Summer showers

Posted on June 21, 2013


“You’re such a hippie!”


(The summer shower art was created & posted here last summer, but the story is new today in honor of the Summer Solstice.)

DK always grinned when he said that to me, usually with a gentle poke to my belly. I don’t think of myself as a hippie, but I didn’t object to it. It made me grin right back at him.

Reasons DK considered me a hippie: I’m an artist, haven’t had a “real” job in decades, my home is colorful and has lots of things hanging from the ceilings, which he liked to look at. It also has lots of doorways but not so many doors. They’re in the garage. I took most of them off when I bought my house and replaced them with beaded curtains, vintage curtain panels and lengths of tie-dyed fabric. I like it. Maybe I’m a gypsy.

I also had a beach in my bathroom for several years, was a backyard chicken farmer  and shower outdoors during summer months. That I bathed in my backyard really tickled Deke.

I’m not sure I ever told him how it came to be that I took outdoor summer showers. It was one of those necessity begets invention deals. One March during the Dark Years, the gas company cut me off. (I was often quite poor during the Dark Years; sometimes, when the electricity company also cut me off – which sucked the most – they were really dark.) So I went without gas until I could pay up my bill, which I did in a couple of weeks. But I didn’t call them out to turn it back on. The weather was getting warmer and I had been getting along fine without it so I just figured, why not just keep going for a while longer? I hardly ever use the oven during the summer and don’t use the stovetop that often. I had an electric teakettle for my morning cups of tea (imperative), a hot plate, microwave and outdoor grill. Cooking covered.

Showers took some getting used to though. I took the dive right in approach instead of the sticking one toe in at a time method. It really is the only way to do it. Psyching myself up was also necessary: I recalled my summer of being a camp counselor – there was no hot water there, either, Gretchen! Don’t be a wimp! Plus, cold water is really invigorating, once you can bring yourself to step under the shower head. Do it!

The whole going-without-gas experiment made me feel very resourceful, very Good Life-ish.

One day I was washing Aslan, my beloved dog, in the backyard. Aslan was big: part Chow, part Golden Retriever, and he did not like getting wet, so it was a bit of a production. I would gather all my supplies, turn on the hose and then drag a most unwilling pet to the soaping spot. I’d put one foot through the handle of his leash and stand on it so he couldn’t run away and then bath and rinse him. I always ended up as wet as him and would have to shower myself afterwards.

Suddenly a cartoon light bulb lit up above my head. Hellllooo, Gretchen: the water from the outdoor hose is much warmer than the water in the indoor shower!

summer cleavage

That was it. For the next five months I bathed and washed my hair outdoors. In mid-October, when the weather grew cool again, I had the gas turned back on and went back to showering indoors like a normal person.

But every summer since, I often take my toilette outdoors. Closing your eyes and letting warm water pour over your body under the magnificent Texas sun is a lovely sensory experience.

As I said, the whole idea delighted DK. One year in late autumn, when we had a cold snap, he texted me, “No more outdoor showers for you!! ;)”

I hope one day he takes the plunge and has an outdoor shower himself, buck naked under God’s glorious canopy, and thinks of me. 

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