Catatonic water

Some people went home for the Thanksgiving holiday. I went to bed.

And can you blame me? There are so many reasons to be tired. It’s go-go-go all day long, working and grocery shopping and playing with Google doodles. I need some serious rest and relaxation, and last month’s bonus hour of turnback- the-clock sleep just didn’t cut it. So I decided to go to the local hot springs for the very first time.

Why not? Nothing says “relaxation” like slipping into a pool of hot water — water that stains the earth the full color spectrum of a 1980s San Diego Padres jersey — with a dozen or so strangers. But hey, at least they’re not naked!

I figured no nudity was a given. I mean, we’re not in some exotic European backwater here. But plenty of posted signage around the facilities reminds you to wear a swimsuit because your body is a shameful slab of flesh that no one wants to look at, unless one is a perv or you are really hot.

Now, if there is one place in the area where all kinds of people could go naked, these hot springs seem like the place. We are already submerging all our nakedness bits in the same pools of water. Breathing the same steamy sauna air. Stepping on the same dressing- room floor when I don’t get my bare foot back in my flip-flop fast enough. There’s really not much else for us to share. Could I actually pick up any more contamination through my eyeballs?

This being the United States of America, the answer is, “Hellz yes I could. I can absorb all you strangers and your shared bodily slough through my skin and my nostrils. But I durst not absorb the image of your nudity through my eyeholes into my soul, where it might — nay, where it wouldst — taint my fragile virtue.”

Don’t blame this repressive opinion on me. I’m merely thinking the thoughts of my culture. And if this is our cultural opinion of the human body — which, let’s be honest, it is — then it’s small wonder that my own needs some soothing care and healing warmth in what is, essentially, volcano spit.

I’m hardly hyperbolizing. There’s water underground, toasting itself atop the earth’s molten belly. The earth hocks it back up like a sulfuric loogie. And then we take baths in it.

Neverminding the obvious conclusion that we are seated atop a potential eruption— it’s pretty friggin’ empowering to soak in volcano saliva. Or maybe that’s just me, since I love volcanoes. I’m basically a volcano expert. And everything I know about volcanoes, I made up as a kid while drawing dinosaurs. Volcanoes were everywhere in dinosaur times, and they were always erupting. You couldn’t sneak past a Eodromaeus without stepping on an exploding volcano. If volcanoes are like the earth’s zits, only awesomer, then the prehistoric earth looked like my face at fourteen.

But where Clearasil still doesn’t do the trick for me, the earth has cleared its skin right up. It has only the occasional stress breakout in places like Hawaii. And if these hot springs are as relaxing as advertised, maybe they’ll do a thing or two for my own complexion.

Yet it was with no such hopes of miracle cures that I dipped into the steaming tub on a clear autumnal afternoon. I just wanted to relax for a few minutes, ease away my tension, and leave feeling lighter, running faster, and jumping higher.

Even so, I realized right away that this place was truly removed from the world. Here, no one was talking about the election results, because no one was talking, period. No errands to run. No to-do lists, no niggling work assignments. No looming apocalypses. No judgmental cultural norms making me shield my man-nips from public view. All there was was… patience.

I could bob in these pools and heal myself for as long as I wanted, or until closing time, or until I couldn’t take it anymore because the water is really hot. But I was on my own sched. No one else could tell me what to do, dammit. I gifted my body the warmth of the earth and a break from time. Now, with my newfound relaxation, I’m going to sleep like Rip Van Winkle. Please don’t wake me up until the holidays are over.

Award-winning writer Zach Hively writes from Durango, Colo. He can be read and reached through and on Twitter @zachhively.

From Zach Hively.