There are many forms of nakedness—sometimes it’s emotional vulnerability, sometimes it’s a physical disrobement. I think it varies person to person and I know that physical nudity isn’t the same as nakedness, for me. I’ve simply done too many figure drawing classes, from both sides of the canvas, to see an unclothed body as a naked one. It can be, sure. But for me, the two don’t go hand in hand.
I never feel more naked than when I’m without my jewelry. It’s funny—I don’t think of myself as particularly feminine, but I am almost always adorned. These days I’m wearing six rings, earrings and a bracelet. This is my starting point—I routinely add necklaces, additional rings and additional earrings when the mood suits me. At my barest, I wear two rings, stacked onto one finger, and a bracelet. This is my base and come off only to climb and are returned as soon as I take my harness and shoes off. While I like the physical weight of jewelry, it’s the significance of these three pieces that keep them close to me at all times.
The stacked rings are for my grandparents. The lower is the engagement ring my grandfather gave to my grandmother, bought in the South Pacific during World War II. The diamond is barely more than a chip, set into a flat square, and the band is thin gold. It’s a little loose on my finger, which is why it’s stacked below the second ring. The second ring is a simple band of white gold that coils around and overlaps, each end joined with a wrap of yellow gold. The rectangle of overlap is slightly larger than the square the diamond below is set in. The ring is from a store that’s no long around, Beautiful Things. My grandfather paid for the ring when I turned 16 but sent my aunt out with me to pick it out, and I’m pretty sure my father picked the store, as it was one of his standard places to buy things for the women he loved. I don’t remember why I picked it, but I do remember that it was resized for me and for a long time it was the most expensive thing I owned.
The bracelet is my forest. It’s a band of silver, also sized to fit me. The clasp is the focus—a piece of glass with green and gold fused behind it. The glass is set in a silver drizzle and when I saw it I immediately thought of a deep forest glade with golden sun streaming through branches. It came from a woman who was a man at the time, selling jewelry at a craft fair I worked with my mother. I can’t remember if we bought our bracelets or bartered for them, but I do remember the artist being very tall and that the artist had a thick French accent, dark streaming hair and eyes rimmed with black liner. I also remember not being surprised when my mom told me she ran into her next year and that she’d transitioned into a woman. I’ve worn the bracelet every single day since that craft fair, which must have been when I was seventeen or so. I’ve lost it twice– once found in my own bed, having knocked it off in sleep, and once misplaced on a night of adventure that took me all over Seattle and had me devastated until my roommate found it on the parking strip outside our house. Thinking of all the places it could have been and then where it was, right there, still gives me hope that lost things return when they are important enough.
It’s strange to realize I’ve worn something for over a decade, let alone a few things. Jewelry can be baubles, but it can also be something so much more. I’ve been thinking about the pieces I wear mostly because of my friend Olivia. I’ve known Olivia since high school, when we ran together on the cross country team. Olivia now makes beautiful jewelry and I strongly suspect her pieces are the kind of pieces that become part of your life. I recently bought a necklace that I’m sure I’ll wear often, and it’s really only a matter of time until I buy a ring to add to my base layer. I love that she’s making art that feels so essential—I think it’s a hard thing to do and something I can only aspire towards.