A Midwinter Night’s Steam

How else to beat the winter chills than to indulge in an Epsom-salted bath? Which was exactly the antidote I chose to ward off the biting winds that had seeped into my bones over the course of the day.

Under the cover of darkness, I knelt gently into the cream-colored, oval-shaped basin (a mini-pool really), the steam rising out of the water like a kettle gone haywire past the boiling point. A silhouetted pattern of leaves, vines and geranium buds were stamped onto the ceramic surface.

To be honest, I didn’t bathe in total darkness; in fact, glancing out the ceiling-to-floor windows, I saw light sources flickering at me from every direction. The exterior house beams providing just enough light to constrain me from tumbling headfirst into the tub. Multi-tiered windows of the apartment buildings a mile or so away, created a checker-board effect of glowing light. Airplanes in flight, curving off in many directions after take-off, snuck by stealthily in the dark, flashing white and green lights at me – as if in morse code… or wait, might those have been a pair of eyes blinking at me – belonging to a squirrel perhaps, stopped midway while scurrying across the length of branch on the tree outside?

But the most powerful source of light, the veritable beacons of high-voltage illumination were none other than the floodlights towering over the Olympic-sized hockey rink on the other side of the fence, a stone’s throw away. There might have been enough juice in those bulbs to crank up a few days’ worth of electricity in at a handful of third-world countries.  Like a mermaid slithering back into the water, I lay back and stared up into the bright patch of sky.

After a short soak, I raised myself up again to see small figures skating around a tiny bit of space in that entire expanse of ice and light. What a luxury for those guys! After shooting the puck around, in and around the net, they headed off the rink. Moments later, a man brought his dog onto the ice, watching him slip and stumble for only seconds before leading him back off.

Once again I glided back into the water and watched the cloudy darkness, the stars winking, the branches wavering. All was quiet. Until I heard what sounded unmistakably like the rumblings of a tractor. From my perch, a birds’ eye view far enough from the rink to avoid the risk of being seen, I spotted a tractor that had morphed into a Zamboni-like machine; it was cleaning, watering, scraping the now-emptied rink.

I followed the machine’s movements for a short while, then slumped back in – ever so grateful for the gift of hot water. And then I thought: what would it take to invent a hot-ice rink, a surface solid enough to be skatable – but warm enough to cushion one’s fall without risking injury or frostbite. The only way to get me onto a rink of any kind…

But meanwhile:  Give me a steam, a hot bath, a sauna, even a fireplace; no doubt about it, I’ll take the heat over the alternative anytime.

 

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