Ruth Zavitsanos

August 14, 2014

Motionless In Mud

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Motionless in Mud

I’m trying new things these days. Some are on my “bucket list.” These are the ones that make me feel giddy all over. For instance, my recent “bucket list” adventure involved touring a Napa Valley winery. It proved to be worthy of “bucket list” status. I learned a great deal about what makes a fine wine and what I personally enjoy in a glass of wine in the beautiful surroundings of what my husband refers to as “farming for millionaires.”

Just north of Napa my family and I stayed in a modest (I’m thinking that back in the late 60s early 70s it would’ve been first rate) resort that boasted natural hot springs filled with minerals. These springs enter above ground at a temperature of 160 degrees. Of course, the pool guy said they regulated it to be about 100 to 104 degrees. There’s something to be said about floating on a noodle and knowing that the temperature along with rejuvenating minerals is nature’s gift.

I’d been suffering from a bout of poison ivy since I arrived in Northern California. It seems to find me every July and is as annoying as a fly buzzing around dinner. Only there’s a quick fix for that fly-an open door or deadly swat. Personally, poison ivy persists for a solid two weeks no matter what I do. Applying anti-itch ointments and taking Benadryl offered little relief though I walked in a blanket of menthol and quite the daze. The chilly saltwater of the northern Pacific Ocean soothed (I was the only one in the ocean without a wetsuit on and it felt so good that I went back at dusk for a final “rinse”) but a week later and my itch still managed to spread. That’s when I decided to try something new that might just prove to be a cure, too. 

The resort offered “Mud Baths” and advertised specials for “couple mud baths.” I tried to entice my husband.

“Wait, we go in a tub of mud for how long?”

“Like 15 minutes.” I replied, glancing at the brochure.

“Not for me.”

I admit I wondered if it was for me after recently being grossed out by a hug he gave me at the completion of a Mudder Run. Then I recalled the mud pies I made as a kid. I’d grab an old tin and, after a heavy rain, fill it with thick mud adding swirls with my fingers. “Mom, I made a mud pie.”

“That’s nice,” she’d say and when I showed it to her up close, she quickly added, “take it outside before it gets all over the rug.”

Surely the memories alone would be worth it. Making mud swirls with no rugs to worry about.

I showed up for my appointment and was escorted to a room where I took off  (most) of my clothes and donned a robe and flip-flops.

“Please take off any jewelry,” the young assistant said.

I followed her to a back room.

“The temperature is 100 degrees. Go in slowly. I’ll check on you in a few minutes.”

She left and I looked at the sunken tub filled with black mud. On the wall was a fan, but it did nothing to take away the vile smell. I felt like I’d invaded a party of cows that had rolled in manure before returning to a musty barn. I decided to step in fast, sit down and lean back. Once I was two feet deep in mud (I know this because I measured one foot on top of the other) I covered myself with the mud up to my neck. I’d read that Cleopatra often took mud baths consisting of mud from the Dead Sea.

After a minute, I attempted to lift my leg and instead of being relaxed my mind took me to a dark place. In it, I was buried alive. I realized the cranking fan from above, nasty sewer like smell, and heavy hot mud made me feel like I’d been in a bad western and this was my punishment for not serving grub on time. I looked at the clock and told myself I could continue down a path of torturous thoughts or try to find the benefits in this therapeutic treatment for body and mind. I lifted my hand and started to make swirls. The mud was so hot and thick that they didn’t begin to look like the ones I’d made on those youthful mud pies.

A voice, “How are you doing,” came closer and the young assistant offered a cold glass of water. I sipped through the straw to the last drop. “I’ll be back to check on you,” she said and left. I looked around and realized why they advertised a discounted couples mud bath. Though it would be nice to talk to someone. I knew my husband would’ve been long gone. “I have a stagecoach to catch.”

The assistant returned. “You can shower off and get in the mineral bath.” I went in the tub filled with lavender induced bubbles, realizing the worst was over.

Back at the hotel room, I told my family it was one of those “First and last” times for a mud bath. Later, while my husband and I were in a store I shared more details on the mud bath. “I was getting claustrophobic and the smell was horrible. And the mud was thick, heavy and hot. 

A man about our age asked, “Did you do a mud bath?”

“Yes.”

“My wife and I did a couples one when we were here last time. No way would I do one again.” We all laughed.

That night I didn’t wake up to scratch or apply cream. And the following day, I discovered all the scratch marks and irritated skin had vanished or greatly diminished. Eureka! I’d found my poison ivy cure. Obviously there are benefits to a hot spring mud bath. Have you ever had a mud bath?IMG_2810

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