Mark Storey, one of the people who started World Naked Gardening Day, mows his Shoreline neighborhood lawn on Saturday, May 6, 2017. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)
World Naked Gardening Day had its 13th celebration over the weekend, and it all started right here, courtesy of a Bellevue College instructor.
Not to worry, Seattle, about the Seattle we fear losing.
Not as long as people like Mark Storey are around.
That would be the unconventional, a bit off-kilter Seattle that separates us from same-sameness that envelopes many of our cities.
He’s one of the co-founders of World Naked Gardening Day, now in its 13th year, which was celebrated around the world last Saturday, as it always has been, on the first Saturday in May.
Yes, the event started right here.
Saturday wasn’t a bad day for stripping down and planting dahlia bulbs — partly sunny, almost 60 degrees.
Storey says he gets emails from across the U.S., the U.K., Denmark, New Zealand, Australia and faraway places like India.
He commemorated #WNGD by mowing the lawn naked at the Shoreline home he shares with his wife, Kathy Blanchard.
“We’ve got bushes and trees,” Storey says about the property. “You’d have to walk up to the fence and look between the slats and stare before seeing anything.”
Also, Storey is 58. His wife is 61 and she also likes to garden naked.
Not being ageist or anything, but, you know.
“I don’t think a whole lot of people are checking us out,” says Storey.
He teaches philosophy at Bellevue College and is a longtime advocate of au naturel. He has authored books on the history of nudist film, and a book on “naturist” plays, and stories such as, “Clothes-free Aloha. A Naturist Tour of Hawaii’s Big Island.”
Really, says Storey, if you haven’t tried nudism, remember that day when you went skinny-dipping?
“It’s hard to describe, but anybody who’s gone skinny-dipping knows how pleasant it feels,” says Storey.
Pruning trees, raking leaves
World Naked Gardening Day started out in 2005, when Storey and a friend, Jacob Gabriel, who back then was involved in nudist events, were talking about a new project.
The previous year they had become involved in the World Naked Bike Ride, with Seattle being the first U.S. city to hold one. The Facebook page for the Seattle naked bike ride says a date for this year hasn’t yet been set.
The problem with bicycle riding in Seattle, naked or not, is, “A lot of people couldn’t ride a bike all day; it wasn’t something they could physically do. These things go 24 miles, up and down hills.”
Then there was the matter of naked bike riding becoming “politicized,” says Storey, and riding naked being “more of a technique” to get attention to issues such as oil dependency.
“Gardening has a timeless quality, and anyone can do it: young and old, singles or groups, the fit and infirm, urban and rural. An elderly lady in a Manhattan apartment can plant new annuals in her window box,” explains the WNGD website.
“Families can rake leaves in their backyard. Freehikers can pull invasive weeds along their favorite stretch of trail. More daring groups can make rapid clothes-free sorties into public parks to do community-friendly stealth cleanups.”
Storey and Gabriel didn’t want the event to have somebody in charge.
“It was more a philosophical, decentralized approach,” says Storey, who does maintain the website, and of the two men, does the interviews.
But he does not seek out the media. Storey says he turned down Howard Stern, and Bill O’Reilly when the latter was on Fox.
And he says he knows that for disc jockeys, “It’s a chance to joke about weed wackers and stuff. That’s fine. We want it to be humorous.”
So a popular website such as ScaryMommy.com, aimed at stay-at-home moms, explains about naked gardening, “Let it all hang out in your green house while you play with your plump tomatoes, hose down your daisies or sunflowers, fertilize your hydrangea, and prune your trees.”
And a guy in Rockville, Maryland, posted a Facebook photo of himself and five buddies doing yard work with strategically placed garden tools in front of them.
And the woman who owns Wanda’s Weeding and Gardening in Perth, Western Australia, posted a Facebook video of herself topless behind tropical plants.
OK, now for a couple of final questions for Storey.
1. Isn’t naked bike riding a little uncomfortable on certain parts?
No, says Storey. “Don’t worry about your ‘stuff,’ ” he says. “It doesn’t get smashed. The way you sit on a bike, it’s not an issue. I can’t speak for women. Maybe they enjoy it more than we do.”
2. What about naked gardening and those weeds with pointy leaves? “Naked gardening is quite comfortable, assuming good weather, like raking leaves,” he says. “I’ve done it all. But you don’t cut blackberries when you’re buck naked.”