It was a cold February morning when they first met and the solar powered central heating had not yet been commissioned. The refectory looked like that at any other abbey, except that the sisters each wore habits of different denominations; from their original orders. The long wooden tables and benches held the remains of their first meal together. It had been simple but healthy: only empty bowls and platters were left.
The reporter from Health & Efficiency looked up to the Mother Superior as she began her speech of introduction. This assignment certainly made a change from the usual reporting of the latest naturist club or clothes optional holiday!
“Welcome to Laylum Abbey. It’s a pleasure to see so many of you here. Perhaps your old orders were glad to see the backs of you…” she paused to let the laughter die down.
Sister Susan bit her bottom lip and chuckled. The H&E photographer managed to capture the rising and falling of her shoulders as she remembered the dressing downs she been given by her previous Mother Superior:
“Sister Susan, how many times must I remind you. Sex is a sin. We have taken vows of chastity and purity.”
“Yes, reverent Mother” she’d sighed. The simplicity of the live she’d taken to, the regular praying, the hard physical work in the garden, even the lack of male company, but every so often she needed touch. She needed to express that part of her that was most definitely female. It didn’t seem natural to deny these feelings.
Susan shook her head to clear the memories and to concentrate once again on the head of the new order:
“We here are real women” She paused again, this time for cheers. “We acknowledge that God has given us breasts. We acknowledge that our sensuality is part of our being. To deny it is as much of a sin as to deny the beauty of the flowers and trees.” She looked around to see all the smiling faces and vibrant individuals. It was not her intention to build an order of closeted clones. These ladies must be allowed to live fully, to know their true being. Her eyes moved to the bemused reporter and brought her back down to earth.
“We have one major hurdle to over-come” she went on, her face becoming serious: “We are going to be misunderstood. We are going to be accused of holding full-time orgies, we are going to be threatened, propositioned and ridiculed. We must give the outside observers no cause for such accusations. We must show, by words and actions that we are not nymphomaniacs . . . we are naturists.” She looked amongst her flock to get a feeling for how this had gone down. Most of the women sat at the benches were thoughtful. Sister Fiona, she noticed, sniggered; she made a mental note to keep an eye on her.
As the weather warmed up, habits were shed and the sisters wore as much, or as little, as they needed to feel comfortable. Those on duty in the wash-room were well pleased. Maybe a few more towels to see to, but their work load was well down. As the days got brighter and the sun hotter, many sisters went back to wearing their head gear – they made very good sun-shades!
Wendy, the H&E lady, came back regularly to see how they were getting on and to provide a regular feature for her magazine. At first she’d not taken them seriously, agreeing with the sceptics that it wouldn’t last, that it would only be a matter of time before some scandal would force this ‘experiment’ to close. When she first saw the nuns wearing their wimples, but nothing else, she just stood and gaped. All her years reporting on naturist from Norway to Norfolk had not prepared her for this. There was such a feeling of natural energy that emanated from them. It was not the innocence that she saw in child naturists on the beeches, it was more than that. Besides, these ladies were no innocents. Many knew more positions from the Kama Sutra than she did . . and that was saying something. They were naked and yet they were respectable; just not into ‘that sort of thing’.
She had thought that most of the naturist she met in clubs were natural and above the sleaze, but here it was at another level. She was pondering the difference as the Mother Superior joined here. She looked deep into Wendy’s eyes: “Does it appeal to you?”
Wendy stared into the warm, welcoming, face and felt drawn by the sheer love that she saw there. She nodded. Only after five minutes of this did Wendy notice that this religious leader was naked . . except for a pair of sandals which she’d put on for gardening in. Wendy watched spellbound as the reverend mother picked up a basket and seemed to float onto the vegetable patch. Peacefully and with respect, she picked the runner beans that would form part of their evening meal.
Close to the abbey building a shower (solar heated of course) had been installed. As Wendy watched, Sisters Susan and Fiona returned from their task of mucking out the various animals, their bodies splattered with muck of one
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sort or another. The shower was turned on and they let the warm water flow over them. Susan passed a bar of home made soap to her co-worker “Do my back will you?” Fiona took the soap and worked up a good lather on her hands and applied it to the back of the other girl: first briskly, to remove the sweat and grime, then more gently. As the movements of her hands became caresses Susan turned round and gave a deep satisfied sigh as her sensitive skin received a loving massage. Smiling serenely she took the soap back and returned the compliment.
Again Wendy stood open mouthed. Here, in the garden of a nunnery! The reverent mother glided over and slowly shook her head, smiling “Can you think of a better way of loving each other?”
It was Wendy’s turn to shake her head. She watched as Susan and Fiona disappeared into the sleeping quarter together, almost dancing in their joy.
“We wont see much more of them tonight” the Mother remarked, smiling at Wendy again.
Wendy looked around for other signs of such sexual exuberance but saw only nuns working away in the gardens, some singing quietly to themselves, others taking a few minutes rest under the apple trees.
“It’s knowing how to keep it in perspective, that’s the key” her guide explained. “I was worried about Fiona, but Susan’s taken care of her. Helped her to put her love into everything she does. She used to be a prostitute you know. She gave her love the only way she knew. Then she had a bad experience with a client and joined a convent in Shropshire to try to forget it all – never did quite fit in there. But look at her now!”
Looking around Wendy saw other nuns busy and happy in their respective activities. They didn’t consider them chores. Besides the gardening, cooking and laundry, a number worked in, and for, the visitors centre, that they ran: partly to help with the running costs, but also to help spread their particular message about God and nature.
Each day they opened a different part of the abbey up to the visitors, careful not to over expose any particular sister. There was no rule about dress on open days, it was up to each nun to decide for themselves. The public knew what to expect. Few of the sisters took much notice of the open mouthed visitors. The avowed ladies carried on with the weaving and painting, smiling, laughing and talking to those who wanted to
At first there had been problems. Youths coming to ogle. But the sisters merely looked the young boys in the eyes. Few continued their cat-calls after that. To one or two of the persistent voyeurs an invitation was offered “Strip off and join us”.
“Better to have converts” the Mother Superior had argued … but most of the lads had run away never to be seen again.
Wendy had done them proud with tasteful photos and a very positive series in the naturist press. She’d done quite well out of it, selling her story to the national weekend magazines. It wasn’t long before the Sport and Sun were poking around trying to find an angle for their ‘readers.’ The sisters took it all in their stride, smiling sweetly at the cameras. They knew that by sticking to natural poses, that they would come across as open people, not as sex objects. They were above board … the gutter press soon lost interest.
As with many religious orders they relied on the skills of their members as painters, and potters. They sold photos and poems, and any spare produce. And they also ran workshops and offered counselling. Gradually they expanded their holistic services to include massage and herbal remedies, relaxation techniques and so on. Their reputation for bringing their visitors back from near breakdown to full health was growing. Professionals from all walks of life came and experienced, first hand, true naturism. Not only the physical freedom of feeling the sun and wind on a naked body, but the mental freedom from expectations. Back into conventional medicine, engineering, even politics, went rejuvenated men and women. Individuals changed for good by their brief stay at Laylum Abbey. In the past they, like their colleagues, would have got angry and frustrated over trivia, now they just remembered the sparkle in the eyes of the naturist sisters. Whatever the provocation, the response was the same … a warm smile.
Over lunch Wendy finally blurted out the questions that had been building up inside: “How? Why is it working so well?”
The Mother Superior laid her hand gently on Wendy’s arm and smiled at her. “It’s taken a long time. A lot of hard work. By all of us”. Wendy was still looking puzzled, so she went on “These eyes” she gave Wendy a sample of their brightness and sincerity “are windows from the souls. We have all been around on this world, and others. We have seen suffering, we have suffered. We have experienced desire … and the pain of loss. We have learnt that as everything is important, so nothing is that important. We live to love others, to share our knowledge. To help others to see the beauty in all things.”
Wendy felt the weight of the world lift from her shoulders and she cried. Tear of relief, of freedom, flowed freely. Her new friend gave her a long reassuring hug. She searched around for something on which to dry Wendy’s cheeks:
“That’s the one problem with going naturist” she said “There’s nowhere to put a hankie!”
This spiritual short story written by Keith Beasley shows how beautiful life becomes when we are are true to our selves, and that as we become one with that inner-most self, those who observe us become more respectful while expanding their own boundaries, and sometimes even thier expanding their consciousness. If you enjoyed this spiritual short story, then you might also like the book The Fifth Sacred Thing.