We all make God from the piece of her we find lodged inside ourselves. My God is a God of sex and wetness, trees too green to be real, extravagant decay, vast open spaces between water, earth, and sky. She is a trickster, my God. During my childhood, growing up in a Baptist church, I rarely felt her, because her rank, wild ways were bound up in emotions and sensations I associated with sin.

I remember moments, glimmering, fragments of shell in a tide of jetsam, where she brushed me, mercifully gentle to my fear and paranoia. Laying in the bath, full of hot water, scented oil, and steam, feeling my shape-shifting body expand, open, dissipate at the edges. Feeling an erotic love for the world, dissolving into its waiting arms.

A few times, I carried out this sensual obsession in secret, retreating to the packed mud and overgrowth of our family backyard, stripping off my cotton dress and hunching between the fence and my playhouse so that I couldn’t be seen. There, I’d squat down on the cold earth, feeling the wind scurry across my skin, raising the fine hairs along my arms, tingling in races down my spine. The scents of moss and wet brick seemed heightened; no barriers between me and my surroundings.

Being outside, naked, under the kiss of the open air was an experience that I couldn’t put into the words. If I had been caught, it would have been a moment of intense shame, but alone in the chill, coastal air, I felt nothing but bliss. There was a thrill in the taboo of unsanctioned nudity, but underneath, something stronger and deeper, a feeling of sensual connection running through my arteries and muscles like sweet fire.