He’s a nude hiker, like me. Also like me, he seems to be middle-aged, a little serious, in fairly good shape, and with gray hair and beard. His matching purple shoes and hat are definitely more stylish than what I would choose. No matter: with his heavy backpack and his walking sticks, his message for me was, Keep going. Stay steady. We all have a burden to bear.
I wrote about Sunburnt! (“The Game with no Tanlines”) when it was still in development by The Table Candle, having found out about it from naturist voices on Twitter. And ever since my Sunburnt! game arrived in March, I’ve been looking for ways to introduce it to people. As a game, it’s a lot of fun: you match pairs by activity (as well as color and symbol) and try to avoid being stuck with the card depicting a sunburnt couple at the end of the game. Beyond the game, as I suggested when I wrote about it before, it can serve as a writers’ source for character studies. And yet another way I found recently, that I’ve been enjoying quite a bit, is to use it as an oracle deck. I have it on my meditation table, where I can shuffle the deck and draw a card to interpret a message. This was how the nude hiker spoke to me one day last week.
All of the cards together illuminate a veritable rainbow of naked humanity, engaged in all sorts of activities such as cycling, painting, reading, gaming (meta!), playing tennis, practicing yoga and parenting. There are younger folks, older folks, thinner folks, thicker folks, alternately abled folks, trans folks and cis folks, goth folks and punk folks, all in a very diverse range of human pigmentation. With naturist and nude-friendly artists on the design team, The Table Candle developed Sunburnt!, in part, as a way to normalize nudity. As they tweeted earlier this month, “How does one normalize a subject? You show it without restriction.”
In conversation with @ALMOSTWILD, a strong voice for naturism and a fellow Sunburnt! fan, I realized that I wanted to write this post to say more about this impactful creation. We were both recognizing the great job the artists did in depicting such a wide variety of people–wider than probably would be found on any given day at a particular naturist park or nude beach–and my remark was, “That really is the power of these images, because having been presented with an imagined range, the viewer’s idea of normal has been stretched. A mind becomes opened.” To which @ALMOSTWILD replied, “Absolutely! That’s the power of representation. You don’t realize it’s missing sometimes until you finally see it, and it’s powerful how inspiring it can be!”
There is POWER in these cards, and INSPIRATION – yes indeed. And much of it is manifest in the simple conceit that the people here just happen to be nude. It’s a wholesome, “nonchalant” nudity, as singer and activist Ton Dou has called it. Wanna play a card game? one might ask… and BAM! an unsuspecting not-yet-nudist is introduced to something as wonderful as REPRESENTATION: (1) of nudity in and of itself as art and as non-erotic, (2) of normalized nudity through depiction of common activities or hobbies, and (3) of the variety of bodies. In the same way that you can’t play the game without all the cards, you can’t represent normalized nudity without casting such a diverse set of characters.
In the image above, you can see some of the other characters who have delivered messages to me recently. The woman with the long green stockings, when I saw her without my glasses on, suddenly looked to me like a mermaid. In that way she reminded me of an important person in my life. Dive deep into your emotions, she told me. The woman at target practice, pressing against herself tightly, offered me this advice: Sometimes you have to get out of your own way to meet your goal. And the green-socked basket-weaver, who has a subtle pair of cowlicks that suggest horns (a detail I noticed only in the moment of trying to discern his message), spoke to me as an avatar of the Green Man, a nude archetypal figure I had just written about the day before. Focus on your craft, he said, and Accept that what goes around, comes around. The coolest thing about “listening” to these characters is that in addition to their unique individual statements, every single one of them prioritizes the same fundamental, powerful message: GET NAKED!
You can support and enjoy this Nude Revolution in the Cards by purchasing Sunburnt! here.