I have spent a considerable time of late on Wards Island, Canada. It is lovingly referred to by the local community as Toronto’s garden and is a truly beautiful place. As I have been visiting completely off season the island has been almost entirely desolate, with all the small shops and stands boarded up and only one solitary cafe open. Its cold, being forever in the minus teens, which makes it more than understandable why so many would actively avoid this wonderful place at this time of year. That said, it was within this landscape, at this time, that I had a truly glorious first time experience.
I am no nudist, let’s set that pretext (sorry if this seems irrelevant, but I promise it will make sense later). Equally, I have suffered from many body image and confidence issues over the years. Being someone who has been chronically preoccupied with my appearance for much of my adult life, I have spent more time than I wish to admit looking at my reflection in the rush of passing cars, gleaming from well scrubbed shop windows, reflected in an assortment of mirrors… at breakfast on the back of my spoon, and as a result I have often been upset at what I saw in the mirror.
In short. I have been quite unhappy over the years with all things relating to my physical appearance.
Back to Wards Island.
I found myself on the island, a short ferry ride away from the mainland, on a freezing cold day. I was slightly (very) ill-prepared to deal with the cold, but wanted to explore.
There was only one way to stay warm and see the island…
Slowly at first, then gathering pace. At first I passed a smattering of people, but soon I was enveloped in the humanless cacophony of my natural surroundings. The birds tweeted loudly, the water lapped at the shore and I ran.
5km later I was no longer cold, in fact I sweating. I was also closing in on a beautiful long beach.
I ran onto the sand, my shoes slipping beneath me. A large portion of the sand was covered in frozen ice and snow, it was awe-inspiring.
I turned, still panting from the run, and saw a sign that read ‘Clothes Optional Beach’.
Without hesitation I started to remove my clothes and soon was completely nude.
I ran at the sea, the cold breeze sliding across me and stood at the edge letting the freezing water lap at my toes.
In that perfect moment, I felt beautiful.
Truly at one with nature. One with life. One with love. One with me.
It was then that I realised something. As someone who is constantly drowning in a sea of male ‘ideals’, in film, TV, advertising and popular culture, I had lost touch with the fact that I am beautiful because I am unique, as you are my dear reader.
I must admit, I still catch my reflection on my spoon at breakfast…
I am not in love with it, but I love it.
(Photo – Eli Woodbine, Wards Island, Canada, 2016)