Sunday, April 13, 2008

3 of 3: The end of the bath triology

It has unexpectedly and delightfully grown cold outside. I was lazy and relaxed for most of the day, spending most of the cloudy daylight hours curled into the corner of my loveseat. My muscles were tense from travel and stress and I made a mental note to call my old massage therapist tomorrow for an appointment. There was nothing on television and I didn’t feel like reading and you people are, for the most part, not great about updating your blogs on the weekends. For all of these reasons, I sighed, looked at Friend, and told her I thought I’d take a bath.

Oh, Katie, you’re thinking, another bath post? Seriously? And to you, I’d offer sheepishly that you could take the next couple moments you might have otherwise read my blog and go do something else. Get some coffee! Have some sweet tea! Do you drink enough water? How are you doing on your daily servings of fruits and vegetables? Write that email you’ve been putting off or call your parents and/or children. I won’t be offended at all. But the fact is that I did take a bath and feel compelled to document the progress I’ve made in this area. Now I’m still not a bathing expert, but, as an experiment, it’s coming along in terms of being pleasant and relaxing.

“I have no bath products,” I huffed when I came to fetch the candle with the wooden wick that I used last time. When Friend replied she might have left some bath salts somewhere at my house, I shook my head and said I’d just use shower gel and clean water. “Like an animal or something,” I muttered as I returned to the master bedroom tucked into a corner at the back of my house.

Determined to enjoy the experience in its entirety, I turned on the water and began to arrange necessary items on the edge of the tub. I stood on tiptoe to fetch my razor from the shower caddy and peered around my bottle of face wash to see the shower gel I rarely use in the corner. I’d found a small tub of foot scrub in the cabinets when I was on my failed search for bubble bath so I placed those things at the far end of the bathtub. I found my pumice stone and remembered the white poof I’d need for the shower gel. Then I found some a small tub with some product designed to look like cucumber slices. After briefly wondering if such things expired, I tossed it where it could be reached as well.

I frowned with confusion until I remembered Friend borrowed my basket to do laundry here this weekend then tossed my pajamas into a small pile on the other side of my lengthy bathroom. I dipped my toes in the hot water that had thus far pooled and winced a bit as I eased them to rest on the bottom. The water lapped at my ankles and I’d no sooner adjusted to the temperature when I realized I’d likely forget to water the plant that hangs above the bathtub unless I got the large cup I typically use for that task. I swung my legs out of the tub and carefully moved toward the vanity, remembering the time I scampered out of the shower to answer the door and slipped on the tile floor. I landed hard on my side and remained on the floor, stunned and feeling not unlike a felled elephant. After finding it under the counter, I settled the huge plastic cup - the ones that come holding far too much soda and don’t fit in my car’s cup holders - at the near end of the tub. Deciding if I had a cup, I might as well wash my hair too, I opened new bottles of shampoo and conditioner and put them close at hand.

I eased into the water and sat with my legs crossed in front of me. “Third time’s the charm,” I said resolutely and was determined to be sublimely relaxed by the time I finished. The water was just water, I noticed again before removing my glasses and setting them neatly out of the way. No bubble bath or bath orbs or anything cool, I pouted. Looking on the bright side, I picked up the plastic cup, filled it with water, and considered it for a moment. Thinking that I hadn’t washed my hair in a bathtub for decades, I shrugged and poured the water on my head.

“Well, that’s fantastic,” I said out loud after the cup was empty and my hair was dripping. Enjoying the cascade of warmth that contrasted with the coolness of the room, I emptied cup after cup over my head before pawing my hair out of my eyes and reaching for the bottle of shampoo. There was just enough light coming through the frosted glass to assess the amount in my hand before I started to lather my hair. There was something wonderful about it, I decided. Without water falling from the shower for dilution, I took time to massage my scalp and breathe in the smell of the shampoo I always use. I scooped water in my hands and splashed the suds off my face before eagerly reaching for the cup again and beginning to rinse.

I leaned my head forward and watched the white foam steam off my hair and dissipate into the increasingly foggy water. Checking to make sure I was clean by patting my hair and squinting at the locks I could see, I tilted my head back and, apparently addicted, dumped more water over my head. I soon swirled thin lines of conditioner from the full bottle into my palm. Rubbing my hands together, I smoothed the goo into my hair while I detangled it with my fingers.

“Lovely,” I declared and rinsed my hands before nudging the bottles of hair cleaning substances away from the water. I reclined, bending my knees so I could settle my shoulders under the surface. I frowned with concern when I could feel my hair against my back, sweeping it forward so that the conditioner could continue to cling to the strands and do something like permeate and make my hair healthier. (I heard that somewhere. Really. I think.) I reached for the white poof and tipped the bottle of shower gel upside down, watching as the viscous fluid slowly pooled at the tip before flipping the cap open. That’s a lower case delta, I smiled when I looked at the pattern I’d drawn on the poof. I efficiently washed, scrubbing firmly at my elbows and breathing in the promised stress relief that the eucalyptus spearmint scent offered.

“Oops, supposed to relax,” I remind myself so instead of rinsing and moving on to my lower half, I set the poof on my chest and folded my hands at my waist, leaving my skin sudsy with the idea that if it worked with the conditioner, maybe I'd be cleaner if I left the soap on longer. I was soon tapping my fingers, feeling rather bored, when I remembered the fake cucumber slices. I sat up, located the small tub and pounced on it before unscrewing the lid and removing two cotton pads soaked with liquid before examining them with squinted eyes. I reclined again, listening to the water lap against the sides of the tub, and put the material over my eyes.

This was the beginning of where it got good. The room seemed darker (with my eyes closed and covered, I suppose that makes sense) and I felt less obligated to be efficient in the whole procedure. So I sighed happily, breathing in the smell of the gel and settling more comfortably in the warm water. I jumped, startled, when the plastic cup tumbled into the water, but decided it could be fortuitous. The water drains so that I’m partially exposed to cool air, depending on my position. I decided that if dumping water on my head worked, pouring it over my body might be good too. Something about timing my breathing left me feeling slightly dazed. I’d inhale as water filled the cup and exhale as I poured from waist to neck. Using some caution to get the pressure right - too slow and it tickled, too fast and it didn’t last long enough - I found an ideal method and spent long minutes doing that.

What I found delightful - and why I described it so that it could be replicated - is that I thought of nothing. No papers I need to revise or emails to answer or rooms of the house to clean. I didn’t worry about Friend’s cat or wonder if I should have called home again today or think about what I’ll do if I don’t get a job offer. I just was, feeling hazy from the warmth of the water and the chill of the air, the growing darkness on the other side of my closed eyes and breathing in the scent of relaxation and clean. I sighed and let the cup float at my side as, several minutes later, I removed the cucumber-looking pieces of cotton. I tossed them aside, hearing the flop on the floor and slowly sat up, stretching as I moved. It was too dark to see anyway, so I left my glasses on the edge of the tub, following the strokes of the razor with my free hand to make sure I didn’t miss any spots on my legs.

I traded the plastic razor for the double-sided pumice stone and scrubbed at my heels. Running my fingers over them, I made a face at the continued roughness and brightened when I saw the foot scrub. Scooping the sand-like substance out with three fingers, I settled one foot on my opposite knee and smoothed the scrubby stuff into my skin. I wiggled my toes and thought of standing at the ocean, feeling the water rush to and fro as the sand buffed away the dead skin on my feet. Between the smooth side of the stone and the sand that clung to my feet, I was able to achieve satisfactory results on both sides.

Less ideal was the feeling of sitting in sand a moment later, but I toughed it out and washed my back with the brush I remembered to grab pre-bath. Making a mental note to finish washing before getting the water all gritty next time, I began to drain the tub while scooting away from the faucet until the newly pouring water warmed again. When it did, I found the cup and rinsed the conditioner from my perfectly soft hair and the suds from the rest of my body. Standing, the room very dark save the flicking candlelight in one corner, I finished rinsing my legs and glanced into the mirror across the room. Silhouetted against the slightest light coming through the window as I wrung the water from the hair hanging halfway down my back, I smiled when I realized I felt pretty. Blinking at the novelty of such a thought, I stared for another moment at the indistinct shape in the mirror as I brushed my hair and tugged a towel around myself before stepping from the tub.

In terms of appreciating moments, I decided as I moved back toward reality and all the worries and pressures and problems within it while smoothing on lotion that matched the scent of the shower gel, it doesn’t get much better than that. When awareness focuses on the current moment and sensations and everything else drifts away. So I think I’m getting it - this bathtime relaxation ritual. Given that, I also think I’ll stop writing about it.


Brigindo said...

Sounds like progress to me. I think the most important part was thinking of nothing. If you can achieve that anywhere you are doing a good thing. However I do recommend you buy some bath products to keep in the house for the next occasion.

Good job.

PhysioProf said...

So I think I’m getting it - this bathtime relaxation ritual.


Given that, I also think I’ll stop writing about it.


Citronella said...

I have never enough of your bath posts. I've never been able to really relax in a bath (there's always some bits that are out of the water getting cold), but reading what you write about it makes me feel like I'm sharing the experience.

(Hmm, no, not like if I was sharing the bath with you. Like if I was having the bath instead of you. That's better.)

Regarding the conditioner, it surprised me to see that in the US the bottle doesn't say to let it stay for a bit before rinsing. In France they always tell you to leave it for 5 minutes (it sounds a bit threatening, as if your hair might fall if you don't leave it exactly 5 minutes), and I'm comparing bottles of similar brands here... That doesn't say who's right, though. Maybe it just reflects on what the customers want to hear.

post-doc said...

Stock up on bath products - consider it done. :)

Magnificent is a good word - I should use that more. It's very debatable as to whether or not I should write more bath posts.

Beautiful comment - thank you. And I knew I was right about the conditioner! I did read that somewhere!

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