tickets and began searching for work. He checked out a number of grocery stores in which he had worked while in high school and soon found one that offered him a job at minimum wage, a dollar and hour. He was to report to work for the night shift and work in the produce section, restocking the counters while the store was closed. He was to begin work that night. He would work six nights a week from nine until six-thirty in the morning, eight hours of pay per night, forty-eight dollars a week with paydays every two weeks. It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was a job. Somehow he intended to save enough to pay back the money he had borrowed almost two hundred dollars.
As he approached the corner leading to the Canadian Press offices where his friend Derek worked as a copy boy, Hubert noticed a number of other young guys and their girlfriends who were oddly dressed. They called themselves flower children. There was always one in the crowd who would be playing folk songs by Dylan, Joan Baez and other folk musicians. He was tempted to go up to them and talk to them. Hubert had been playing guitar for six years. For the past three years he had played in his uncle’s band on Saturday nights in Legion clubs across the river in Hull and surrounding towns. Hubert had also been part of a high school rock group that played songs by the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, as well as other British groups that had become popular. Just last year, Hubert had begun playing folk music and had even been able to play in a few coffee houses in Ottawa with other young musicians. When he reached the corner, he hesitated and then finally turned to see if he could talk with Derek, perhaps arrange for having lunch together.
“Hey, Hughie!” called Derek as Hubert entered the office area where Derek manned the telex machines that were constantly printing out stories that he had to gather and take to the various journalists who worked for C.P. “Where the fuck have you been? Where’s Gisèle? At home?”
Punching each other on the shoulder, their way of greeting each other, a guy’s way instead of shaking hands or worse still, hugging, Hubert and Derek re-affirmed their bonds as best friends. Hubert had met Derek when they were in grade five, in an English school in Hull just across the river. Hubert was the smallest boy in the class and the target of school yard bullies. Derek was taller and unafraid of everyone, but like Hubert, a new kid in the school and isolated because of that. Derek would come to school wearing lederhosen, leather shorts with straps over the shoulders. Derek was German, the enemy for the English kids in the school. I was French and that was perhaps even worse. It wasn’t long before they found each other and became friends.
“Gisèle is in the hospital. You know I hate being called Hughie, Dearie. Do you want to go out for lunch so that I can tell you all about it?” Hubert said in response to Derek’s questions. Derek’s mothr was always embarrassing Derek by calling him Dearie in front of his friends.
“Yeah, sure. Just give me twenty minutes and I’ll meet you, outside. I brought my lunch so get yourself a hot dog or something and buy me a Coke while you’re at it,” Derek instructed.
As the two talked while sitting on one of the benches along Sparks Street, Hubert told his story about the past three months, mostly talking about the last two days in Vancouver and the events back in Ottawa since his return.
“Your dad’s an asshole,” Derek confirmed. “There’s an opening at C.P. for another copy boy. You like writing. Why don’t you apply? It pays two hundred and eighty-eight dollars every two weeks.”
“Really? When can I begin?”
“Jeez, you have to get the job first. The poster says the job is to start on October first. It’d be neat if we actually worked together. I’m applying to become a photographer’s helper there as the last guy just got fired. I get the job if someone else gets hired to be copy boy.”
With lunch finished after some intense flirting by Derek with the girls passing by on the street, Derek took Hubert to meet the personnel manager. Once the job application forms were filled out, Hubert was told to come back in two days for an interview. Hubert couldn’t believe his luck. This would be the most he had ever earned if they gave him the job.