Soot smudged on our hands, perspiration from cutting wood, the dirt of living, working, being for a few days or more between baths ... once we’re dirty, we’re ready to get clean. Without a faucet, the process of a warm bath in winter takes some planning, so it’s not something we do each day. But oh my how refreshing that makes it!
It starts outside, of all places, with the shovel and a big pot. Be it fresh powder or icy snowballs, as much snow as possible is condensed into our largest pot. This is carried inside, and placed atop the hot woodstove. Time and heat turn the snow into water; as regular guests to this most basic of alchemy, Ryan and I await the transformation while reading, writing, splitting kindling, carrying in wood, talking, sharing a meal - whatever task or hobby is on the docket at the moment.
In due time the pot once chock full of snow begins to rock back and forth on its warped bottom, now holding a few inches of water. We test it until it’s just right - not scalding, not lukewarm.
Towel, soap, wash cloth, clean clothes...everything is laid out alongside the wash basin while we stand beside the stove. There’s nothing like a crackling fire to keep off the chill of a winter washing. Depending on the goal, the set-up is a little different. When washing my long hair, I prefer dunking my head into the pot of water, akin to an aggressive game of bobbing-for-apples. Otherwise, hot water is poured into our ceramic wash basin. From there, a proper sponge bath gets us squeaky clean, at least for a little while.
Clean clothes are donned, and our towel and wash cloth are hung on the ladder to the loft to dry. The wash basin or pot, depending on which was used, is scrubbed, rinsed, and dried. We carry and dump all bath water outdoors; a divot in the snowdrifts is the clue to where our rock sump pit is located.
We relish the smoothness of our skin, the invigorating feeling of clean pores and fresh layers of long johns. Ryan and I insist to each other that a few days of work and grime is the ideal means to appreciating cleanliness! What is the value of “clean?” To a certain degree, we relish dirt as evidence that we value physical labor and the implication that we are hard workers who meet our work willingly. Without the opportunity to feel a little dirt on our skin, might not the routine of creating a bath change from refreshing to tedious? I suppose many would suggest that’s an unnecessary exaggeration, but we don’t. It is our own personal yin and yang: the ability to get grimy warrants and gives purpose to the process of becoming clean. Without one, what is the other?
March is here, which means time to prune your fruit trees, berry bushes, and ornamental shrubs. Contact Beth via firstname.lastname@example.org for pruning work or garden designs.