One of my favorite methods of dealing with pain, with lack of inspiration or with almost any other problem is a hot bath.
The main ingredient for a truly inspiring bath is a cast iron claw-foot bathtub, which holds heat as no modern plastic tub can do. The one in my basement, though, is somewhat shorter than I am, so a relaxing soak requires some bending. As I sink into the hot water, I often dream of the six foot long tub I discovered in Scotland. Even as short as it is, though, the tub fulfills its promise as a Writing Aid.
Turning the hot water on full, I pour in an herbal mixture that includes eucalyptus, peppermint, wintergreen, clove and juniper oils to soothe muscle aches. Then Iím ready for the ritual.
First one foot-- if the water is too hot, I may have to modify it, and I've scalded my poor right foot several times. If the water is perfect, I step in, sit, cross my legs to fit in the tub, and lie back with a sigh. Sometimes I just close my eyes and visualize how the hot water is soothing muscles and sinuses. Secure in the knowledge that no one will disturb me, I can let my mind free of everything that has concerned me for days or weeks. I may immerse myself completely in the steaming, echoing water, hearing the cast iron ping and bong as it absorbs heat.
I may try to remember the words to the Janis Joplin song ďMercedes Benz,Ē or think of a poem I memorized in high school. When I sit up, spluttering suds, I feel renewed.
When Iím conducting a writing retreat, my first task in the hot bath is to think of the writer I've been working with during the day. What have I failed to mention? Have I been encouraging enough? Are there other resources to suggest, or other handouts I could provide?
Almost always, I capture a thought that I missed while I was intently reading the writerís work, or talking about it, so I've made a hot bath part of every retreat so I donít miss that vital notion. I apply the same logic to my own work when revising: a hot bath often reveals an answer that eluded me during days of walking, thinking, and staring at the computer screen.
Sometimes I take a book to read, placing it on the table behind my head as I scrub or while I meditate. I love to read until the water cools enough to remind me itís time to get out. But I have to exercise care not to drop the book-- especially if itís from the library.
But most often, after a period of reflection or reading, I write.
On a shelf at the head of the tub is a stack of small squares of recycled paper and a pencil. Itís easy to grab one of the little squares, scribble a thought, and toss it on the rug beside the tub.
Thinking is writing, I've often said, and lying back in a tub at the perfect temperature is conducive to thinking.
One idea often sparks another, so that at the end of a truly great bath, the rug is littered with a half-dozen little squares of paper.
After Iím dry, I gather them, stacking them by topic, and carry them to my computer desk, where Iíll find them the next day-- and get a great start on the dayís writing.
Linda M. Hasselstrom
Hermosa, South Dakota
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