After my lover Les died of lymphoma in the summer of  '97 I found myself living alone in our cabin in the mountains of central Arizona. My world had fallen completely apart - my lover gone, my money gone, my cameras sold to pay for medical expenses, my ability to earn a living, gone. Everything I knew and loved except for my daughter, had disappeared almost overnight.

I often went to bed at night simply because the sun went down and got up the next morning when it rose again. I slept when I felt like sleeping, cried when I felt like crying, wrote when I felt like writing and masturbated when I felt like masturbating. Everything took on a rhythm of its own and I just moved through time and space as though they weren't really there, except as occasional witnesses to my loneliness.

Shortly after Les died I got on a plane and returned to Rome for a few weeks, knowing that my childhood home and friends would provide me with some comfort and nurturing. And they did. When I returned to my little cabin in Arizona it was still summertime and I suddenly found myself not wanting to have any clothes on. So for days and often weeks on end I got and stayed completely naked, getting dressed only when I had to go into town for groceries or to run errands. And occasionally slipping on a pair of boxers to answer the door when the UPS or FedEx guys came around with a delivery.

I didn't bathe but maybe once a week and only shaved when my face got so itchy I couldn't take it anymore. Even the occasional friend who came in for a visit was invited to get naked with me, which each and every one of them did without hesitation. When in Rome...

Before long I began going for hikes in the hills and mountains that surrounded my cabin, completely naked except for the sandals on my feet. My dog and cat loved to go hiking with me and the three of us enjoyed countless hours hiking through the granite mountains and pine forests together. At first I always carried a pair of shorts wrapped around my head just in case I would run into other hikers along the way. But pretty soon I stopped even doing that, preferring to just be naked and stay naked no matter what.

Part of learning to be naked was learning how to take away the safety nets and allow myself to free-fall.

Sometimes I would climb to the top of some majestic outcropping of rocks and just stand there with my hands outstretched to the sky, my long hair blowing in the breeze, my skin warming in the sun and enjoying the enormous sense of freedom that was beginning to overtake me. Often I would run my hands up and down over my body, touching myself with abandon, telling myself how much I loved me and then spilling my semen out onto the rocks as a gift to the universe or to Les.

My dog Stetson, a beautiful Australian Shepard, was very respectful of these moments and would sit quietly on the rocks beside me, watching and waiting patiently while I went on about my business. I remember his eyes looking up at me as his head rested motionless on his front paws. Somehow he understood...

Out of this physical nakedness came also an emotional and spiritual nakedness - a willingness to finally see myself as I really was. It was like I just threw everything off of me and stood there naked to the world. No one telling me what to do or who to be. No job requiring that I report in every day at nine. No need to be anywhere, do anything or say anything to anybody for any reason. I just fell in with the natural rhythms of the universe, responding in the moment to what it was I was feeling in the moment.

I went to bed naked, I got up in the morning naked and I stayed naked every minute of every day. I ate when I felt like eating, I read when I felt like reading and I pleasured myself in each and every moment that the desire came up in me to do so. For the first time ever I was finding out who I really was, free from any constraints or boundaries.

And out of all of this, a new life began.

Though my grief at losing Les nearly threatened to consume me at times, I realize in looking back now that his leaving was one of the greatest gifts I've ever been given. It gave me the chance to stand alone, to stand naked and find out who I really was underneath the weight of so many years of being identified by the people I loved and lived with. At the same time, the burden of trying to be right for a culture that didn't always get me slowly began to slip away. I found within myself, the beauty of a man who is truly and blissfully homosexual. And I found within myself a peacefulness that I carry still to this moment.

I eventually came down off the rocks, got dressed and rejoined the human race, such as it is. But the man I found out there in Arizona in my isolation and my grief, is someone who I really love and cherish.

The picture that follows here, a self-portrait, came out of that period of nakedness. It tells a story that goes far beyond my nakedness though - it's about who I am and the journey I went on to find me.

I love this naked guy; nothing left to hide, nothing left to run from. Comfortable at last and at home in this body.
Standing Naked On A Mountain
TOM CLARK
Self-Portrait
Prescott, Arizona 1999
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That Part Of Me