The pond is cool, despite the heat of the days, the sweat running down my back.. but I have been running, working, and my legs are tired and sore. I have ached for this long afternoon, a lazy late day, a luxury.
September has come, and the leaves are brittle, some fallen now in rain, ground into the sandy trails I wander to find a secluded place to swim. The air is spicy, smoky in the breeze that sweeps down from up above, a few persistent picnickers reveling in these last few days of summer. It feels like the end, and so, in many ways it is the end.
Never swim alone, they say, and yet I take my chances here, in deep water, in the refreshing respite from everything that remains on shore. I dive into the pond and swim out, then turn back, if only because I fear I may swim clear across before I stop. No one is here. I peel my wet suit off, throw it back into the sand, let the cool water caress my ankles, knees, my whole naked body here in the low September sun.
It is like making love, here, but lonelier. The water touches me gently, and the sky overwhelms me, the sun, the pink clouds, a goose flying over, two. I swim out now, here to the very deep, to the middle, where I tread water, terrified only when I stop and find myself surrounded by such expanses–no land–exhilarated more that I can make it so far, look back at the distant shore and know that this pond is mine. I can swim across, and find myself naked on the other side, spent, free to walk through the paths with no cover, or to swim back, back through the deep cold.
The beach here, too, is deserted, and I hear no voices on the paths. No towel, I make the sand wet beneath me, my hair stuck to my head and shoulders. I could walk, yes–it might be prudent to stay on the ground now, to stay and make my way back on land, relative safety.
I walk. My hair is still sopping, and the breeze chills my wet skin, leaving goose bumps on my arms, leaving my nipples hard.
I know this path, have taken it countless times before. It is a rare day that an eccentric hiker would not venture here, a wanderer in search of some historic natural relevance. But no. I am completely alone as I walk on the pine needles, and in the soft soil beneath me, wet sand, now truly mud as I am farther from the water, higher, beneath the trees. I now feel completely naked, the breeze uncovering me, my fear of animals and insects more pronounced as I venture barefoot into the small sticks and pine cones.
My skin dries quickly, and I relax, now hearing the chatter of birds, the wind rustling the trees. A plane zooms high above. I am no longer cold, or hot, but hiking here, laughing as I recall the German parks, the F.K.K. sections–Freikörperkultur, free body culture. I am free. I am a nudist.
Even walking barefoot, a grown-up with no protection, I have always sensed some unspoken rule broken–no shoes, as though my feet had never been uncovered. It got better then, later, my feet stronger. Here, too, my body feels stronger, my long protected belly exposed to the light, the air. I am aware of the changes in my skin as I cross a tree, my legs spread, my sex exposed, too, and it excites me. It should not, I tell myself, wanting my body, only–not simply the heat. I suppress my wish to fuck you here in the woods. I take a breath, and walk on.
And I think of this, too: the vulnerability of bodies, the want and the need, the wish and the wandering there, the need to touch, to touch myself if not another.
My body is tired from the swim, bewitched by the water, drunk with the crunch of leaves, the breeze. I want so much more, but love what is here in spite of it, and life goes on, and I still want, still touch, still find my way around the paths, the chipmunks running into their hiding places, the stones in my way–they are my way, I do know.
I do not want to know my way, not all the time. I want to find a new way, the path more traveled. I am naked, expect any moment to be surprised by you, a surprise in the woods, a misplaced picnic, a Yogi, a boo boo, you, bare, your kisses soft and enticing. I am terrible at not wanting.
It is a cool day, a school day, a quiet weekday, and I make my way around to the cove where I left my clothes, my towel, my car keys, my writing book. Even my hair is nearly dry now, my body nearly used–the run, and the work, and the swim and the hike, the silence, desire. I will make risotto tonight, pour myself a glass of wine, play only songs I love, and sing along, love the soothing tiredness of my body, the day, my hair now waved and messy from the pond, my pond. I will cut the black-eyed susans, just a few for the table, more, laugh, hear all the news, the real world once more, climb into a warm bath, a soft bed. Yes, this is all good.
It is autumn, I know.