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Reinvention and Renewal from the Bathtub

“They say that characters were engraven on the bathing tub of King Tchin-thang to this effect: "Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and forever again."” —  Henry David Thoreau, From Walden, or Life in the Woods


Growing up my father was a forester. He often rose before dawn and would eventually come home after the long day, remove the layers of red-diesel and sweat-stained clothes and soak in a deep tub whilst my mother prepared the evening meal.


Entering water is an act of self-isolation. In order to do so  we are forced to pare-back the unnecessary — to shed all that life has built up around us that we don’t need. We take nothing into the tub except sometimes those things that we want with us when we emerge again — the thoughts and sounds of our family, commonly the words from a favourite book.  Sometimes we take libation too.  Alcohol — like the water itself — is a natural anti-septic to toil.  It is a deep cleanser. More than simply healing past injury it also wipes away falsehood, inhibition and — given brief time — it fortifies our imagination and optimism for the future too. Away from the cacophony of daily life, in relative silence, we hear only those voices that mean the most to us — the tub becomes a conductor for those sounds. The body of water becomes restorative to our own and, as we lay there seemingly inactive, bathing becomes a spiritual act. Immersed and emerging we are recreated. Washed of the past we can continue with fresh promise as a new version of ourselves. Cleansed of all that came before we put on different clothes, we apply cologne, we take the dress watch from the drawer. Until the outside world asks that we return and wear a uniform, we pass the hours enjoying the best fruits of life with family, dressed in the way we want to see ourselves, and want those there with us to remember us too.  As we smile, eat, drink and share that time together into the evening, the hardworking forester becomes the present husband, the present father and a man of leisure.

Credit to Matt Hranek for the photo.

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