clothing, optional

There is a brief passage in Walden where Thoreau describes bathing in the idyllic waters of his Pond. If you’ve ever been to Walden Pond in the summer, you can imagine what this must have felt like one hundred years ago, miles from your closest neighbor: Like pure bliss. We’ve all gone skinny-dipping at least once in our lives, (I hope!) and we all know how good it feels. My first experience was about twenty years ago at Robert Moses State Park on Long Island at a designated clothing-optional beach. At first it felt strange. But the strangeness disappeared after about five minutes when I realized that no one was staring at me and no one looked like a runway model. It was the height of summer, about ninety degrees. The ocean water felt luxurious against my skin and it was glorious to come back to my towel and lay basking in the bright sun. I was hooked. For many years afterwards, I would proselytize to the uninitiated about the benefits of my discovery. I used to compare nude bathing to buying a microwave oven (Bear with me). Before you get a microwave, you don’t understand what all the fuss is about, but after you have one you can’t imagine how you ever lived without it. When I talked this way, people looked at me funny. Then everyone had a microwave and my analogy lost its meaning. So I changed my object of desire to an iPod, but now everyone has one of those as well. I once heard Muddy Waters quoted as saying, “If you’ve got something good, keep it in your pocket.” Maybe that’s what I should do, I decided. Much like politics and religion, no one likes to be lectured to. The most meaningful discoveries you make in life are the ones you make yourself. But bathing this way, whether it be on a beach in the bright sun with hundreds of people or alone in a secluded quarry hidden deep in the woods, makes me feel more connected to the earth than anything else I can imagine. It’s childlike and pure. And in the crazed, nature-deprived, hyperactive, over-scheduled, hell-in-a-handbasket world we live in, one of our last and most tragically underutilized rebellions.



  1. Buffalo Bills fan & friend at the Y

    I loved this web site and the writing. I am pondering the underutilized rebellion phrase. It is true we are so far removed from our natural selves that we understand the function of Ipods and microwaves more then our natural naked biological selves.

    Why then is it a rebellion to open up to our natural self? Writers work a lifetime trying to find their voice. I think that our voice is buried in our phycho-babble techno-crazy world and we can only recognize our own voice if we strip down proverbial and realize we do not need to get close to nature; we are nature:)

  2. henry

    Thank you for your kind comments. I guess I’m thinking that there are so many forces in the world that try to compartmentalize us and keep us from our true nature, that when we eventually find ways to claim that true self, it seems like an act of rebellion. But really we are just coming back to ourselves.

  3. henry

    Please do. And I’d advise all my readers to check out Philip’s blog up there in my Links. Great stuff!

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