When I was a young boy I lived in a most beautiful place deep in the mountains of Arizona, a state of diversity, where there are four separate seasons; and over one-third of our country’s indigenous trees are found. There is lots of sky by day and stars at night, gazing down on mountain tops, lakes, streams, canyons, meadows and fields.
I was raised in a family that went to Christian churches. My mother took us children every Sunday and Wednesday to a Baptist place of worship; on Easter we attended a Lutheran church with my father. I liked the ritual in the Lutheran services, especially the organ music (lots of Bach!). But I discovered ‘church’ to be a different kind of thing; my church was the earth and I knew my body was my altar ( as well as my playground) This is how it happened.
At some point, when I was ten or eleven, I began waking up at dawn on Sunday mornings. As a young boy (and now) I spent most of my free time outdoors enjoying nature, and on these early mornings I would slip out of the house while everyone else was sleeping. Over the back fence I would go, headed down into a ravine behind our house. At one place there grew a solitary peach tree, which was way cool in the summer-it had the best peaches I ever ate in my life (so it seems now}. At the bottom of the ravine was a tall cottonwood tree with a tree house built in it, complete with a rope ladder. This had been built before my time, by persons unknown to me.
I would climb up into the tree house, and for some reason I would take off all of my clothes. I would then climb back down to the ground and run around reveling in nature and life-my life! I would run; I would fall to the earth and roll; I examined leaf, flower, stem and root. I observed bugs, birds, lizards, snakes and other creatures and expressions of the divine. I would shout and sometimes sing. These experiences became my church services.
After a time I would climb back up into the tree house, get dressed, and head up the mountain ridge to go back home. I would slip back inside, get back in bed, and wait for the alarm clocks to wake everyone else. Then we would go to Mom’s church or Dad’s church-their church, not mine.
This routine (ritual) took place every Sunday for quite some time. Then, one day as I was climbing naked (skyclad) down the rope ladder of the tree house, lo and behold-there was my father standing beneath me.
“What the *!?%#FFF&*^@!!!??? do you think you are doing? He said this in a quiet monotone voice. “Mister, get dressed” he stated. “Get up to the house NOW!” After grilling me for hours on why I was doing what I was doing and placing me on restriction ( I was indefinitely grounded) my parents ended up taking me to see a psychiatrist in ‘nearby’ Phoenix, approximately eighty miles away, where I was pronounced ‘normal, but troubled’. The doctor told my parents that, as long as I was not doing these things in public there probably was no harm in it, and that I would eventually ‘grow out of it’.
Well, bless him, I never grew out of it. Now I live in a different part of the country and have lived in many different places, but I still practice my rites, naked when possible, and I have learned that the whole world really is my church, and that I am a priest…my own… And now I use my body as it was intended for me; an altar to share with others in acts of love and pleasure, celebrating life, nature, and Mother. C. CKEVN 2007