I like to garden in the nude. There is something about doing this that helps me to feel unburdened. Normally I am uncomfortable being naked around anyone other than vegetables. Maybe this is because I know I do not have to look any one way for the vegetables. I don’t have to be fit or muscular. I can let my tummy hang out. I also know that the vegetables do not want me in any kind of sexual way. They are naked, I am naked- there is nothing sexual about it. When I am naked and working in my vegetable garden I am able to feel like I can escape from the age in which I live. Time seems to vanish and I am left feeling like I could be living in pre-agricultural time where things are less insulated. I imagine a world without clocks and deadlines, a world where my email inbox is not filled with emails awaiting my attention. It is just me, the dirt, the earth, the vegetables and my penis, which occasionally gets in the way.
My vegetable garden is located in the rear end of my backyard. You will walk down a long stone path through a large patch of grass. You will walk under a lattice covered in bougainvillea that is currently not flowering, you will make a left hand turn behind the garage and then you will notice the vegetable garden. You may also notice a man who is six-foot five inches working in the vegetable garden. In the nude. He may look like he has a stiff frame hardened by the onset of middle age with a head of hair that is rapidly graying but do not be fooled. This man still feels very young inside, his mind is riddled with a rebellious imagination that would make any four year old jealous and he refuses to accept the various limitations that middle age may bring.
The vegetable garden is covered over by oak trees and currently it is enclosed in chicken wire so that my dog does not have access to the garden. In the vegetable garden you will find arugula, kale, chard, red leaf lettuce, micro greens, escarole, sage, parsley, potentially poisonous mushrooms, weeds, gluttonous caterpillars and worms. I am continually working to keep out the gluttonous caterpillars and worms because they consume entire leaves of arugula and kale. I also try to dig up the poisonous mushrooms because there is something unsettling about eating vegetables that are resting on top of and growing around poisonous mushrooms. But the mushrooms are everywhere. They are all-pervasive in the garden and I feel as if my efforts to keep them out are futile. The goal at this point is just to avoid interacting with these poisonous mushrooms as much as possible because I am aware of the fact that every garden, whether it is a biblical garden or an atheist garden, has its forbidden fruit.
On both sides of my yard there are neighbors who have their yards. My yard is pretty well hidden from view by a plethora of trees and tall plants. I am confident that my neighbors are not able to see me working in the nude in my garden but one can never be too sure. I am always wondering if I have been noticed. Occasionally I will hear one of my neighbors working in his yard. I can tell that he is close to a fence from which he can get a clear shot of my garden if he makes an effort to look through the tall plants. Whenever my neighbor lets his dog run around in the yard the dog seems to like to bark a lot at the area of the fence where I am just on the other side. It can be a nuisance since all I want when working in my vegetable garden is privacy, quiet and calm. I want to feel like I am existing is the solitude of the universe, free from all sense of time and confined space. I want to be free of a world that consumes what is most alive and free about people and turns it into general feeling of unsatisfaction and mediocrity. But the dogs constant nagging bark is a harsh reminder that I live in the middle of LA in the year 2012.
I am mindful of the fact that I may be seen gardening in the nude. I have tried to erect fences made out of bamboo that would prevent an average sized person from being able to peer over them. I do this not so much for my own privacy but to protect my neighbors from what they might see. I spend a lot of time bending over when working in my vegetable garden and I am aware that catching sight of the rear view of a naked, middle-aged man bending over may have a slightly traumatizing effect. I also would prefer not to be seen in this way. If I am seen by my neighbor, then such is life. I can live with what the potential negative repercussions of this kind of sighting can do to a casual relationship. But I take whatever steps I can to prevent this from happening. The dangers of suburban living are not necessarily overt (like gun shots or break-ins), they are more subtle and have a lot to do with what your neighbors think of you. This is why in most suburban communities everything and everyone looks the same. Everything is kept neat and organized. There is not too much expression of individuality. This is because no one wants to stand out for fear of what the neighbors may think and do. Few things can be more malevolent and dangerous than an angry, American, suburban homeowner.
When I am done working in my vegetable garden I like to sit on a wood bench that I made. I will sit there for as long as time and my back will allow. The bench is made out of a long slab of cheap wood and two cinder blocks which keep it erect. In the nude I will sit there quietly, focus on my breath and watch the various things that fill in the space of my backyard. I will watch birds fly around in the big blue sky. I will observe the avocado and lemon trees. I will take pleasure in watching the large palm tree sway around in the LA sky. I will focus my eyes on the green grass. When sitting on that bench it feels as if I am feeding my eyes. I will occasionally tell the barking dog on the other side of the fence to shut up. I try not to think but just watch everything play out in front of me. If it is a warm day I am may try to lay out on the bench and get some sun. If it is a cold day I will usually find a blanket and drape it over my goose bumped body. I will sit on that bench for hours and watch the disappearing sun turn the sky orange and then black. I will watch the moon and stars illuminate the blackened sky and then when I get hungry or too cold I will usually get up and walk back towards my house. Some people may think I am spending my time doing nothing, but to be terribly honest being naked, hanging out around my vegetable garden and being free of any sense of time feels like one of the more worthwhile things that I could do with my life.