One of my adventures this summer has been going out and taking it all off under the open sky. No, not vacationing at a nudist colony or skinny dipping with friends. I am far too modest for that.
This summer I indulged a desire to create an outdoor shower in my back yard where, surrounded by protective walls of reclaimed wood and exposed to the blue sky of summer, I can revel like a wild creature in the open air, as I shower off the sweat and dirt of gardening.
Using this shower, some tight place within me lets go, far more than when I take a shower indoors. Maybe it’s due to the fragrance of the cedar flooring, or the songs of birds or cicadas.
Or perhaps this relaxation response is akin to what happens when you engage in the meditative outdoor practice of forest bathing, called shinrin-yokuj in Japan. First developed in the 1980’s by Japanese government agencies of forests and agriculture, forest bathing involves leisurely walks in natural settings outdoors. Participants slow down, tune their senses to the surroundings, breathe deeply and begin to experience stress reduction, lowered blood pressure, raised immunity and elevated mood.
My first taste of this joy came when using the outdoor shower constructed by my sister-in-law and her husband on Cape Cod.
I then became a connoisseur of outdoor bathing set-ups, and studied outdoor showers in books, online and wherever I went. I was reminded that my grandfather had an enclosed outdoor shower at the cottage in Deerfield where we visited when I was a child. Wow, is this an inherited propensity?
After years of planning, I got to work digging, and my builder friends framed the enclosure and hooked up the water. I cut and sanded wood salvaged from a fence at my parents’ former home in Deerfield, and nailed it up for the surround.
Unlike many outdoor showers, this one is not plumbed into the house hot and cold water system. Instead, a hose connects it to the outdoor faucet, and pipes diverge so that some of the water gets heated as it runs through a 100 foot coil of pipe on our black metal shed roof.
Admittedly, the water is not always that hot! But on a sunny day it gets so hot that you have to be careful to mix in cold water to keep from getting scalded! And frankly, in the hot,i humid air of high summer, I prefer a cold or tepid shower to cool down my body temperature. Refreshing!
With the end of the warm weather, I realize I will not be taking any more showers outdoors until next summer. And I will have to drain the hoses and pipes so they don’t burst when the water freezes.
But I will dream of summer, when once again I can enjoy outdoor showers, another part of the good life here on Earth, the pleasure planet.
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