The young minister, this his first church, stared in reverie out his office window which had a view of the white pine woods at the back of the church.He sometimes walked there when trying to work out the intricacies of a sermon.There was no underbrush and the floor of fallen pine needles was a carpet.Clean, straight trunks stretched to where the boughs began far overhead.It was a dappled chapel of sorts.Those were his thoughts.
Suddenly, from the right, a naked woman strolled into view. In the crook of one arm, she carried a bundle that looked to be clothes and, perhaps, a towel and a spiral notebook.A pair of sandals dangled from her other hand.Her pace was slow and stately, her gaze scanned the canopy.Her blonde hair was cut short, close to her head, like a man’s cut, but she was most definitely female.Slender and toned, perhaps an athlete.Her breasts were not large but firm and her buttocks shifted smoothly as she proceeded.For a moment, it crossed the minister’s mind that he was having a vision.
Though the church blocked the view of the woods from the road, surely she knew she could be seen from the church.The minister felt himself stirring.He looked away, back to his desk, to his open computer with the first few paragraphs of his next sermon drafted on it.
But his gaze returned to the woods and the woman now disappearing into its farther reaches.
Perhaps, he thought, she was in some kind of mental distress, that she was acting out to relieve an anguish.Should he check on her?He regularly visited the sick.It was in his job description.If this woman was suffering from some torment, he was obligated to offer assistance.He slipped through the office door, walking gingerly down the hallway in case custodians or the church secretary were about.
The woods were inviting, the soft duff of the years of pine straw with its pleasantly tangy aroma.And, save for an occasional note of bird song, it was silent.The bulk of the church building buffered the woods from the noise of the road that ran in front of the building.
The minister followed the course he had seen the woman take.He considered what he would say when, maybe it should be if, he found her.The woods were a goodly number of acres on the back of a large dairy farm.The owners of the farm were members of his congregation.
Then, just ahead, he saw her.She had arranged her towel in a spot where the canopy allowed a single shaft of sunlight to reach the forest floor.Again, he considered that this might be a vision.The scene had a painterly quality, but it could be fraught with peril if another sort of man were approaching.
The woman saw him nearing but made no move to cover her nakedness.Her notebook was open on the towel in front of her and occasionally she leaned up to write.When she did, her breasts swayed forward gently.The minister was short of breath, from the brisk walk no doubt, he thought.
He stopped about ten yards from the towel.He didn’t want her to feel as if he were rushing at her.She still had made no move to cover herself though a pile of clothing was in easy reach.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” he began, but then wasn’t sure what came next.Finally, he tried, “Are you OK?”
“Perfectly,” the woman said and leaned forward again to jot a few words in her notebook.Her casualness and confidence were infectious.The minister, though he shifted from foot to foot to hide his erection, tried to follow suit.
“Do you mind if I ask why you are out here in the woods with no clothes on?”The minister surprised himself with his directness and the sudden outburst of language.He sometimes ad-libbed sentences into his sermons and found it thrilling.
“It’s part of my practice,” the woman said, looking at him directly for the first time.
“Yes, my writing.I don’t want anything between me and the world when I’m writing.I want the air to be alive on all of me.”
“I see,” the minister said, immediately regretting his word choice.Then he moved to recover with, “Aren’t you afraid?”
“Afraid of what?” The woman seemed genuinely puzzled.
“That someone, like me, would see you.”
“You don’t seem dangerous,” she said.
“I’m not the only person, man, in the world.”
“No? You are right now.”
The minister felt the presence of the trees all around him as if they had commenced to breathe.He heard the easy movement of their boughs overhead.He looked around, as if for the first time.