A few days ago I called my sister to see if I could come drop off some boxes of unwanted items at her house. “Sure, come on over,” Lorraine said, laughing, “but it’s Naked Hour over here. Prepare yourself.”

I had never heard mention of Naked Hour before, so this took me by surprise. “What?” I stammered. “Who is naked over there? And why?”

“We’re down to no clean laundry, absolutely none, so I told the kids it was naked hour,” Lorraine explained. “We all stripped and shoved everything into the wash. They seem amused and it’s actually made doing the laundry a lot more fun. But of course the doorbell just rang and Noah went and opened it, buck naked.” I gasped while Lorraine paused. “I think the gardener was very surprised.”

I burst out laughing. “You’re all really walking around naked? Both teen-age boys? The five-year-old little girl? You, with your big, pregnant belly?”

“Yes!” Lorraine laughed. “I figured it might be a good visual for the boys. Make them more cautious when they start dating. You never know what will stick, right?” I chuckled again. Hers is definitely a different approach than most would take, but not without merit, I thought.

I thanked her for the invite and stayed put. Then I peered around my house – empty walls, boxes stacked floor to ceiling, all our daily accoutrements shoved away and shelved for an unknowable amount of time – and I came to a crazy conclusion. It’s Naked Hour over here, too. The Mouse House is officially bare-bones now, devoid of character.

The thought of Naked Hour amuses me, but to lie in bed at night and stare at my poor, naked walls fills me with dread. I like bright, bold colors – Cherry Tart Red or Eggs-in-the-Morning Yellow or Newman’s Own Blue-Eyes Blue – and the thought of settling down in a new house, as renters unable to paint the walls, well – I shudder at the thought.

Last night Damon and I lay in our naked room (clothed) and watched ‘The Beaches of Agnes’, a documentary about the filmmaker and photographer Agnes Varda. She spends the entire film reminiscing on eighty extraordinary years, an unusal career, her amazing ability to visualize an image and bring it to life as vivid, vibrant action.

I was taken by her ideas – mirrors spinning in the wind on the beach, capturing the waves from all angles; the family’s long, narrow courtyard which she transformed into a movie set and filmed in for most of her life; the amazing photographs of loved-ones she took, their faces thrust through antique picture frames – it made me want to watch all of her films, in French. It also made me want to look back at my photos and imagine them brought to life or recreated.

My favorite bit of the film was when Agnes recalled when WWII began and her family abruptly fled Belgium. She was a schoolgirl with four siblings, and one day her parents shoved them all into the car and away they drove. She didn’t say if they had time to pack up the house or strip their walls naked first. The family went to the south of France, where her dad stationed them on a moored boat off the harbor of a town called Sète. He left them there and traveled to find work, while Agnes’ mother was stuck on a boat, unable to swim, with five school-aged children. Imagine! As Agnes remarked quite succinctly, “She worried.” That must be an understatment. I imagine Mama Varda sitting on the little bobbing boat as war ravaged her homeland; her husband constantly away; all five kids dressed in cork life vests scampering on top of one another as she stared out at the dreaded sea water, knowing she was helpless if someone fell in. The image makes my upcoming journey up Interstate 5 to my mother-in-law’s home seem carefree, by comparison. Agnes and the other kids felt none of those grown-up cares, though. They thought their little boat great fun, especially “..every other Thursday, when someone fell in.”

Sometimes life feels like it’s stuck on that ‘every other Thursday’, when there are no clean clothes and our walls are bare and nothing is comfortable and as it should be. But when we are faced with the unexpected, that’s when we are forced to think, and do! Our lives take on all new colors when the walls that normally surround us are stripped away, or we’re left bobbing on a boat, or we open the door to the gardener, buck naked. Because it’s not walls and clothes and jewelry and accoutrements that really inject color into a life – it’s the people themselves, shoving their actual heads through the picture frames.

See “The Beaches of Agnès“.

 

 

 

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