Nothing A Hot Bath Won’t Cure

“Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath, and a glass of wine” ~ St. Thomas Aquinas

“Water is life’s mater and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.” ~ Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

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Berthe Morisot's "A Woman at her Toilette"

I was thinking about baths today. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to have a long soak in our old tub without running out of hot water, which totally defeats the purpose of a long, hot bath. As Sylvia Plath once said, “there must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I can’t think of any of them.”

For years, though, a long, hot bath has been my escape. At one time, and this will sound completely insane, but you would have to have known me at this time, I used to run a really hot bath, filling the tub almost to overflowing. And then I would open a bottle of Spumanti and sip on my sparkling bubbly and talk on the telephone with one of my oldest and dearest friends. The catch here was that I would take a valium first.

You’re probably thinking, ‘my god, she had a real problem.’ Not exactly, it was only a few months after losing my daughter Caitlin, and I was having a very hard time deciding if I wanted to keep trying in this game known as life. So I would numb myself to the pain in the only way that I knew how at the time, and then I would let my friend Kathleen talk me through it. The water was usually cold by the end, and I would have cried myself silly and just go to bed and collapse.

I haven’t done anything like that in years, but when you are in pain, and you feel as if you have nowhere to go, sometimes the only thing that you can do is take a bath, because deep down, you know that if you get in a car, you probably won’t be coming home.

But over the years, the kids have learned to leave me alone when I am in the tub. Of course, when they were much younger, I could only take a long, hot bath after they had gone to bed; otherwise, they would be standing outside of the door saying, “What are you doing in there, Mommy? Why can’t we come in?” which definitely defeats the purpose of trying to have a bit of time to yourself.

Now, my routine is usually something along these lines: hot water plus bath salts, usually lavender or verbena, two or three candles, my small boombox and a few CD’s, depending upon how long I plan to retreat. I might just choose a collection of Bach or Chopin, or maybe one of my compilation disks. Also, I need a cup of tea, and then no bath would be complete without my dog Shakes . . .

Shakes? Yes, unfortunately, Shakes decided when he was very young that anytime I go in the bathroom and shut the door, he has to come in and protect me. And depending upon his mood, might take the whole protection thing a bit too far. For example, if Corey tries to bring my tea in after I’m in the bath, sometimes Shakes nips at his toes as if to say, ‘no one allowed except for me.’

Shakes is a very single-minded Jack Russell. The only thing that he loves more than me, possibly, is a tennis ball, and at one time, he would bring the ball with him into the bathroom and then very deliberately drop it into my bath—over and over again until my bath time was over or I tired of playing bath ball with him.

“Of the water drops that fall/ Into the stone bowl,/You will feel that all the dust/Of your mind is washed away.” ~ Sen-No-Rikyu

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Kurama Onsen Bath House in Kyoto

I have always been intrigued by the concept of the traditional Japanese bath or Ofuro. Because Japan sits between two volcanic belts, the country is replete with many natural hot springs. The tradition of the Japanese bath dates back to the Buddhist Monks around 550 AD, in which the bath was seen more as a religious ritual for purification of the body and soul. Bath houses that use water from a hot spring are called onsen. Bath houses in which the water is heated are called sento.

Bath houses were used not only a ritual cleansing of body, mind, and spirit; they were also used as a means of community socializing since few homes had their own bathhouses. Specific of the onsen or sento would be partitioned off for after-bath socializing, light meals, or tea. The method for a traditional Japanese bath is still quite ritualistic, even though since the mid 20th century, more private homes have their own baths, causing a great decline in the communal bathhouses.

To indulge in a Japanese bath, the bather usually has to perform certain key steps. First, the cleansing of body and hair are done in a separate area of the sento, which allows the communal water to remain clean. The individual bather removes his or her clothes changing room which usually provides bins or lockers for clothes. Afterwards, the bather enters naked into the actual bathroom, which is usually separated by a cloth to keep the bathing area quite warm and steamy, and then bathes and washes completely using a personal cloth brought from home.

Only after bathing in the actual bathing room is the bather allowed to enter the communal bath, which is very hot. Bathers are immersed up to their necks in the hot water, and can relax as long as they like. Often, there is a smaller pool of cool water to jump into before going into the very hot water. After the long soak, most Sentos offer Shiatsu, or massages.

The entire process can leave a person feeling completely relaxed and rejuvenated, but often not willing to do much more afterwards, which is why so many people bathe in the evening.

“We cannot see our reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see.” ~ Taoist Proverb

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"After the Bath, Woman Drying Herself," by Edward Degas

Anyway . . . I was thinking about some of the better bath tub scenes from movies that I can recall. Let’s see . . .

There is the scene in The English Patient in which Katharine and Almaszy are sharing a tub, and she makes Almaszy tell her what he loves and what he hates. It begins as a seemingly light-hearted scene, but ends with Katharine’s anguish when Almaszy declares that what he hates most is “ownership.” He tells her, “Ownership. Being owned. What you leave here you should forget me.” Not a good way to end a bath.

In Legends of the Fall Susannah and Tristan are bathing in a hot spring after Tristan has had to kill a calf that was caught in barbed wire. The scenery is beautiful, but the interaction between Susannah and Tristan is nonexistent because Tristan has already left in his mind.

Witness in which the newly-widowed Rachel gives herself a sponge bath in a standing tub, which John Book comes upon, is one of the most chaste moments of passion in film.

The Fountain contains a passionate bathtub scene between Rachel Weisz and Hugh Jackman that is more romantic than revealing.

The next one isn’t necessarily important to the movie, but I love the bathtub itself in A Perfect Murder, with Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael Douglas, and Viggo Mortensen.

Mustn’t forget Harry Potter’s gigantic bubble bath scene in the fourth installment of the series, The Goblet of Fire.

And just for grins, I thought that I’d throw in the bathtub scene from Fatal Attraction. Moral of the story: make sure the psychopath is dead before turning your back on her.

In reflecting on it, there are far more shower scenes in movies and on television than bathtub scenes; unless you are interested in gore, in which case bathtubs full of blood and gore abound in movies. But that’s not exactly what I would call relaxing.

More later. Peace.

A Little Romance, If You Please

Romance Can Be Subjective, Collective, and Wholly Impulsive

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Most romantic scenes in movies (just my opinion, of course)

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Tristan + Isolde

The English Patient: When Katherine and Almaszy are caught in the sandstorm in the desert, and he begins to tell her of the different kinds of sandstorms. It is an incredibly intimate moment, one that you know will lead to others to come.

Legends of the Fall: When Tristan (Brad Pitt) and Susanna (Julia Ormond) are making love for the first time.

Tristan+Isolde:  The scenes between the two young lovers in the hut on the beach in Ireland before they know each other’s true identity.

The Red Violin: Although this scene may not seem romantic in the traditional sense, the maker of the violin takes the blood of his newly dead wife and child and mixes it with varnish to finish his perfect violin, thereby forever sealing them into a thing of outstanding beauty.

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A Walk in the Clouds

Philadelphia: The scene in which Tom Hanks’s character, Andrew Becket, and his lover, Miguel, played by Antonio Banderas, are dancing together, in fact, any scene in which the two men are together is touching for its realistic depiction of a relationship in which one person is dying and the other person doesn’t know how to deal with it.

A Walk in the Clouds: The scene in which everyone is battling the vineyard fire, and Paul, played by Keanu Reeves, and Victoria, played by Aitana Sánchez-Gijón are wearing the wings. The scene is made surreal because of the smoke and the backdrop of the fire, but it is lovely.

Age of Innocence: Newland Archer (Daniel Day-Lewis) cannot consumate his affair with the Countess Ellen Olenska (Michelle Pfeiffer), so he unbottons her glove and kisses her wrist, one of the most passionate kisses in film history.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves: The scene in which Marian (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) is moving away from Robin across the lake into the mist.

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City of Angels

City of Angels: Toss up between the pear scene between Maggie and Seth, and the scene in which Maggie is riding her bike with her arms flung out and her eyes closed in pure bliss. I know that what happens next is horrible, but for that one monent you know that she is filled with complete happiness.

A Room With A View:  The kiss in the field between Lucy (Helena Bonham Carter) and George Emerson (Julian Sands) is set beautifully.

Brokeback Mountain: The tenderness between the two men is laid bare after Jack dies and Ennis goes to visit his parents. In Jack’s room, Ennis find their two old shirts from Brokeback mountain hanging together. Ennis breathes in deeply and then silently begins to weep the loss of his one true love.

Atonement:  The scene in which Cecelia strips down to go into the fountain to find the pieces of the vase. Her complete lack of discomfort in doing so in front of Robbie shows that there is already something very deep between them, something that will only take a slight movement on the part of either one to make the relationship move to its logical next level. Briony’s interference ruins so many lives that night, something for which she will never be able to truly atone.

Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet (1996):  When the two young lovers (Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes) spend their wedding night together and awaken full of joy. Shakespeare’s lines have never sounded so alive as when they were uttered in this film version.

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The Notebook

Braveheart: The whole film post Murron MacClannough’s murder is William Wallace’s  search for vengeance and atonement for his beloved’s death.

The Notebook: The scene in the rowboat when it begins to rain and Allie and Noah realize that they have been apart for no reason. This only scene in the movie that is more painful and heart-wrenching to wach is the final scene in which the nurse finds the elderly Noah and Allie in bed together for their last, final embrace.

If you haven’t already seen all fifteen movies on this list, and you like a good, cathartic cry every once in a while, then I recommend any of them for an afternoon at the movies. I’m not a romantic comedy kind of person. I either like intense romance or spy/action thrillers. I did not include on my list some of my older favorites, such as The Way We Were, Casablanca, Dr. ZhivagoWuthering Heights, The Great Gatsby, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Out of Africa, Sense and Sensibility, Witness, and The Princess Bride.

I did not include The Princess Bride on my main list because it’s also a comedy, and that sort of negates the romance, but it’s a movie that my daughter and I have watched together a million times, and from which we can recite lines (“wuv, twoo wuv”).

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Wuthering Heights

I’ll admit that I have to be in the mood for one of my crying movies. The English Patient is still my all-time favorite movie for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the movie  is almost as beautiful as the book by Michael Ondaatje, which is rare indeed. A Room With a View by Merchant Ivory always makes me want to go to Italy because the background scenery is incredible. The scene in Legends of the Fall when Tristan crests the ridge with the wild horses and the music soars still gives me goosebumps.

Ralph Fiennes in Wuthering Heights is so dark and brooding, the antithesis of his character Almaszy in The English Patient, in which he is intese, but golden. And for once, Nicholas Cage’s hounddog eyes are perfect for the sad angel in City of Angels. His eyes look like an angel in despair, which is what he is.

Perhaps the one movie that always tears me up beyond belief is Philadelphia. Watching Tom Hanks virtually waste away on screen is so realistic, but the musical score is amazing. When I’m working on the computer and I need heartfelt music (one of my bosses called it music to slit your wrists to, but I think that’s carrying it a bit too far), I play the soundtrack; it’s very cathartic. If you’ve never heard the soundtrack, it contains Bruce Springsteen’s academy-award song, Neil Young, Peter Gabrial, Sade, Indigo Girls, and Maria Callas performing “La Mamma Morta.”

Call me a hopeless romantic, but “in love, there are no boundaries.” I still believe in one true love. I still believe in great love stories. I still cry when love is doomed to fail. I still yearn for the underdog to win. I still want love to conquer anything and everything and to vanquish the cold-hearted and those who would try to come between a love that is destined to be.

So yes, I am a hopeless romantic, and I am a hopeful romantic. And because I know that it’s possible and that it’s out there, I don’t want my children to settle for anything less than their true heart’s desire. I’ve seen too many bad marriages that have started out for seemingly the right reasons, but there was always something not quite right. The smiles were a little too forced. The arguments a little too often and a little too petty. One person definitely dominated the other. Things begin to show through the cracks very soon after the wedding, and the cracks only grew larger.

So I don’t want them to settle. I want them to search until they feel that little flip in their stomachs, the one that doesn’t go away after a few weeks or months and has nothing to do with sex. I want them to feel real romance.

And so ends this compilation of my favorite romantic movies. More later. Peace.