Some time back, I was perplexed by a mysterious percussive sound I heard coming from the tub. Ping, ping, ping. What was it? Upon investigation, I discovered acorns, falling rhythmically from the oak tree nearby, landing against the fresh white steel of the claw-foot tub. Fluttering birdsong, the wind through the leaves, and ping! ping! Filling the tub with the makings of acorn mush.
Ahhh, being naked in the great outdoors, that most human of activities! At our house this experience is not restricted to those under 6 years old. Fresh air, hot water (in my case scalding) and bubbles. Slowly lower yourself into the magical brew of scented oils and exotic soaps. Let the amniotic waters of the tub take you in completely. Groom. Reflect. Soak everything in, especially the sea below you and the sky beyond.
Baptizing yourself as you sink to the bottom, hearing your heart beat, surfacing to the sound of the wind-chimes behind you. Start your day by washing away your worldly cares, scrubbing off any bad ju-ju from your dreams. Emerge from the bath like a freshly laundered god /goddess, refreshed and ready for another round.
Who else takes their binoculars into their bathtub? Watching whales, dolphins, orca, condors and hawks while sitting in a bubble bath can lead you to pinch yourself, wondering at your good fortune. (During a bath I enjoyed with my writing mentor Linda, not one, but two, condors flew overhead, We had the honor of hearing their slow, heavy wingbeats, just above us. "That's as close to angel wings as we'll get," we laughed.) Sometimes, though, the magestic vista is too much, and you may find yourself just watching the tiny birds at the feeder, or the bees on the flowers.
To clarify, it's not always perfect: you have to calibrate the hot water hose just so, in order to have a hot, not tepid bath, and in summer time you have to submerge yourself completely, like some strange fish, to avoid the swarms of mosquitoes. But then, just as you are about to surrender to the tiny flying beasts, a hummingbird will stop mid-flight and drink from the aloe bloom a few inches from your head.
You could say that I live in Big Sur because of a bath tub. Twenty some years ago I was on a wild weekend trip with an outlaw boyfriend. We ended up above Nacimiento Road, in a claw-foot tub clinging to the slope of a forested canyon. While soaking amidst the warm bubbles, I remember nibbling on mint leaves growing all around us. In some strange way I felt I'd arrived, and knew that I would be back for more.
Eventually that led to Esalen Institute and the famous sulfur springs, where my dream of living here percolated into the marrow of my bones. Outdoor tubs, like outdoor beds, just seem to go with the territory; it's a local tradition. When my dear friend Margaret migrated from our community some years back, we gave her a small claw-foot tub, which we'd used to ice champagne, for her garden in the Big City. Now she soaks there with her son, looking north to downtown, and they feel the magic of Big Sur.
After one of our Dionysian Christmas-past holiday dinners, our sweet neighbor Lisa and I escorted our elderly friend Bob Nash home, navigating the path to his cabin in the moonlight. With one of us on each arm, Bob told us about how much, after 50+ years, he still appreciated living in the mystical kingdom of Big Sur.
Giggling, we riffed on how living here inspires you to soak up Nature, absorbing it deeply into your flesh, your spirit. As we looked at the moon low in the night sky above the ocean, Lisa and I came up with a phrase that sums it all up: "I feel like a tea-bag steeped in God!" Yes. It's not "Let us pray," not here. Rather, it's "Let us steep." Let us steep deeply in a hot bath in Big Sur.
Champagne tub shot by Kevin Whan