Sunday, December 30, 2012

15th New Thing ~ Water Works

The holidays have me distracted from the New Things.

Or rather, the writing of the New Things. I’m a few postings behind and struggling a bit to get back in the groove. Struggling in any area is not a happy place for me. Struggling with my writing, specifically? I should probably wear a sign around my neck to give people fair warning.

Struggling, struggling….

Then it occurs to me....Of course! The best thing I can do to get myself back on track?

Take a bath.

I've never had much success with traditional meditation. 

You know, “Ommmm?” Meditation. Lotus position. Transcendence, enlightenment and all that.

I love my mind. My imagination. I do.

Most of the time.

Sometimes it's genius, my imagination. Divine and inspired.
Other times, it's multiple-personality chatter. Repetitive and ridiculous. "Riddikulus!" My imagination throwing an evil party at my expense

I have absolute capacity for both.

What my mind can rarely do, however, is stop. That phrase "empty your mind," makes me laugh every time. The idea of meditation is appealing to me. I tried it years ago. When I really could have used a clear mind. A healing escape.

Some 'meditation show-offs' say, it's natural that your mind wanders during meditation. When this happens, just make mental note that it's happening and get back to the meditating. "Empty your mind."

So I tried.

And when my mind began to make the grocery list, I thought "Oh look, my mind is making my grocery list. How interesting." Mental note.

Then I went back to trying like crazy to empty my mind.

"Oh, now I'm thinking about what time I need to pick up Ciara from dance. Interesting."

Empty your mind. EMPTY YOUR MIND!

"Oh, now I'm thinking about when Colin's science project is due,” I made another mental note.

“Interesting, again. What is my problem? Meditate ALREADY, Bitch!”

I was quite unsuccessful at meditation. But I did become an expert at making mental notes.


Generally, people think of baths and showers to be for the same purpose: Hygiene.

And most adults I know, think that showers are preferable. More ‘grown-up.’ Functional. That baths are for kids.

Of course, you know what I think about adults. We’re idiots. Taking ourselves so seriously.

I do find showers perfectly adequate for washing, lathering, scrubbing purposes. But not for healing, restorative, soul nourishing purposes.

Two relevant facts:

• The bath room of my current residence doesn’t have a tub, only a shower. And the space does not allow for a tub to be installed.

• Because of this, I've had only one bath in over a year’s time. Until recently.


Weeks before I saw clearly that the outdoor bath tub New Thing was possible, I happened to spend some quality time in a beautiful hotel. With a beautiful bath tub. And other forms of water nearby. I spent my fair share of time in that bath tub, the hot tub downstairs and the hotel pool.

The incredible endurance-testing heat of the hot tub. Sweat beading on my nose and forehead. A delicate mist bubbles into the air just above the surface, sparkling, champagne-like, all around. And just when I can't stand the heat any longer, I move to the expanse of the swimming pool. A little dizzy from the transition of hot to cold, cool relief washes over me as I swim to the other end.

Then back in the hotel room, it's time for a bath. The smell and feel of chlorine is thick and stiff on my skin.

The humidity-heavy room is set with the perfect accompaniments: Champagne, low lights, candles flicking reflection on the shiny white tile, quiet music from the next room. Rich, fragrant lotions and creams. A pristine, white, terry robe, waiting.

Visible humidity swirls slow with a draft along the ceiling. Growing warmer and heavier with airborne water. The vapor calling the toxins from beneath my skin.

After being out of the bath habit for way too long, I needed this unexpected reminder. Oh, the indulgence of a leisurely and luxurious bath.


Just after the Flash Mob New Thing, I was standing in my driveway talking to Laurie, my neighbor, friend and half owner of my house. She asked how the New Things were going. I explained how thrilled I’d been about the Flash Mob. How unexpected it was. Something I’d not thought possible. And how the universe dropped it right into my lap. (Well, actually, Dellie’s lap. And then Dellie, in her sweet, organic generosity, shared it with me.)

“A Flash Mob! One of the three things I thought would be so difficult to pull off,” I said

“What are the other two things,” Laurie asked.

“A ride-along in a fighter jet and to have an outdoor bathtub.”

“We have a bathtub in storage.” She pointed to the shed behind us, next to her car.

“You do?”

“Yeah. A claw foot bathtub.”

“Really? No way,” I said.

“Way!” she said. Okay, Laurie didn’t really say ‘way’ but something very close.

I asked if she and Jim would be interested in the tub being set up somewhere on the property of my place. The top deck. The lower deck. The driveway. ANYWHERE.

“I don’t see why not. I’ll talk to Jim. He can come over and you guys can pick the best spot.”

Sure enough, within a couple days, Jim and I were walking around the property, making plans.

Now I’m not sure how much an old claw foot tub weighs but in my rookie opinion, we’d need a few able-bodies. (When I did a Google search for how much they weigh, someone commented “If you flip it over, the weight might be stamped on the bottom.” Now if I could just flip over a claw foot bath tub, I probably don’t need to know how much it weighs.)

I made a call to recruit help moving the heavy, bulky tub down the hillside and we tried coordinating schedules. But coordinating and schedules are over-rated.

A couple Saturdays later, I heard some rustling outside my house. I didn’t think much of it. It was a dry autumn day and Laurie is very handy with a weed eater. A leaf blower. A shop vac. A circular saw. I imagined her outside involved in a project.

A bit later that day, I discovered what that project was. Laurie and Jim, had moved the tub from the storage shed, over to the side of my house and down the hill to the lower deck. Holy cow! Apparently, Jim & Laurie are just the alter egos of a lesser known Dynamic Duo. A team of crime fighters with bathtub superpowers? Terry cloth towels for capes.

Jim was in and out of my house a couple times that afternoon, rigging the plumbing for the tub to have hot water.

My original thought was, when I wanted to fill the outdoor tub, I’d slip a garden hose through the window in the laundry room and hook up to the washer’s hot water faucet. Fill the tub. Then when I was done, hook the washer back up until next time. Opening and closing stubborn windows. Coiling and uncoiling the inevitably uncooperative garden hose. Happily jumping through the necessary hoops to make it work.

But Jim, was having none of such small thinking. 

He drilled a hole in the side of the house, tapped into the water line along the washer wall and set up a hot water faucet outside.

Then he ran a line beneath the upper deck and down to the tub, with a shut-off nozzle at the tub end. So much easier and more convenient than what I was thinking. And I’m so grateful. If you’re going to do something, do it all the way. 

The dry autumn day turned wet.

I was a little sad that I’d missed the pictures of the trek down the hill with the cast iron tub. I asked Laurie if they could do it again so I could get a couple nice action shots. She said no.

The entire project was complete in one short afternoon. Thanks, Jim and Laurie. Otherwise known as the Clawfoot Crusaders. Fighting evil and righting wrongs with cast iron bathtubs everywhere!

Parental Advisory: 
(Hey, it worked for metal bands in the 80's)
The remaining material in this blog post may contain graphic material, including offensive language (oh, wait, that was earlier) and unedited pictures of a 50 year old woman in a bath tub. 

Viewer’s discretion and all that. I’m just sayin’. 

There are a few very special things in life that resonate so deeply within me, they seem to speak directly to my spirit. As I’ve written recently, gratitude is one of these things.

Water is another. 

Soaking in water is my zen. My yoga. My prayer. 
The only place I've ever truly meditated. Happily and naturally. 
With no meditation obscenities flying about.

Mango Mimosa not mandatory for meditation,
but blissful for a bath. 

Any bath is good. And I knew the first bath I took in my outdoor tub would be incredible but honestly? I had no idea!

I just kept thinking, “How cool is this? I’m taking a hot bath. On my deck. Overlooking Puget Sound.”

Wardrobe change.

The water feels amazing. My skin, my spirit, my body, my senses are so happy. I scoot down so my head goes under water. Only my knees and face are left exposed to the air. I let my hands float, my knuckles bob at the surface.

I close my eyes, dip my head a fraction deeper so the water seeps over most of my face. Pooled on my eye lids. I can hear the air of my breath travel in and down, filling my chest. Exhale. Inhale. Like I’m listening from the inside.

With each rise and fall, the water moves like the subtle shift of a sleepy tide. I fill my lungs with cool air, the water is pushed away, displaced. I let the air escape, as slow and long as I can, the water returns to cover my body fully again.

My ears under the water. the world is muffled and cushioned away. The deep, wise voice of the earth’s core. Sounds so friendly and loving. The water holding me safe. I hear a distant rumble, Murmurings of the earth, deep and wise. She reassures me without trying.

Water spirit speaks to me. Clarifying my peace and surety. My senses deprived of all things except the water and my breath. I'm not sure I'm ever as unconditionally loved as when I'm submerged in water. Held safely by her warmth, her strength and unwavering support.

Actually holding me aloft. Overruling the confines of gravity.

I love the way my hair waves with the gentle ebb.

I slip back up to sitting position. 
My red painted toes peeking out at me from the other end of the large white tub. 
Happy toes. Taking a bath in my outdoor tub.

The first weekend with the new tub, I indulged myself with two long soaks in a single day.

The first, in the morning after breakfast, with a cup of coffee at my side. The sun working its way toward mid-day. The bath is fresh and revitalizing; I don’t want to get out but eventually, the heat of the water and my coffee has faded away.

Then another bath, after dark, with green, blue and white twinkle lights strung in the nearby trees, a thin canopy over the tub and deck. And more lights strung under the wooden bench and out of sight. They cast a mysterious glow across the wood of the deck and in the surrounding ferns. My first night bath, outside.

It was eerie and wonderful at the same time.

The mostly-full moon glows overhead. Scattered, wispy white clouds move and mingle in the sky. The steam from my bath water, rises and disappears into the air, like from a cauldron. There’s incredible silence.

The distant halo of city lights over Steilacoom and Dupont.
An airplane far over me, with its lights plowing through the clouds.
An owl glides over the beach below.
I'm treated to three moons. The one in the sky. The one that reflects from the water of Puget Sound and the one glowing before me, on the surface of my bath.
Then piano music plays from the art/music studio next door. Feels like it was especially for me.
Moonlight Bath Sonata in B Major?

I wish it’d been possible to capture the truth of the moment in a picture. That night bath. But I know enough about photography to be certain that I might end up with an amazing picture but it would not come near the reality.

Speaking of pictures, I’m going to confess something here and now that makes me feel quite vulnerable to admit.
It’s kind of a cultural expectation, a social cliché that women in their 40’s, 50’s, 60’s be hesitant to have their picture taken. (Especially in a bath tub.) That we are to shy away, stand behind people or furniture. Hold our hand up to block the camera, turn our head away. We’ve all done it. But this mentality simply contributes to the worship of the Golden Calf of Youth. The false god. The empty vessel. Screw that!
adore the pictures of me in the tub. 

And because I'm crazy about these pictures, I'm having the most difficult time narrowing this post down to just a few shots. These pictures are beautiful; I love looking through them. And it's my blog so I’m including an abundance. Enough with the limits of small thinking.

There’s only one problem with the outdoor bathtub: having to get out. 
I hate that part.

I highly recommend an outdoor bath experience to everyone. (Hell, I recommend an indoor bath everyday!) My tub has been used by a couple different guests. I'm happy to share. Honored. Prior to it being installed, I told Laurie that I hoped she and Jim would use it as well. She’s mentioned something about it feeling intrusive. Nonsense. It should be used as much as possible. It's a shame not to. I was recently away for almost two weeks. Upon my return, as I was filling the tub, it occurred to me that I should have made a point of telling them to use it while I was away. Maybe they did. I hope so.

In my world, baths and showers do not serve the same function. 
 The water of a bath has completely different properties than that for a shower. 
The water feels different. Smells different. Soothes different. 
I do not take a bath for hygiene purposes but for the healing qualities. 
No soap, no shampoo, no scrubs. 
Yet so much more cleansing and refreshing. 
A quieting soul sanctuary from the ordinary all around us.
Talk about transcendence.

An Outdoor Bath: 15th New Thing!

This is what the morning looks like from the tub.

This is what the morning-after looks like from the tub.

In my own defense, there are 290 pictures that I'm not posting here. 

Sing hey! For the bath at close of day

That washes the weary mud away!

A loon is he that will not sing:

O! Water Hot is a noble thing!

O! Sweet is the sound of falling rain,

And the brook that leaps from hill to plain;

But better than rain or rippling streams

Is Water Hot that smokes and steams.

O! Water cold we may pour at need

Down a thirsty throat and be glad indeed;

But better is Beer, if drink we lack,

And Water Hot poured down the back.

O! Water is fair that leaps on high

In a fountain white beneath the sky;

But never did fountain sound so sweet

As splashing Hot Water with my feet!

(J.R.R Tolkien  - The Fellowship of the Ring / Chapter "A Conspiracy Unmasked")

Monday, December 24, 2012

Previously on Barbie's 50 New Things....

New Thing #13 Recap:

Sequoia and I applied for our passports at the downtown Tacoma post office. 

We were last seen eagerly watching our mailboxes......

Over the next few weeks, I kept forgetting that I was waiting for my passport. And when the thought did come to mind, I'd get a little worried. That maybe it would never come. Maybe I had filled out the papers incorrectly. Or my information didn't check out. Maybe "they" discovered the truth about me. That I'm really a twelve-year-old girl, goofy and without a clue, child of gypsies, masquerading as a grown, albeit short, woman.

Then one day it came. It came! "My passport is here!"

I kept thinking of the movie, The Jerk with Steve Martin.

Navin R. Johnson: The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here!
Harry Hartounian: Boy, I wish I could get that excited about nothing.
Navin R. Johnson: Nothing? Are you kidding? Page 73 - Johnson, Navin R.! I'm somebody now! 

So, appropriately enough, with Magic Child from Middle Earth on my lap, 
we open the official envelope from the U. S. Government...

My hands are a little excited (shaky)....

Sequoia gets it started, softening the corner...

We work together...taking our time...

....until BB can't stand it anymore and rips right into it....

We open the front cover of the pretty little blue book..... and start to read...
"Once upon a time, there were two brave travelers...

The new passport is here! The new passport is here!
I'm somebody now!

It's a strange feeling. Possessing my passport. I'm not nearly the travel enthusiast that Ciara has always been. There are locations on the planet that some people long to visit. Something in their chest pulls them over borders and across oceans. Fascination with foreign lands.  I understand and respect this nature but I do not exactly share it. In fact, there are some very popular and cliche destinations that I could live my entire life without visiting and never miss.

What I do long for, however, is to test my courage and my proclivity for comfort. And that will involve international travel. With Sequoia leading the way.

The possibilities are wide open.

"Yes, yes," wondered Sequoia. "But let's see if it tastes like a passport?"

Friday, December 7, 2012

14th New Thing ~ Barefoot Bordeaux

Except in the classic I Love Lucy episode, I wasn't sure if it was a real thing.
Grape Stomping.

So I went to Mike's Holy Oracle (Google) and found that, yes, some vineyards in Washington (and elsewhere) have festivals and events, in which stomping of grapes is a part. Good to know. It would make a great New Thing!

I intended to pin down my schedule, travel to a Washington vineyard and participate. But it kept not happening. Apparently my intention was not all that solid. This is what happens when you're careless.

I mentioned to Ciara, a few months back, that I thought it would be cool to stomp grapes.
She asked, "Do you want to make wine with us?"
"I do," I said.

Time went by and I hadn't really thought about it.
Then near the end of October, Ciara called.
"The grapes are here. Do you still want to make wine?"
"I do!"

They'd planned an autumn road trip to his grandmother's house in Oregon to get grapes. But the trip didn't work out, so Ephraim's family brought grapes back for him.

Drinking is not a significant part of my life. Only occasionally do I drink alcohol in any form. It's usually a side note and not the main point, at all. I love this about me. 

My primary desire with this New Thing was to feel the grapes ooze and squish beneath my bare feet. Between my toes. (My nose crinkles, thinking about it.) So making wine was going to be a bonus  outcome of the New Thing.

The evening after Ciara called to say the grapes were here, she and her family arrived at my house with these. 

My large wooden wine barrel was in the shop so we used a large Rubbermaid container instead.

Now, some people might be a little squeamish about the idea of stomping grapes. Fun feet frivolity is not for every one. I understand, but it's definitely for me. I was pretty sure that the alcohol content of the wine would kill any bacteria that was caused by whatever method used for pressing the grapes. And it seemed to me foot stomping those grapes would be the most fun method.

When I looked around on-line, I found a couple forums and bulletin boards with the question about whether it's sanitary or not. Mostly there were comments about how very few places do it this way any longer, except as a novelty. And that when wine is stomped with clean feet, the acid and/or the alcohol content was enough to make it sanitary.

On YahooAnswers, to the question, 
"Is wine really made by barefoot people stomping on grapes?"
this was my favorite answer: "Not so much today as it's too labor intensive to be profitable any more, but that was always the traditional way. Clean feet stomping wine are no different than clean hands kneading bread dough."

In fact, I'm going to speculate that stomping grapes is more sanitary than a good deal of the food preparation that goes on behind the scene at our favorite restaurants. Mostly I try not to think about that.

Before we each took our stomping turn, we soaked our feet in a bleach water solution.

I stomped first.

Stomping the juice out of grapes is not as easy as it sounds. It was slippery. And quite cold. After just a few minutes, my feet were freezing.

And the balance was kind of a tricky thing. I'm guessing because we weren't using a bigger container. To really stomp, I had to hang onto someone near by, or clutch the edges of the container. I had pictured myself marching in place, like I was listening to a hardy John Philip Sousa song.

Second to stomp was Sequoia. The six month old.

We were just going to put her sweet little feet into the container, swish the grapes around a little bit and get a few cute pictures. Right? Wrong.

Now you need to know that this child is very sweet tempered. She is not one to just start screaming without warning. She's the type who thinks on a thing, for a moment. Then when her face begins to melt into that pre-cry, you know she's decided she has something to say about a situation. That she's considered all angles and we do indeed have a problem.

You can always see Sequoia's discontent coming. Or so I thought.

Apparently cold, wet grapes are the exception to her exceptional disposition. The instant we let her toes touch the grape-mush, she wailed. She screamed as loud and suddenly as I've ever heard her scream. SHE DID NOT LIKE IT! She did not need to think about anything.

Then the moment we pulled her feet from the vat of grapes, she was fine. Completely content; like nothing happened.

So as a compromise, we brought the grapes to her. Squishing them against her feet in our hands. Taking a few pictures. She didn't mind this at all. Whew!

Ephraim and Ciara took their turns stomping. Ciara worked the hardest, by far. After Lucy Ricardo's own heart. She kept at it for a long time. I'm not sure why I thought we'd just stomp around in the 'vat' a few times and all the juice would just squish happily out of the grapes. Giving up their vintage ghost.

And stomping the grapes wasn't even the most difficult part. Straining and filtering out all the skins, bits of stem, seeds, squeezing the pre-wine through layers of cheese cloth turned out to be way, WAY tougher than I'd imagined. No wonder wine can be so expensive!

And we made a huge grape juice mess.

There are some things, New Things, that I want the experience of but in all practicality, I'm probably not going to make it my new profession. This is how it was with grape stomping/wine making. I didn't memorize each step of the process and couldn't write them out for you here. Mostly, I followed directions.

Eph said "Do this," so I did that. (That's a lie. I don't think I've ever heard Ephraim boss anyone around. But when I asked, "What's next?" He then replied, "Do this." So I did.)

It was relaxing, just moving with the flow, letting Ciara and Ephraim concern themselves with such technicalities as alcohol content and amounts of sugar and yeast and fermentation and such....

This was a cool thing. Looked kind of like a test tube. 

Some official instrument. I can't remember the name. 
Something 'ometer. It spins around and indicates potential alcohol content. 
I think.

 I seem to remember the number 13. But that might be my bias. 
Whatever it's purpose, it was fun to watch.

We were up into the wee hours.
There were grape spills and stains everywhere.
My fingers were purple for days after. 
My hands felt like sandpaper; I think from the acid in the grapes.

Aside from the stomping and the wine making, there was an additional thing that I found quite fascinating:
The Green Globes.

I've never really thought about what a concord grape looks like naked. Without its skin.

Turns out, inside the skin of concord grapes are these really cool green, gooey globes. 
They were such a bright and beautiful translucent color, like they would glow in the dark. 

And I loved the tactile experience. 
Rolling the slippery gelatinous gems between my fingers. They felt like....well, I don't know exactly. 
But I kept thinking they'd make a great 'special effect' in a haunted house.
Dragon tadpoles.
Alien eyeballs ... or something.


There are some things in life, many things I believe, for which the longing, the anticipation, the waiting . . . adds to the pleasure. Accentuates the satisfaction.

By their very nature, a few of the New Things are "Wait, wait, wait and see......"
The writing contest: winners will be announced in January 2013.
Applying for my passport: waiting until it arrives, for it to feel real. (You know the old saying, "Don't count your legal government documents before they hatch.")

And also grape-stomping wine making.

Now we see if we end up with homemade red wine (Plan A) or homemade red wine vinegar (Plan B).
I'll get back to you on whether I end up pouring this pretty and gurgling red liquid into a goblet or over arugula and other wild greens.

Either way, I got to stomp grapes. #14