Pele (goddess) / Pelle (skin)

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Goddess Pele via Etsy

The day of the Vernal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, I run a bath in the evening for the first time in 6 weeks.

I am a dedicated bather. I’ve been known to luxuriate in a bath first thing in the morning, in the middle of the day, and at midnight. I light 7 or 11 or 14 candles, placing them near corners, curves, walls and mirror to better reflect and refract. Their soft flickering is the sole light source. There is no sound, except perhaps an Youtube track of rain and thunder, if the mood takes me. I stay submerged for an hour, two hours, skin shrivelling while heart expands. There is a book alongside the bath, and my journal, but often these remain untouched and all I do for the duration is breathe and watch the water play over my body and over itself. Sometimes I whisper, or sing. I become still. Sweat beads on my face and I don’t move to wipe them away. I am cleansed, whilst the sweet smell of me lightly perfumes the fog.

This day, I bathe to mark the beginning of something new. I have just pressed publish on my first blog post. I bathe to surrender, to baptise myself anew in the possibility of this written expression. The familiar ritual stirs something ancient inside me. Mirror and window cloud. Candlelight throws through glass to splay in fractals, reminding me of a description of a bullet entry point I once read in a Dr Kay Scarpetta novel.

It’s always a sensory experience, but this day what I notice most is the steam rising from my limbs. I don’t know if it’s because the air in Florence is cooler, but on this day the smoke is swirling, alive. Sinking down into the water, tensions release. I feel my sinuses fill with heat and my mouth opens of its own accord, slowly, inexplicably gaping in deep pleasure as I sigh.

I lift an arm, a leg, high into the sky. Marvelling at the way the heat emanates from my skin body, as if it’s a precious geological site (it is), like Rotorua or Yellowstone National Park, containing hot spots and steaming pools and ancient volcanoes (it does). Underneath the surface, molten lava swirls, a terrifying, beautiful lake of potential. It sometimes erupts from my eyes, or my mouth, through my fingers or from my loins. Releasing energy from deep within. Sometimes violent and sudden, sometimes sweet and fluid, sometimes stubbornly viscous. But always alive, in motion, even when it’s hidden. Even when all seems like cold dark stone. Even when I say I’m okay. Even when I’m not.

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