There is a limit to how cold is too cold…and mine starts around ‘not very’. I’m not a hot weather person, but I don’t do cold all that well either and between the small dog insisting on open doors and a recalcitrant heating system, I am over my limit. I usually wake to a warm house, but by the time the small dog and I have braved the frosty morning, I am chilly. By the time I’ve scraped the ice off the car and driven to work, the heater is just beginning to warm up and bits of me are beginning to thaw. Feed the fish, treat the hot-tub and the temperature is dropping again… then into the shelter of my son’s home…
…which is where the cold really sets in. Nick’s internal temperature mechanism malfunctions regularly since the brain injury and, even in the depths of winter, his home is largely unheated. A few hours of that and my skin has shrunk.
Now, I wouldn’t mind if it would stay shrunk…or shrink all the bits it is holding in… but no, can’t have that… I just end up feeling stretched and tight and walking around with clenched teeth. And today I came home to a cold house yet again. I was obliged to do the unthinkable and wallow, mid afternoon, in a steaming hot bath to thaw out.
This was a very bad move. I took a book in there with me and, several chapters and the fall of Atlantis later, realised I would emerge looking like a cross between a lightly boiled prune and a lobster. Eventually…
Men do not understand the concept of a hot bath. I have lived in a household of men and heard the agonised yelps when they have gingerly lowered themselves into baths that I have helpfully prepared. Dermatologists and the medical profession also have reservations. Women, however, seem to understand that a proper hot bath is one that changes skin colour on contact, leaving a red tide-mark when a limb is immersed.
I think women like baths more than men do. We seem to like them hotter too. The baths, that is. Wonder if that is physiological or something to do with our inner make-up? Maybe it is to do with resiliency or adaptability? Maybe we are just weird. Many men would agree on that. I do myself. Such a bath can be enjoyed for far longer than is strictly necessary and provides a means of escape from the kitchen sink/football match on TV/teenagers. It has little to do with cleanliness and more to do with relaxation. Or in my case, avoiding frostbite.
So I wallowed. There are times when you have to.
The word ‘wallow’ always makes me think of hippopotami… water horses. I look down the undulating curves turning lobster pink in the hot water; think water-horses, not hippos, woman. My mind touches lightly on Disney’s dancing hippos … and shies deftly away from such comparisons.
The dog watches from a safe distance while the steam rises from the hot, fragrant water.I can read… and think. Showers are wonderful for getting clean but a bathtub is more of a meditative experience.
I have fond memories of Disney and bathtubs. My mother painted wonderful murals on the bathroom walls with a walrus over the taps when I was a child… the toilet became a toadstool, the long, dangling chain a caterpillar on a thread…Warmth envelops me.
I watch the steam curl up the wall, white against white, dissipating slowly. The transformation from water to steam and back to water through condensation against the cold tiles… I muse upon the cycle of existence and the changes that occur, day in, day out; a spiral of being and becoming.
The dog watches me watching and I watch her creep a little closer, knowing that once the soap is in action she is fairly safe from being tricked or dragged into the tub. So who is watching who? We are both observer and observed and part of what we observe, yet we can separate out the one from the whole without the whole becoming less. We can separate myriad components from the whole yet it remains whole.
I put the book down and reach for the towel dangling over the sink. The chill on my skin is pleasant and the water feels even hotter as I sink back in. The contrast is good. Hot and cold, dark and light… you wouldn’t see or feel anything without that contrast.
The soap slips out of my grasp and I look for it with my toes.
You shouldn’t be able to drop soap really… it is big enough to hold, made for a hand to hold… You always end up dropping it. Well, I do. Funny though, it wears away so much quicker if you leave it in the water than if you actually use it. Makes the water murky too. Must be something in that… use it or lose it; we hear that a lot these days. Perhaps life is like soap? Lasts longer and functions better when used?
The water is probably too hot; the submerged bits are vivid against the white. Do I care? Not a jot. The heat is doing wonders for aching muscles and thawing things I didn’t even know were cold. You just have to go for it sometimes, even if ‘ought to’ says you shouldn’t. I ought to take cooler baths. Allegedly.
Getting in hot water… we talk about that when we get in trouble. Deep water, out of our depth… lots of watery things relate to living.
My hair has already dried… ringlets I expect. How incongruous to have ringlets at my age. Or maybe it is perfect, an external reminder of the inner child. Though what the wild frizz says is anybody’s guess. I wonder what we would look like if we could wear our inner self on the outside? Vague visions of innards are hastily dismissed… Some do; you can see who they are just by looking. Even with your eyes closed. You can feel them. I close my eyes and drift on the steam…
… to be called back to reality by a cold, wet nose judiciously applied to my left ear. Ani stands beside the tub watching expectantly. She licks her muzzle. It is her dinner time. Sometimes words are not needed.