Mary, always keep the garden naked!

Love always, Grandma-Emma…1971


Mary, Mary quite the contrary…
What makes your garden grow?
Your Silver Bell’s and Cockle Shells
…grow huge from the seeds you sow!

To better understand how important it is to communicate with your body; please indulge me as I take you not only back in time but to an entirely different dimension. The late sixties and early seventies were truly a great time to be a student. Led Zeppelin was playing to sold out crowds everywhere and college campuses all over the country were abounding with an entirely different feeling.

The Monterey Pop Festival was now in our rear view mirror, bringing a close to what was known as 1967’s Summer of Love and it would also be only a short time later that those same talented musicians would be heading to upstate New York to put together another little music festival. It would become known as WOODSTOCK…and with time, would become reverent.

I’m not sure how The American Playtex Corporation even stayed in business as The Women’s Right’s Movement was also in full swing with bra burning vigils almost an every night thing. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find one anywhere on campus. Signs that read BAN THE BOMB…BURN THE BRA were seen everywhere.

VW Buses adorned their bumper with stickers such as FLOWER POWER…FREE LOVE and FREE TIBET. I still have the FREE TIBET sticker on mine today and will continue until that small country’s struggles are over. Another was …BE GRATEFUL…referring to Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead.

Folk music was also big with people such as Joan Biaz, Judy Collins, Joni Mitchell (Big Yellow Taxi) and Bob Dylan bringing awareness to a war going on in Southeast Asia that America never should have been involved in, by organizing peaceful sit-ins, writing iconic lyrics which they put to music as well as distributing another much needed and publicized bumper sticker that read STOP THE WAR!

I hope I haven’t abused your time by telling you of this but needed to set the stage for the rest of this this morning’s journey…


Stay with me…you’ll see… In several of my classes was a girl named Mary who could have easily been a pin-up girl for this period of time. Her clothes were standard issue of the day; worn out jeans accompanied by only a halter top, and any shoes that ever adorned her feet would only be sandals. She was plain in appearance, never with make-up but still beautiful. OH! …even better…and speaking of Joni Mitchell; she could have easily been her twin sister.

Mary’s parents were killed in an automobile wreck when she was a very small child and she was raised by her grandparents; being brought up on their farm about fifteen miles south of the USC campus in the small town of Horrell Hill. As time waits for no one; she eventually also lost both of them shortly after high school, leaving only her to take care of the farm.

Because of sharing some classes; Mary and I had become friends and through daily conversation she knew a large part of my life was spent in the USC weight room as well as also trying to eat as clean as I could. On their farm was a huge vegetable garden that her grandfather had started years earlier. With her grandparents now gone; she had become its caretaker. One day before class she handed me a brown paper bag containing some of the prettiest and biggest vegetables I’d ever seen. It was full of season ripe tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, string beans and squash …all just dripping-fresh!

That was on a Friday afternoon and as she handed me my gift she said, “Here is something to tie you over but tomorrow I’ll be working all day in the garden. If you would care for more I could use some help. Together we’ll have all the fresh food we can eat.” It didn’t take but a second to let her know I was all in.

Saturday morning arrived and I followed her directions to their farm. She said the garden would be on the other side of a wooded area and just to come on down. As I walked through the trees; all I could see was Mary’s large brimmed garden hat off in the distance, as she was stooped down between the garden-rows. As I grew closer I called her name, causing her to smile and wave …and to stand …which also caused me to stop in my tracks. The only thing adorning her entire body was her garden hat and gloves…as the rest was simply her birthday suit.

‘Whoa’ …how was I to handle this! Time seemed to drop to slow motion as she traversed towards me. Within a few seconds she was going to be standing directly in front of me…full frontal and totally nude! Come on, Stevieboy; …remember, you’re a cool college student, ten feet tall and made of solid steel …so why was I having a total meltdown?

Her approaching figure only calmed my jitters when she said “Are you okay with me in my natural environment?” What could I say but “Yes…I’m good with it” …although one gentle tap and I would have completely capsized. She then continued “Why don’t you join me! There’s no one around and we can completely free both of our bodies!” If I’d ever been caught between the moon and New York City…this was the time. For me, thinking could be dangerous; but within a minute my clothes were also hanging beside hers on the gardens gate.

We spent the next hour picking some the tastiest veggies, then the morning sun began to do what it does best, causing us to re-robe.

Taking our morning-pic inside, we sat down at her small kitchen table and began talking.

She then opened a box that was on top of her fridge, retrieving a piece of paper… and said, “This is a letter to me from my grandmother. It will explain why I garden naked. The first line of it read:


“The garden is a tranquil place and should only be entered with a tranquil mind…always keeping it naked.”

When Mary was still very young, her aunt told her the naked part meant to never use any type of pesticides but to always grow organic vegetables. As Mary began to mature, her aunt expanded a bit on that thought by giving her a picture of her grandmother when she was about the same age as Mary was now, holding her own basket of fresh picked veggies, also standing in the garden wearing only her birthday suit… and bearing that same gentle smile. The true meaning of the word ‘naked’ had finally come to light. Whether it was through communication or miscommunication, Mary was simply carrying on a family tradition.

Whether it’s communication or miscommunication; listening to our body is completely necessary in our fitness journey. Your body really does talk to you, if you would only listen!

The slogan …No Pain! …No Gain! …is an ‘ole wives tale! Although they may seem the same, there are small differences in how our bodies are put together. There is a big difference between what is called the ‘pump’ or experiencing pain. What works for some may not work for others. What we’re trying to accomplish is the ‘pump’…where we fill our muscle with its max of blood and oxygen causing it to grow and stay tight.


…as there is always another way to work that group of muscles.

No matter which exercise you’re doing…warm your body up first! Simply take some very light weight dumbbells…maybe only five pounds…and do some arm curls followed by over-head presses. Warm your legs by using just your body-weight by doing some half-squats…then progressing further into your training with possibly a little heavier weight. Remember; exercise is not about how much weight you can lift but about using the correct amount of weight needed to create resistance while using good form…that’s all! Let’s leave all that show-boating stuff for the movie star wanna-be’s…but that’s not you!

I was hoping to write the above piece this morning before my ADD kicked in but it’s too late so I’m going to leave you with the following thought. In case someone stops you on a street corner and ask how Pink Floyd got its name, I want you to be prepared so here’s your bail out.

Syd Barrett, the founder of Pink Floyd enjoyed the music of two blues singers from North Carolina, named Pink Anderson and Floyd Council so he simply combined their first names…true story. Go ahead…you’ve got my permission… look it up! You’re going to anyway!

…’til tomorrow…always remember that some of our best dreams happen when we’re awake!


Copyright © 2018 Steve Johnson