|Look! That deer is naked!|
Last Thursday, I was in that Groundhog Day rut, and wanted to do something crazy, to carpe diem!, to remind myself that I exist. But carpe dieming (TM) means different things for different people. For some, it's to go bungee jumping or fishing, or to max your credit card at Macy's. For me, it's shedding my clothes to reconnect with nature. Now, I'd like to say that my decision to do this was for research purposes. My next book, Naked in the Wildwood (working title) will feature a naked girl (Thelana) living alone in the woods, struggling to survive. Besides volunteering for the TV show Naked and Afraid, which I can't do because I get migraines when I skip lunch, it's always good to experience what you plan on writing. But in all honestly, I write about going primitive because of my deep seated desire to live that way.
There is a park I sometimes visit with the family that has a nature trail, but is no way clothing optional. Fortunately, the park was near empty, being a weekday afternoon with most kids in school. I drove around looking for the trail, but couldn't find it, so I settled on a secluded spot away from cars. By now my heart was racing. I'd been nude in public before, on beaches and in the woods when I was twelve, but things were different now. Here I could be arrested, or worse, be marked as a sex offender. So I had to be really careful. I got out of my car wearing only my black shorts and Crocs and proceeded to the woods. Looking back toward the road several times, I nervously slipped off my shoes and shorts. Being nude in the outdoors, I cannot help but think of my place in history, in geologic time. Doubtless, some proto-Indian stood on the same spot, feeling the same sensations on his bare feet, the same wind and sun on his shoulders, fourteen-thousand years ago. Consumed by fauna and flora, surrounded only by what has existed for millions of years, my everyday concerns melted away, as did my sense of self. Some people find security in stuff, but as Henry David Thoreau expressed in Walden, possessions can be a burden. The connectedness of social media, and the Internet, are like shackles to me. Sometimes, I crave the freedom of getting lost. Feeling ever more bold, I hid my things at the base of a tree (a really random tree), and went out exploring, without shoes, without shorts, without keys or cell phone, in nothing but my body. I didn't even bother looking back. You'd think I was planning to live my entire life there, so great was the urge to go.
The trees were so densely packed that I had to move slowly, but it gave me cover, should some random person come along. Contrary to what Nike might tell you, I never felt the need for shoes. Being Florida wetland, the ground was soft and moist, and I could feel every dead leaf and root underfoot, and those things that look like straw (tree hair?) covering the ground. That's not to say it was the Ritz Hotel. I cut my leg, but that only served to wake me up, when my life so often feels like I am sleep walking, and yesterday blends seamlessly with tomorrow. If it's one thing I hate, it's excessive comfort. Put me in an easy chair and I might as well be dead.
The climax of my experience was coming across deer, four young does just minding their own business. One looked right at me, and I sensed that it wasn't afraid, only curious. Had it ever seen a naked human before? Did it even recognize my lack of clothing? I like to think we shared some kinship, being out there as our mothers' made us, in that moment of wordless communication. Perhaps they could sense my vulnerability.
Alas, I could not be free forever, as civilization (and the occasional book, movie, wife and kids) beckoned. And I planned to write a chapter that day, so I headed back toward my clothes. But, they, were, gone! Where the fuck were my clothes? And that is when I learned an important lesson about being out in the woods. Apparently, trees look a lot alike. Surely, my shoes and car keys and shorts had to be in that other tree.
I didn't entirely panic, but panic was knocking on my consciousness. Over and over, I told myself to stay calm and focus and not to lose it. My stuff had to be around someplace. Finding them was only a matter of time. Unless, of course, some jerk came by and took them. I mean, anyone finding Volkswagen keys was sure to make the connection to the one car, a Beetle, sitting in the parking lot. But I had not heard anybody come through the woods. I was certainly alone, and my stuff had to be somewhere, they just had to be, I assured myself. But how far from the road had I ditched my things? And why the Hell hadn't I picked a more conspicuous place? All the while, crazy scenarios kept popping in my head. How long could I search before giving up? Hours? Nightfall? What then? I would have to come out onto the road, completely naked, to seek help. Maybe a park ranger would see me and call the police. Or that lady with the baby stroller I'd seen earlier might lend me her cell phone. How embarrassing would that be? And who would I call? My wife? What would I say to her?
"Um, hi honey. Listen . . . no, no, I am not at Barnes & Nobles. Actually, I kind of need your help . . ."
That would haunt me for life. And yet, despite it all, I was exhilarated. Not for a second did I feel regret. After all, this was the adventure I was seeking! The Quest to Find My Keys! A day like this could never be forgotten, never be confused with a Groundhog Day. I searched tree to tree, climbing over logs and trekking mud and ducking under brambles (this is when I cut myself) no longer concerned with being seen. At one point, my skin caught a spider's thread long before I could have seen it, a beautifully colored nasty looking thing, which acted as a convenient landmark.
After about an hour, I noticed the blue tint of my Crocs. Of course, I was relieved, but felt no less bold. I walked naked to my car, got in, and started to drive home. Nobody could possibly see whether I had my shorts on, could they? Is it even illegal to drive naked? Sure enough, the first car to drive by was police, and I made damn sure to follow the rules of the road. But the next vehicle, I KID YOU NOT, was a Google Maps truck, the one with the spherical camera on top. OK, I thought, now God is just messing with me.
My story, being true, ends anti-climatically. At home, I hosed off the mud and jumped into the pool. But I'd found fuel for my fiction, and at least I can say that, on May 29th, 2014, Nick Alimonos truly lived.