Although I’m living in a warm climate in Southern Africa, opportunities to be naked outdoors are very limited. My own garden offers no privacy as people passing on the main road can see right in. So I’m confined to being naked indoors, which is OK, but just not the same. I miss the feeling of warm sun on my skin, and the direct contact between my bare skin and the earth.
This week, I was out of town for work at a lodge by a lake with sandy shores. In the late afternoons, if the work ended early enough, I would plunge into the lake, which is vast, warm and refreshing. When the work went later, this wasn’t an option as the mosquitoes emerge in droves at dusk and this is a malaria zone.
This morning was my last day by the lake before returning to the hustle and bustle and noise of the city. For some reason, I woke up at about 5AM, much earlier than I was planning to rise. I rolled over in the bed but was just not falling back to sleep. Eventually, I peeked out through the curtains to see that the sun was rising, and decided to head down to the beach for an early morning swim and maybe I could take a few photos au naturel.
I was the first one up in the lodge and had to get the guard to unlock the gate leading down to the beach. It was still very early but the traffic of locals walking up and down the beach was busy. People rise very early here. Many fishermen setting out in their boats, children with their schoolbags already making the long trek to school, some people jogging on the beach, and many others starting about their daily business. For the communities living by the lake, the beach shore is their main thoroughfare.
As I walked along the shore, I wasn’t holding out much hope that I would find a discreet place to be naked and enjoy the beautiful sunrise and view of the lake. After walking some distance, I set my towel down under a tree on a dune back from the shore. People here are very friendly and most waved to me (the white guy) as they passed by, coming from both directions along the shore. When there were some lulls in the traffic, I took advantage to remove my shorts and take a few photos of myself naked enjoying the beautiful morning. Whenever I saw people approaching, I covered up – not out of modesty, but so as to avoid offending anyone. This is quite a conservative country.
However, at times people emerged from behind dunes and bushes, whom I didn’t notice until they were already quite close. Then they would pass by and wave as I sat there naked, although sitting in a discreet pose. And then I realised – they really weren’t that bothered at all. They were getting on with their morning business, and if I was sitting there naked admiring the view, well … whatever. Good for me.
I had made the assumption that the sight of a naked white man sitting by the shore in the early morning would offend or shock passers-by. It was a wonderful feeling to suddenly realise that, not only were the people passing by friendly, but they also appeared to be carefree. None of them paid much attention to me, other than to wave and smile. And then I remembered the Four Agreementsof Don Miguel Ruiz from his book of the same name. Number 3: Don’t make assumptions!