Bathing Rituals

There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. ~ Sylvia Plath

I am on my way to the states to celebrate my mother’s birthday. Yesterday, she asked, “What are you looking forward to the most?” My response was, “A hot bath with lots of bubbles.” It’s been years since I’ve taken a hot bath. Cold water showers are refreshing in the tropics, yet there is something soothing and relaxing about soaking in a hot tub of water.

I never realized that most Nicaraguans have never seen a bathtub before. When shown a picture of a bathtub, they have no frame of reference and are puzzled about what it could be. I’m not saying that Nicaraguans are dirty. Not in the least. They are meticulous about their appearance and cleanliness. In fact, they often tell me they feel sorry for the foreign backpackers with their dirty clothes and dreadlocks. “Why do you feel sorry for them?” I ask. “Because where they come from it is too cold to take a shower, so they can never get clean,” they respond.

Our big shower in Nicaragua.

Our big shower in Nicaragua.

The most intimate contact between human and water can be found in cherished bath rituals in Japan. Instead of one room dedicated for bathing, the Japanese bath is designed solely for spiritual cleansing and refreshing the body. My host family explained the Japanese bath ritual when I visited many years ago. First, there is a small stool, similar to a farmer’s milking stool, and a ladle for scooping steaming hot water from the deep tub. The bather, sitting on the low stool, vigorously scrubs away the dirt and cares of the day. Then, using a hand-held shower the bather rinses the dirt and soap down the floor drain. Only after the bather is thoroughly cleansed can he or she enter the steaming deep tub. No soaps are used, and the bather quickly immerses into the commodious tub for a few minutes, exits the tub, rinses again with the hand-held shower, and immerses one’s body again in the steamy tub for a long, spiritual soak. Now that’s my kind of squeaky clean!

zen-bathroom-japanese-tubWhen we lived in the Ozark Mountains, we made a bathtub using a metal cow trough since we had no running water or electricity when we lived in our 1952 converted school bus.  We carried water from our hand dug spring, built a fire under the water trough, and waited for glorious, hot, steamy water. Those were the days of blissful bathing!

metal troughThroughout our lives, we’ve bathed in a variety of ways…under waterfalls…in the rain…in lakes…streams…and bubbling hot springs. Yet, nothing beats a hot tub of water where the bathroom is steamy and the bubbles pile up like mountains of frothy snow. Tomorrow, my mother said she’d have the bubbles waiting for me. What more could one ask for?

Happy bubble trails to you all.