Nudity in Ashland
Contrary to urban legend, I have never been nude in public. Furthermore, it is not even on my bucket list. But I am disappointed that Ashland is leaving behind its edgy past with a ban on nudity. The mayor and School Board say they are protecting the children. But the evidence is that children are not harmed by casual nudity. Let's be frank and admit that it is the adults who are using children as an excuse for their own shame and uptight moral values.
I raised my children in Ashland and would have had no problem if they encountered naked people on the street. Zoe Abel, a young Ashland parent, expressed a similar lack of concern in her wonderful Tidings column (Nov. 9 "Baring my soul"). Others have said in e-mail to the council and in print that they don't want their children "protected" in this way. There are lots of us.
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Here is a little story about nudity in Ashland. About two years ago on a warm First Friday art walk evening, I was heading down A Street and saw a friend down the block. As I approached, I noticed there were two people standing nearby in their all together. They were a middle-aged man and woman wearing only a few strokes of body paint and displaying their public street theater art in a very personal way. Just average folks, not particularly movie star physiques or anything like that. Not that I was staring. Gracious no. I'm not like that! Anyway, they seemed to fit right in among the art walk people strolling along and paying little heed to my friend's naked visitors. It made me chuckle, and I was proud just then to be from Ashland, where such unconventional harmless behavior was legal and pretty much OK with everyone.
But now our City Council doesn't want such artistic freedom of expression in Ashland any more. Those two folks would be made to cover up or else they would be wrestled to the ground and handcuffed and sent to the county jail for the night. Sadly, Ashland is the lesser for such legislated family values imposed on all of us in this arts and theater town. That is something really to be ashamed of.
This past Sunday afternoon and evening, the First United Methodist Church of Ashland hosted a truly inspired, uplifting interfaith holiday concert. The sanctuary was packed, and the choirs sang songs and lovely chants, often welcoming audience participation, especially with the Shabbat Shirah Band led by David Young from the Temple Emek Shalom. We joined in with "Teach Me to Treasure Each Day," and some soulfully played and sung carols by Michael Mish. The music was joyful, contemplative, sometimes traditional, sometimes contemporary and absolutely relevant to today's world, where the yearning for peace moves many of us to tears when there remains so much heartache, bloodshed and suffering for many caught in the horrors of war.
Michael sang and played an eloquent song about bombing the Afghans, this time with blankets, pillows, books to feed their minds and rice to feed starving bodies, showering them with trust and nurturance from above instead of bombs. Dave Marston would have jumped for joy!
Music from six Ashland choirs filled us with gratitude, warmth and good cheer. The final song of peace bathed us in healing sound as all the choirs encircled the audience, with Jennifer Schloming directing from the center of the sanctuary. Truly we went out in joy, filled with awe and wonder, and the welcome invitation to share a communal meal prepared by the Methodist Youth Group: tummy- warming soups, rolls and brownies. For the child in all of us, there were craft-making activities after dinner, part of the Advent festival where we could decorate Christmas lightbulbs, make graham cracker "gingerbread" houses, use CDs as a base for a candle holder with pinecone decor, or make origami ornaments.
The concert, meal and crafts open to the whole community were a wonderful advent to the best of the non-commercial holiday spirit, a great lesson about real values for all who were lucky enough to attend this interfaith gathering. What a blessing to live where churches gather to celebrate like this!