Steven 011118-371

Steven – USA

Some time ago a poem came to me. It came late at night and it came all in one piece and it came with such force that it woke me. Sometimes when this happens I have to get up and write it down so it doesn’t vanish or become a faded echo of what it was when it arrived. This time I just said Thank You and rolled over and went back to sleep. I knew this poem wasn’t going anywhere. It doesn’t have a title. It doesn’t need one.

I will stand in the sun

    wearing nothing but sunlight.

I will stand in the rain

    wearing nothing but rain.

I will stand in the wind

    and let it rustle my spirit.

I will stand in the dark

    and wear nothing but

    moonlight shadows.

Maybe it wasn’t a poem. Maybe it was a prophecy.

I stumbled across the Embody Project by accident. I was web-surfing and I read something that made a reference to it. So I looked it up. After a few clicks I felt like I had hit the jackpot. I found like-minded people. And they were naked. Evidence that there were more of my kind out there. I had suspected it, but till now had lacked the proof. And I knew that I wanted to be a part of it.

I do not possess a physically perfect body. I was born with a mosaic of birth defects that, throughout my childhood and pre-teen years, required multiple surgical and therapeutic interventions. I don’t want to bore you with the details but I will hit the high points for you.

My feet pointed in the wrong directions. My left foot was pretty nearly backwards. The heel was facing the way the toes should be. The right foot was twisted so that, on a clock’s face, the heel pointed at three o’clock and the toes pointed at nine. My right hand was misshapen. It was too small and the fingers were twisted, crooked, and, in places, joined by webs of skin. Much of the muscle mass on the right side of my chest was missing. No significant pecs on that side, and where there should have been a nipple there was just a little brown dot.

The docs fixed everything that could be fixed as well as it could be done with the technology available between 1958 and 1970. They did good work and I cannot imagine my life without what they were able to do for me. I was left with a few things that could be made functional but could not be made cosmetically perfect. And I’m OK with that.

As a kid I remember being confused about the differences between me and everyone else I knew. But I was raised to be a fighter. My parents and my brothers simply made me know that what you can do is more important that what you can’t do. And I was taught that I could do nearly anything if I simply tried hard enough. As a kid I played every sport that the other kids played. Sometimes not as well, but often more fervently. As an adult I became a gym rat, and I have ridden my bike thousands of miles.

I have had my struggles with body issues. I have felt different. It has been a long ride, but I am pretty much past all that now.

I think I have done the best I can with what I was given.

So I have no problem with being naked or being seen naked. In fact, I kind of like it. After my initial meeting with Erica I counted the days till our photo session the way a kid looks toward Christmas.

We had to cancel our first date because the temperature was mired in single digit numbers… with harsh wind. When the second date rolled around the weather was better: Cold and rainy but not life-threatening.

The site chosen for this shoot was an old, rustic cabin near the end of a dirt road. Logs, chinking, bare floorboards. Tin roof. Stone chimney. The woods around the cabin are filled with trails and secrets.

When it was time to go outside, I stood beside the space heaters in the kitchen, removed my clothes, wrapped myself in a blanket, and stepped out into the January-in-the-North Carolina-mountains afternoon.

We shot off-and-on for a couple of hours. I was cold and wet. Erica was cold and wet. Trey was cold and wet. We would shoot for 15 or 20 minutes then retreat to the kitchen and huddle by the heaters. Then we would go back outside and do it again.

The camera clicked.
The rain fell.
I was naked outdoors.
It was damn near perfect.