Thursday, August 7, 2008

Skinny Dipping

I went skinny dipping yesterday! Well in a sense I did. There was nothing "skinny" about the dipping that I did. I guess you could call it "chubby dipping", but then the connotation of that would imply something of an entirely different nature. Do you ever feel overwhelmed with the need to do something crazy? To just let yourself go? I do. As Goose and Maverick (Top Gun) would say, "I feel the need, the need for speed!" Perhaps it has something to do with the walk I took down memory lane this past week. Something about the contrast of who I was vs who I am, barbed me. Am I getting old and settled before my time? Rebellion has become a long lost feeling that I hadn't even realized I missed it. So I let go. And I went skinny dipping in broad daylight.

It was 33 degrees Celsius yesterday, muggy as all hell and I am not a heat person. I had just spent three hours at the barn with the farrier and had that heavy legged and light headed feeling that precursors heat stroke. I had planned on riding but gave up on that idea in the first half hour so I simply did my chores and headed home. I walked in the door to discover that my house had become a sauna. Opening every door and window and turning on every fan failed to make a dent in such stagnant heat. My big Cattle dog, Hawk (Hawkeydog) was sprawled on the kitchen floor panting. He gave me "the look" like I had better get him the hell out of the house or else. I didn't even bother to change my cloths, I just grabbed a bottle of water, my dog and a magazine and jumped in the truck. We went for a ride with the windows down and the music turned up loud. With my long dark hair whipping madly around my face, I played with the curves of a windy road and pushed the speed limit. I felt ridiculously wild and reckless. I was headed for the river.

My home town lies at the foot of an ocean sound and is surrounded in snow topped granite mountains. An abundance of creeks and streams lace the valley, each a tributary to a large river that flows in to the salty waters of the Pacific. To me, any flowing body of water with high mountain walls, feels like home. The river is, and has always been, a piece of my soul. In troubled times, when I seek to find peace within myself, the sound of rushing water centres me.

For the past few years, I stopped going to the river. I don't hike alone anymore and no longer walk my neighborhood at night. Some would argue, and I would have to agree, that I finally came to my senses and developed a respect and concern for my personal safety. I use to spend a lot of time alone in the woods, on foot or horseback, which was a going concern for my friends and family. I understood the risks but felt that living was more important that dying. I also had two dogs that were protection trained and provided all the security I needed to feel safe, at least against threats of the human variety. Looking back, I realize that I stopped going into the bush soon after I lost them. A few close calls had put the fear of God into me so that a feeling of vulnerability slowly overwhelmed the enjoyment and peace of mind I use to draw from my time alone in the woods. There was never a definitive moment where I decided to end my little excursions or "walk abouts", as Mick Dundee would say. Actually, I am guilty of letting things go unexamined in more than one area of my life. There are a few pairs of jeans in my closet that have not fit me in years, yet I haven't thrown them away and I cant remember ever admitting at a specific time that they had become to small. I simply stopped wearing them. Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Hmm....

So.... Yesterday I took a long walk in the woods, alone. Hawky and I found the river a quarter of it usual size, its rocky bottom lay barren and exposed. A little stream of water weaved its way back and forth, from bank to bank, rippling over the rocks and setting alight a million sparkles in the late afternoon sun. I followed the river bed up a valley of tall Cedar trees and deep into the woods. I couldn't place what exactly it was that I was looking for but something compelled me to continue onward. With ever passing step, I found myself more alone and more connected to vast forest around me. At a narrow and high banked cut of the river I found a large boulder sitting in a deep pool of water. As I stopped to admire this beautiful and idyllic spot, I realized that I had found what it was that I had been looking for. Peace.

The water was so clear that I could see every stone and pebble under its surface. I sat down on a large hot stone and let my legs dangle in the cool current. The bed of river rocks radiated heat and the air hung heavily around me. The water looked so crisp, cool and inviting. I slipped off my light cotton leggings and stepped in to the pool. As I kneeled on the sandy bottom, the cold water touched my waist, my breath came short, and ripple of goose flesh ran up my arms. All my inhibitions were laid aside as I was seduced by the welcome relief of cool water on hot bare flesh. I pulled off my remaining clothes, one by one, and lay myself length wise into the current. With the pull of the water on my hair and my body floating weightlessly in the sun, I felt like a nymph or wild fairy, something inhuman and feral. I inhaled my surroundings, the brimstone sent of wet rocks, the hum of insects in the wood and the perpetual rustle of a soft wind flowing through the Cedars. After a time, I became cold and crawled out to lay myself on a hot, flat boulder. The late summer sun warmed and dried my body as I daydreamed. I walked back to the truck in a stupor, leaving the river behind me.

I drove home slowly, with the windows down and the wind in my hair, at peace.


****Pictured at top is a photo of myself at seventeen hiking in the backcountry. The lower picture is of Hawky at the river I went to yesterday.****


  1. That sounds like a great way to beat the heat!
    Sunday Kimfer & I are planning on hauling the horses to our friend Juicebox's farm. The river cuts through the one of her pastures, about 45 minute or so ride from the yard. Right now there is a wonderful beachy area to enjoy and trees to tie the ponies to.
    Hopefully things will stay as planned!

  2. WOW I have never went skinny dipping, its always been something i wanted to do but to chicken. Maybe the next day its 33 outside i will try it. I just love your short stories.

  3. Ah, back in the day (which is what almost senior types like me say when recalling fun shit they used to do) I would spend summers skinny dipping in the best ever swimming hole east of Wolf Creek, Oregon. It was called the "Jesus Saves" hole cuz someone had spray painted that phrase on overhanging rocks. Love your picture.

  4. I haven't been skinny dipping in years! Maybe its time to revive that little practice - love your photo at the top! You go girl!

    Were you hiking with Logger guy?

  5. Great story. I would never hike or ride in the woods alone. I just don't think it's safe. I get angry for feeling that way, like you said, living is more important than dying. I should not live my life based on what I hear could happen or has happened to others. But that is my nature. I would not be comfortable or feel at peace alone in the middle of woods. I love the idea of it, but I would be an anxious wreck. Of wild animals and wild people. Is that sad or what? Oh well, I can relax in plenty of natural places....but more in the company of others or at least someone who can hear me scream if I need help!
    Anyway, glad you and Hawkeydog had a oool-off. And that picture of you at 17 is so cool, I imagine you knew someone was taking it!? ;)

  6. Skinny dipping is like riding your horse bareback -- primal. And I love both. Sounds like a very spiritually cleansing ritual.

  7. Cnd- Hope you have a good time. There is nothing like a cool dip on a warm day.

    Rodeo girl- you are too sweet. You had better get your butt out there and give'r!

    One Red Horse-I LOVE the name of your swimming hole! Imagine all the sinfull things that were done at that hole, Back in the day!

    Stephanie- I love that photo too. Sorry, there is no juicy story to go along with it. It was my best friend at the time who took it. I have plenty of other topless logger stories but my DB would kill me if I went down that paricular memory lane!

    Pony Girl- I think you really really have to love your time alone in the woods to make it worth the risk.