Grass-stained knees and body glassy with sweat... summer- in Athens, Georgia.
Just finished a game of Ultimate Frisbee and was drenched and dirty. Hopped in the Nissan , with Athena, and drove to Ben Burton Park. Once there, grabbed a towel, a bottle of Dr. Bronner's soap, and a clean pair of shorts.
We bounded out of the car and strolled through the park- made our way to the wooded area in the back where the Broad River widens- shallow- over rocky shaols. Found a little cove off the trail and hopped onto the rocks-- to the middle of the river. Athena followed, then waded in and sat down-- a contented plop.
It was early evening so the worst of the heat was fading. Kicked off the flip-flops, took off my shirt, and walked into the water-- next to a large rock where I put my clean shorts, towel, tevas, and soap.
Sank down and sat on the river bottom- cool water rushed over me. What a sublime sweetness- The Broad flowing over burning-hot body... sighed forcefully.. took a look around. The River spread out in front of me-- a wide green vista... foam rushed over rocks, curled and swirled, bubbled and danced. In the distance a white heron sailed just above the current.... meandered lazily and settled on an outcropping.
No one in sight. I glanced at Athena- neck deep and, seemingly, lost in the same sublime reverie: cool flow... a slight breeze rustled in the trees... leaves tickled by the wind whispered in delight. Blue sky overhead..... sank deeper into brown water... up to my neck.... to chin... and then under.
Came up with a sputter and an exhilerated WOOP. Stood up, grabbed the soap, lathered from head to knees--- rubbed soap into my shorts as well... a bit of laundry accomplished at the same time. Stood with goosebumps and then plunged into the river again.. beat and splashed and scrubbed the soap away.
I felt clean--- much cleaner, in fact, than after a normal shower.... perhaps the natural surroundings... the beauty of the place.. or my freedom...provided for a deeper cleansing-- something more than skin deep. Pondered this thought and sat a while longer-- watched the heron tip-toe among the rocks... watched the water flow.. listened to the gurgling and spitting. Athena panted gently.
Stood up, climbed onto the rock, toweled off, and scanned for passersby. Saw no one, so off with the wet shorts and then hurriedly dried and slipped on a clean pair. Once dressed I wrung out the clothes and towel and bundled them together... slipped on the sandals.. and made my way back to the car- wet dog, a very happy wet dog, in tow.
This is how I bathed that summer: The simplest and most sublime pleasure of that first hobo experiment. And so, when I travelled in India a year later I was thrilled to see hordes of Indians bathing in rivers....
and it seemed to me that they- rather than we- had the right idea.