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Image: Mark Storey gardening in the nude
Courtesy Mark Storey
“We figured that if people tried gardening naked once, they would smile,” said Mark Storey, co-creator of World Naked Gardening Day. Here, Storey cleans out some hops in the nude.
By Laura T. Coffey
TODAY contributor
updated 5/13/2011 9:52:23 AM ET 2011-05-13T13:52:23

So if people choose to participate in World Naked Gardening Day on May 14, are they allowed to wear gardening gloves?

How about Naked Hiking Day on June 21: Are hiking boots acceptable?

“Oh, there are no rules!” said Mark Storey, 52, a Seattle-area resident and the co-creator of World Naked Gardening Day. “If I’m gardening naked and if I need to have a hat on or shoes on, that’s fine. People are pretty rational about that stuff. This is not a religion.”

Established in 2005, World Naked Gardening Day has become an annual tradition that celebrates weeding, planting flowers and trimming hedges in the buff. While it’s linked to a movement of nudists who promote wholesome and unashamed acceptance of the human body, the day is meant to be funny, lighthearted and non-political, founders say.

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“We figured that if people tried gardening naked once, they would smile,” said Storey, who came up with the idea for the day with his friend, Daniel Johnson. “Not only would they smile, but they’d see that nudity is actually a pleasant and inherently good thing. ...

“It just feels kind of nice to be outside with no clothes on. It doesn’t matter what kind of body shape you have or how old you are.”

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Bear in mind that World Naked Gardening Day is but one opportunity to be outside with no clothes on. There are also World Naked Bike Ride events on June 11 and Naked Hiking Day events on June 21 — not to mention numerous local “clothing optional” outings and excursions, depending on where you happen to live.

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Why are people drawn to activities like these? The people who coordinate them say it’s not for reasons some may assume.

“It’s not about exposing your body to other people,” said Corky Stanton, 56, of Clothes Free International, an organization that promotes nude recreation. “It’s about body acceptance and being one with nature on your own. ... We actually do these events in secluded areas, so as not to be exhibitionist.”

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Stanton cited fringe benefits of bare, unabashed recreation: the satisfaction of exercising in the great outdoors; the attractiveness of an all-over tan; more vitamin D on your whole body; the unbeatable experience of skinny-dipping if the naturist event involves a beach or a lake.

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OK, OK. But what about the cops? Don’t people tend to call them when they spot naked adults in parks or on hiking trails — or even in their own backyards?

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Storey said he hasn’t heard of anybody being arrested on World Naked Gardening Day — in part because it’s so easy to avoid offending others. If participants are really worried about their neighbors, they can opt to do their naked gardening behind walls, working with indoor plants inside their homes or garages.

“There could be some little old lady in an apartment building in the middle of a big city, trying to put her potted plant into a bigger pot. That would count,” Storey said. “We live in a pretty artificial world, and there’s something nice about helping something that has a hard time helping itself — plants, in this case.”

People who really want to give this a try outdoors on Saturday could alert their neighbors to their plans — (!!) — or they could find a remote hiking trail that could use some cleaning up, Storey suggested. One year on World Naked Gardening Day, Storey and his wife and friends got up early in the morning and did some naked cleanup work and weeding in a city park.

“That was kind of a stealth thing,” he said.

Stanton said nude hikers and nature lovers often head out armed with Velcro shorts that they can slip on in a flash if they see other people approaching. “Out of courtesy for them, you get dressed really quickly,” he explained.

What about sharp tools, poison oak?
Storey said he and Johnson haven’t spent any money or gone to any great lengths to promote World Naked Gardening Day since they dreamt it up. They helped create a website early on, and then receded into the background. They figured that if the idea was pointless it would die, but if it was a good one it would grow organically all on its own.

Grow it did. This year, there will be sanctioned naked-gardening events in Costa Rica, Mexico and throughout Western Europe — a testament to the finding that after swimming, gardening is next on the list of family-friendly activities people would consider doing in the nude.

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“We thought this was something most people could try, and they don’t have to do it all day long,” Storey said. “Maybe go out in the backyard and do some weeding, rake some leaves.”

Back in 2005 — the year World Naked Gardening Day got its start — blogger Charles G. Hill wrote the following comical post about it at dustbury.com:

“Someone was kind enough to send word of World Naked Gardening Day, and I’m happy to pass it along, but I am compelled to point out that for all its presumed joys, there are distinct disadvantages to doing this sort of thing:

  • ‘Hmmm. I wonder if that could have been poison oak.’
  • Entirely too many tools with big, sharp blades.
  • ‘Now we’ll just pull this back away from the fence, and — oh, hi, Mrs. Grabarkewitz.’
  • Police helicopters.
  • ‘I thought I trimmed that rosebush already.’
  • Sunscreen and Miracle-Gro don’t mix.
  • ‘Those damn bugs get into everything.
  • String trimmers.

“Trust me on most of these.”

Need a Coffey break? Friend TODAY.com writer Laura T. Coffey on Facebook, follow her on Twitter  or read more of her stories at LauraTCoffey.com.

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