Power to the Mud People

Whether you believe the world is coming to an end in 2012 or not, it’s hard to argue with the fact that there is plenty of extraordinary energy fomenting on the planet at the moment.

Chaos, carnage, and natural disaster, along with the ineptitude of governments worldwide and the political revolutions that come with it all are macro manifestations of the energy. On the micro front, the good news is that there are more seekers, searchers, and alternative-reality contemplatives than ever, which stands to reason since conventional spiritual and secular leaders have been proven, time and again, to not have the answers to the most pressing issues of the day.

So we the people go looking for our own answers to our own questions. And get really dirty doing it.

Two weeks ago in this space, I wrote about the therapeutic pleasures of skinny-dipping in the local lakes. What I didn’t say out loud was that by confessing my crime in the neighborhood newspaper, I meant to give permission-slash-validation to any friends and neighbors who might need a nudge to let their freak flags fly a bit, to dive into nature the way we were meant to. The response was interesting.

Some looked at me like I was Dirk Diggler from “Boogie Nights.” Others affirmed the ancient act of feral freedom to be, as my friend and veteran Lake Harriet skinny-dipper Scott put it, “good for the soul.” He’s right: Today I’m here to say that in the two weeks since my first plunge, I’ve escaped this wild summer’s tropical humidity (and cops) by nightswimming over a half dozen times. Shocking, I know.

But they’ve been the highlight of my summer. Each foray (most solo) has been different mystically from the previous, but all dips shared a certain spookiness and wild abandon, what with the inky churning-to-placid water, half-lit shadows and strangers in the night, shooting stars, cricket choruses, and a heavy Northern Minnesota-worthy waft of pungent wild brush, blooming grass, weeds and wildflowers.

I don’t know. The aftershocks of all this sensual communing may not ever be meaningful beyond today (maybe all that comes of it is this column and me telling you to go jump in the lake post-haste), but at the moment my dark ritual has left me with a profound sense of connectedness to the nature of my surroundings. Plus, it’s really fun.

The main thing is that I didn’t have to go anywhere. I walked out my door, got on my bike, and five minutes later I was in. Or, I left the bar, got in my car, and five minutes later I was in. For much of the following days, I’ve feel closer to the earth, and that body of water in particular, than ever before.

Just when I thought my “Into the Wild” trip had plateaued, Sunday afternoon I met a fairy named Jen swimming across Cedar Lake. She and a friend had swum from Hidden Beach to Point Beach, and when I congratulated her on her stamina and stroke, she sensed she was with a fellow explorer and told me to check out the mud pit across the way. Which I did, immediately, with my neighbor and partner-in-all-things-experiential, Pete.

Despite the anti-mud pit denizens we came upon over at Hidden Beach (“gross,” “I’m not in the mood for hepatitis,” “no exfoliation for me today”), we plunged in. Within minutes I was caked in mud from head to toe. I slathered the cool mud on my aching back, basketballing and bicycling legs, and sunburned face. Then I stood there, stunned by my dropping body temperature and blood pressure, and soaked in the heavy soil. Only later did I research the medicinal qualities of mud baths from Greece to Israel, which every pore in my filthy body was already reacting to instinctively.

When I told my Hidden Beach vet friends about my virgin mud pit dip, they rolled their eyes at me like I was the squarest kid on the block. Which I enjoyed; I was happy to know that it took me my entire life to discover the mud pit and the skinny-dip, and now I’m wondering what else is out there.

Like I said, I don’t know. But if I can grow up in this area, loving the lakes but never partake in them the way I have this summer, what other ideas aren’t being shared or encouraged? If a fairy in passing can change an entire Sunday, what other sources of news are out there, waiting to be tapped?

What on god’s green earth is the meaning of a man laying on the Lake Harriet diving dock in his birthday suit in the middle of the night, while the city sleeps and the waves go lap lap lap under the fading summer moon?

Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet.