It was mid-May on my family property in central Wisconsin. The days were only just starting to be consistently warm. That morning I had the place to myself, and I had set myself the task of doing some gardening. The sun on my young plants looked so welcoming that an idea occurred to me. We were on a mile-long dead-end road, and I could hear anyone approaching on the gravel long before they would turn the corner into the yard. Why not?
I went out in only a robe, which I kept close to hand. As I lay down in the velvety soil of my garden and watched the goldfinches darting overhead, I wished that more people got to enjoy this particular kind of peace and bliss. It would be many years before I found out about a day designated for the purpose of enjoying exactly this kind of indulgence.
World Naked Gardening Day
A perfect way to carry on celebrating spring is just a temporal stone’s throw away from Beltane: World Naked Gardening Day. This whimsical, educational event was dreamed up by Mark Storey and Jacob Gabriel of the Body Freedom Collaborative back in 2005. It is celebrated on the first Saturday of May, and it’s no coincidence that it comes right before International Permaculture Day on that Sunday. The naturist and nudist community and the permaculture movement are perfect bedfellows as both are founded in the belief that paying attention to nature’s patterns and methods are a path to greater health for all beings.
The naturist society’s most compelling tenet must be its encouragement of body acceptance. Our mainstream culture worships the young, fit human body as long as it conforms just so to narrow guidelines of beauty, and yet it also reviles the body as sinful. How much healthier would people be if we could shed the shame we suffer thanks to our puritan heritage? How much better would we treat both our sacred bodies and the land that gives them life? Perhaps shedding our clothes can be a step toward finding out.
“I will go to the bank by the wood and become undisguised and naked, : I am mad for it to be in contact with me.”
– Walt Whitman: From Song of Myself (1855)
A New Tradition with Very Old Roots
World Naked Gardening Day brings to mind ancient pagan traditions, where spring was the time for couples to get busy in the fields, ensuring abundant crops. The dancing, chanting, rutting youth would awaken the seeds and make the sap run warmer in the trees. Science can now explain the literal reasons why blood, sweat, and other bodily fluids are so successful at fertilizing the soil, but the mysteries of our interdependence with the organisms that sustain us remain occluded.
Get in on the Fun
The event’s founders stress that World Naked Gardening Day belongs to no particular group. Individuals are encouraged to find their own ways to participate, and to let others know about it. City and suburb dwellers don’t always have the luxury of stripping down in our gardens, but the great thing about naked gardening is that you can participate inside as well. Indoor tasks that benefit the garden might include a bit of late-season seed starting, dividing perennials for propagation, and preparing teas and fertilizing tonics. I expect to spend some of the day making seed tape for the many varieties of carrots I want to grow. There are ample garden crafting activities that can be started behind closed doors.
Then you can throw on the minimum to stay street legal when you go outside. If you are lucky enough to have friends in a more remote area, ask them if they’ll host a naked garden party. Remember that nudity in no way requires that you dispense with your swanky springtime bonnets. Watch your garden grow its best when you tend to it undressed!
Featured image credit: Courtney Brooke.