I’m having a recurring dream lately about writing a book through nude movement. The writing of the book comes from the movement through the landscape… it’s not a book about nudity or nudism or even landscapes, but a “book” in which what is “written” derives directly from the nude body in motion.
Let me explain: In the dream, the landscape is a woodland, of the temperate forest variety here in the US or Canada – beautiful, idyllic (a dream after all) with tall birch trees and a rippling stream. The landscape tells the story of all who pass through it, in a way that the story gets written in the trees, on their bark. But this only works if you are naked, and the air is the only thing between your skin and the trees.
How does it work? I think it must be something like the wake of a boat, the track left behind in the water. The nude body etches a shape into the air as it moves through it, and this is somehow recorded by the trees, or on the trees. Raise your left arm, turn your head, take a step, blink an eye – every movement alters the environment and is recorded by it. How? Chemically – like scent or pheromones? Maybe. Some sort of transfer of energy or heat? Maybe. But however it works, the process is blocked by clothing. Nudity is essential.
As I walk through the dream, my bare feet marking the earth as I pass, I meet a woman who shows me her home. It is a cave with a wide opening. Close to the entrance, along the cave wall she has arranged mosses, leaves and protrusions such that she can stand up against the wall and roll along vertically, with each part of her body engaging something on the wall, like an unfurling of her memories, of her sensations and lived experience.
All of it – the trees, the air, the cave wall – it all transcends words, whether spoken or written. (This is the impossible dream of all writers – to transcend the need for language the way that music and the visual arts do). The way that my dream works is only similar to writing in the sense that is has to do with leaving a mark or a trace on some surface. Whether that surface is the unimpeded skin, or tree bark, or the ground, or a rock wall–or even, somehow, the surface of the air–what unites them is that they are all natural surfaces, all in nature.
I find fascinating this continuity among movement, skin, language and landscape. It’s a theme I explored in the rainforest finale of Aglow, and in the latter half of Skinners as well, leading up to the chapter “The Cove of Spirits.” I know that I will incorporate it in some way into “Song of the Sea Witch,” the Skinners sequel I’m working on currently. Can you imagine that as you walk naked, you are writing a story into the landscape? And that the landscape is writing onto you as well… On a broad level, it’s all a metaphor for being one with nature, but the mechanics or logistics of how such an interchange could in fact occur are what intrigue me the most, and also how this interchange might be, or might have been, interpreted in different cultural traditions.