COMMENTARY: Special day set aside for gardening buffs

BY LOUISE BUTLER | BOARD OF CONTRIBUTORS

Since 2005, the first Saturday in May (May 4, this year), is designated as World Naked Gardening Day. It started as a way to expand exposure (pun not intended) to social nudism. It is endorsed by the American Association of Nude Recreation and practiced by gardeners around the world.

But before you appear in your front yard with your pruning shears, garden trowel, a smile (both front and back) and nothing else but your “can-do” attitude, here are some things you may want to consider.

First, public nudity is still frowned on by most city ordinances. It seems that your right to be nude is both equal and opposite to your neighbor’s right not to be subjected to the basic you.

You also need to remember that more skin equals more exposure to sun and insects. If you are of northern European extraction, as I am, you know that some of us have skin that reacts angrily to UV rays. Where some people tan, I rust. Then there is the fact that insects may be attracted to all that shiny skin, none of which has been toughened up by constant abrasion against the outside world. There is a reason you seldom get a mosquito bite on the soles of your feet but might on those chubby cheeks.

Then of course there is the problem of twigs, thorns, spines and other sharp objects found in your average garden — especially those of South Texas where I live. Sure, life as a nude gardener is good when you are growing eggplant, but what about pruning your cactus garden? Somehow a vision of myself in heavy gloves, a floppy hat, knee pads, snake boots and nothing else makes me both gasp and smile at the same time.

But — and this is a big but — all these negatives are balanced by the freeing, comforting, altogether pleasant feel of gardening in the buff. There is something about the feel of sun and the movement of air over one’s entire body that is soothing beyond words. Not to mention the fact that once you are done the only thing that needs laundering is you.

So, how do you celebrate WNGD without getting (a) arrested, (b) lacerated by the plants that fight back, or (c) branded as a social malcontent who doesn’t understand shared boundaries?

1. Enjoy WNGD in your fenced backyard, the one with privacy hedges and wooden barriers.

2. Don’t plant roses.

3. Avoid all power tools, especially the weed whacker and wood chipper. The reasons are obvious, but feel free to write your own joke here.

4. Don’t climb trees.

5. Don’t squat down near a rake.

6. Enjoy a day in the open air but wear sun screen and insect repellent.

7. Stay in your comfort zone but be prepared to see how quickly that zone expands.

8. Remember, World Naked Gardening Day is not about exhibitionism or seeing how many people you can shock. It is about reconnecting with nature, loving yourself (cellulite, sags, scars and all) and setting aside social conventions that may be correct for some situations, but pointless and cumbersome for others.

Assuming that you are not experiencing May 4 in a northern climate with snow still on the ground and a bitter wind howling out of the west, WNGD gives you a chance to test the waters of nudism. You may find it right up your alley — or not. In any event, the flowers, the crickets, the butterflies, the sparrows and the squash simply do not mind.

Enjoy nature and keep the faith.

Louise Butler is a retired educator and published author who lives in McAllen. She writes for The Monitor’s Board of Contributors.