July 15, 2006.

Thе Bеаυty Park - A model gardener

My eyes fluttered open. A moment of disorientation, the kind of brief confusion that always comes with the first morning on vacation, in a strange bed in a strange place, away from the everyday. I glanced over to see my husband sleeping peacefully, curled up in crisp white sheets, his face playing out a happy dream.

I slipped out of bed and put on my favorite silk robe, the brilliant white one that had been an anniversary gift, and quietly left the bedroom. It couldn't have been more than six or seven am, and I wanted my lover to get some well deserved rest.

This little casita of ours was a delightful, Spanish-style house, charming down to its last detail. The tiled floors were cool on my feet as I went to the kitchen- a symphony of deep blues and terra cotta and an old brick stove, with fresh flowers springing joyously from old olive oil casks and wine bottles from celebrations long past. The sun streaming in from the large bay windows was warm and soothing, and bathed the whole room in a welcoming light - and it was through this window, as I idly sipped a cup of coffee, that I saw her.

A dark-haired woman, wearing only white pants, had strolled into the garden of our house with a watering can, and was examining the flowers and plants with an expert eye.

I was startled, both by her presence and her state of undress. I had heard that the women here in the Bеаυty Pаrk often ambled around the grounds naked or nearly so, but it was still a shock to see it. She was as beautiful as I had expected the models here to be, but it was her easy grace, her complete lack of self-consciousness that took me back.


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I went to the patio door hesitantly, and stepped out into the morning air, warm and humid even at this hour. She looked up from watering a hibiscus, and flashed a generous smile.

"Good morning Mrs. Jarvis" she said. "I hope I didn't wake you."

"No, no." I said, returning an awkward smile. I found it difficult not to look at the perfection of her tanned skin and ample breasts. I had seen women in the change room at the gym, I had grown up with two sisters for goodness sake, but this was different somehow. She was half naked but seemed fully clothed, as though she could easily breeze into a country club brunch and not look a bit out of place. She was mesmerizing, a beautiful, friendly face to match a beautiful, graceful body.

"Are you enjoying your stay so far?" she asked pleasantly, as she braced on hand against the wall to aim the watering can farther behind the hibiscus.

"Oh, yes." I said, "The park is lovely. My husband is quite looking forward to getting some good photos today."

Why did I sound so stiff and awkward? Did I feel the need to mention my husband possessively, as though establishing firmly that he was mine? I shook away the possibility. I wasn't jealous. My husband was the love of my life and I was his, ten years together had proven that in abundance. It was part of the reason I was here with him, in this paradise of beautiful women - photography and the beauty of the female form were his passions in life and I would do anything to help him pursue them.

"Me? No. Well, I mean...I assist him sometimes, and I take a few pictures now and then, but no..."

"We get a lot of women photographers here." she said, crouching down to inspect some shade plants that grew along the edge of the house. "I like working with them, they have a different sensibility than the men do, they seem to see something unique through the lens. It's quite interesting."

I leaned against the door jamb and sipped from my coffee, watching her as she worked. She moved with the grace of a gymnast, or a dancer. She was lithe and slender, but curvy in the way most women want to be. She went in at all the right places and went out at all the right places, as my grandmother used to say. The way the sun played on her skin, dappling as it filtered through the trees that towered over the house - she looked like a work of art.

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"Can I ask you..." I began, feeling a bit awkward. I faltered, not knowing how to continue. She looked up inquisitively, with such an open expression that I felt encouraged to go on. "About your work here. I admit I'm not really sure about the whole idea of this place. Do you really just walk around naked and pose for photos?"

She smiled. "Pretty much."

"And...I mean, the men that come here...don't you ever worry about...you know, inappropriate attention? Don't the men ever make passes at you or come on to you? I mean, I would think it would be a constant problem, with all these beautiful naked women around."

I was blabbering too much, and I knew it. I was trying to get an answer without making her feel self conscious about being one of those beautiful naked women.

"No, actually." she replied, setting down her watering can. She lifted her hands up to her hair and pulled it off the back of her neck into a ponytail. "I guess when I first came here I worried about it. But it was clear from day one that this place has nothing to do with sex. It's like..." she paused, tilted her head to find the word. "...it's like being the nude model in an art studio. Only it's all day. Every day. And it's in a place like this."

She let her hair drop and swept her hand out across the view of the park. Some of the other casitas in the far distance were beginning to show signs of life as guests awoke and the park's staff began strolling the grounds. I saw one man with a tripod slung over his back like a quiver of arrows, walking beside a statuesque blonde wearing nothing but a smile, as they shared an animated conversation. The man illustrated whatever story he was telling with exaggerated gestures, and the blonde laughed at his antics. In a nearby glade of trees an artist had set up an easel and was adjusting the pose on a pretty redhead who reclined luxuriantly in the long grass.

"And you never feel self-conscious? About being nude all the time, around all these strangers? I always feel a little... I don't know, embarrassed for the models my husband photographs. It must be a little weird being the centre of so much attention."

"Weird?" she laughed. "It's wonderful. Isn't that what every woman wants? To be admired?"

I blushed. "Yes, I guess you're right. It just strikes me as something you'd need to get used to."

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She thought about this. "Well maybe. But it doesn't take long. You realize pretty quickly that clothing is something we hide behind. We feel safe in it because we feel hidden, protected behind a little barrier of cotton or silk. Once you realize you have no reason to hide, it's a very liberating feeling. When someone wants to immortalize you on film, when he wants to make art out of your body, it makes you wonder why you ever wanted to hide yourself in the first place."

I envied her in that moment. She was the ideal woman - a woman who owned her beauty, reveled in sharing it, and enjoyed the attention it earned her from men. She was innocent and wise at the same time, a decidedly rare combination.

"Sometimes though, men just come here for the company." she added. As she spoke, she slipped her thumbs under the waistband of her pants and slid them down over her hips, letting them fall into a puddle of silky fabric around her ankles. She stepped out of them gingerly and scooped them up, draping them casually over arm. "Some guests just like being around us, they like talking to us or having a meal with us, that sort of thing. It's quite nice actually."

Standing there naked, with her long chestnut hair fluttering gently in the breeze, I could certainly see why. She was physically perfect and looked like she was born to live carefree and naked. She looked like a tanned and shimmering angel, like a Venus emerging from the foam. She looked...free.

Something germinated behind her soft green eyes. She looked at me for a moment, as though sizing me up. A mild, pursed-lip kind of smile tugged at her face, as though she were about to burst out with a secret.

"I'm going to breakfast with a group of people in a few minutes." she said. "Some photographers and some regular guests, some very, very nice people. How about joining us?"

"Joining you?" I asked. I looked back inside the house, for no real reason. "Well, uh, I'd need a minute to get dressed..."

She walked over to me with a 'tsk tsk" and a conspiratorial smile. 'No you don't." she said, and pushed the robe off my shoulders.

I froze, feeling like I'd been splashed with cold water as the robe fell away from me and fluttered to the red bricks at my feet. She stood before me, grinning like a school kid.

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"There. You're ready. Let's go."

"But..." I sputtered, looking down at my robe in dismay. "I can't possibly... I mean, I'm not...I don't..."

"You're a beautiful woman." she said gently. "Let yourself enjoy it. If there's one place in the world where you can allow yourself to be...just..." she shook her hands in emphasis. "...just gorgeous, it's here. Come on, you'll love it."

She took my hand and motioned for me to come with her. I felt the sun warm my body, felt the breeze touch me in places I'd never felt the breeze before. It was intoxicating. I felt like I was standing on a precipice, not sure about whether or not to jump. Terror and excitement pulsed through my veins, stern warnings from my inner parent clashed with a childlike glee in doing something so rebellious, so outside of my normal self. I wanted to know what it felt like to be so comfortable in one's own skin, and only one's skin. I wanted to feel as free as she looked.

"Are you sure it's okay?"I whispered. "I mean, as a guest?"

"Of course." she smiled. "I'm not a model. I'm the groundskeeper."

I glanced back at the house, and thought of my sleeping husband. He'd love it, I thought, if he came looking for me and found me, naked as a jaybird, eating breakfast out in the open air. And, I realized, I'd love it too.

"Okay." I said, taking a deep breath. "Let's do it."

"That's the spirit" she said, and led me off the patio into the sun.

by Lеаnnе Bеll

© Copyright 2006 Body in Mind | Photos by Lеоn Rυssеаυ

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