After graduating from primary and moving on to college, one learns all types of new things and is confronted with situations beyond what they have experienced before. One class drove this lesson home for me more than any other. Life Drawing.
Our first assignment in class was to find a partner and draw their portrait. I can’t remember anything about my partner that day but I could pick her out of a lineup. Her face is burned into my brain. It wasn’t that I found her attractive, it was that it was the first time I had looked at a stranger with so much intention. I felt like I captured her essence but the process was extremely intimate in a way I had not felt before.
Later we would sketch porcelain busts of Socrates and other still lifes but I realized there and then that it was something else to draw someone alive.
Eventually, the teacher brought out the nude model. We had all expected this. Dealing with a bunch of kids fresh out of high school, the teacher wisely asked us not to laugh or make jokes. But the whole experience was very sobering to me. At the time I felt more than a little uncomfortable with a naked guy posing in the middle of the room.
The teacher would come around and comment on everyone’s work. I remember her looking at mine, perfectly shaded and a blank spot where his private parts should go. She said, “Wow, this is great…”, waving her hand in front of the empty space, “…but finish it off.”
I heard her repeat the phrase as she traveled around the room so I knew I wasn’t alone.
Over the semester we ended up drawing men and women of all different body types. There were what would be considered attractive bodies, and maybe not-so-attractive ones. After a while, I found everyone’s body to be beautiful or at least interesting in its own way.
Many of the models seemed homeless or looked like they had a rough life on the streets. One guy looked like he lost 200 pounds and would hold insane poses that would leave him sweating at the end. His “pick up the penny” pose you did not want to be on the wrong side of.
The art I created was different from anything I had made previously. Thinking back to when I had started the class, it was amazing to see how comfortable I became with the human form and was grateful not to be so weirded out by naked people. I came to realize the body is both magical, and common at the same time.
I am forever grateful for that class for giving me such insight and a new perspective.
Cut to a few months ago.
I’m bouncing around Europe. Having felt the chill of Iceland and not thawing out much in Ireland, I set my sights on sunny Greece. Traveling to the east side of the island of Crete, I headed to the gorgeous Voulisma beach. I’m taking photos of the crystal clear waters and rock formations. It’s beautiful!
There was a staircase that went all the way up this cliff and there was a lookout at the top. Going up I noticed there was a path beyond which led to nearby Chartalami Kolymbou beach. A little way down the path I could see this looked even more beautiful and much less crowded than the beach I was at. I started heading that way.
Then I saw some rocks that said “nudist beach” ahead. I had my GoPro, phone and no backpack or towel to stash them in. I didn’t want to disturb anyone sunbathing in the buff thinking I was some voyeur, so I turned back around.
Later on at Agios Pavlos Beach, it was very calm but I noticed coming in the other side, Agios Pavlos Sandhills Beach, had some nice waves. I thought I would get some footage in the water with my GoPro then noticed that I had found myself on a nude beach. It seems like any time there was a secluded beach, maybe a little hard to get to, there it was. I promptly put away my GoPro and simply enjoyed the waves before going to that night’s hotel.
A few days later I hit up Kedrodasos beach. You had to park pretty far away and walk through a long ravine. No actual trail to speak of. So I had an inkling of what I might find at the end.
Once you were able to get through the trees there was an exquisite beach! The best I saw in all of Crete. However, where the path ended, there was a rocky coastline. I didn’t want to enter the water there but noticed ahead was a place where the sand met the water. So made that my destination.
Sure enough, the nudists had taken over the nice sandy side of the beach. One guy was doing pull-ups on a tree wearing only a floppy hat and glasses. Having become used to it though, I jumped in the water and floated in Mediterranean bliss.
At my hotel, I resolved to experience the nude beach for myself. Why not? I was in Europe, and I didn’t know anyone. Who cares?
The next day I went to Falassarna Beach early in the morning and thought, “This is it. This will be the beach I make my nude debut in.” I walked up and down the beach and was looking for the “nude spot” where people would be. This beach wasn’t really set up for it though. Usually, there was a cove or a hard-to-access place. And what was the challenge if I was all by myself? As soon as I thought, I’ll just go in here, a family arrived, and not wanting to scare the children, I decided to head back to Kedrodasos.
It took an hour to get back, but I had not taken into consideration the fact that it was Saturday. The beach was much more populated. Plus, the section that had been nude the day before seemed full of families now.
Noticing some people climbing over some rocks at the end of the beach I realized I had struck gold and went in that direction. Going down a hill I saw people laying out naked and reading books like it was nothing. Walking to the far edge I stripped down and jumped in the water.
Where I promptly shriveled up due to the cold Aegean sea. But it felt great. The water was about two feet deep and I just floated around without a care in the world. I had become one with the nudists. There were no longer the nudists and me, there was only us. Nudists.
While it was far outside my comfort zone, I didn’t die. I put myself out there and grew from the experience.
Now it’s your turn. Share an experience in the comments of a time when you reached beyond your limits and lived to tell the tale. Or maybe what is something you think you would grow from if you had the courage to do it? Lemme know, below!