Monday, December 7, 2009

Lessons from the Bathroom Window

The primary bathroom in our house is what one might euphemistically call diminutive, or perhaps, petite. It is also very very dirty much of the time--gross, bordering on disgusting. I can think of only one or two of our friends who might even dare to step into our shower in its everyday state. I like to think that we in our family are all very daring because we do so on a regular basis. This might even be our family's favorite version of flirting with danger. Perhaps we could call it "Extreme Showering" and make a name for ourselves.

But our bathroom has its positive features, too. Chief among them is the window in the shower.

It's quite probable that our house, having been built in 1918 as a summer cottage, did not start out with indoor plumbing, at least not the kind we think of today--the flush toilet, sink, and bathtub hitched to water pipes kind of plumbing. According to at least one internet source for the history of plumbing, "even in 1921, only one percent of US homes had indoor plumbing," that despite the boom in bathroom technology following World War I. Whose to say whether our now-bathroom was even a bathroom in its first incarnation? Maybe our our diminutive bathroom was once a baby baby's room, or a linen closet (we could use one of those).

Still, this is all beside the point, which is: the window in our shower. The tub that hosts our shower runs across the entire back wall of the bathroom, and the length of that entire wall  (the narrowest dimension of the bathroom's petite rectangle) is not even as long as a standard sized bathtub.

Several years ago when we looked into replacing the tub with a modern one-piece tub-shower invention, we discovered that we have a three-quarter-sized tub, and those basically don't exist any more. There certainly are not any ready made three-quarter-sized tub-shower "surrounds" at Home Depot. So we had some nice tile put around the shower walls, and a vinyl window replaced the wooden-framed one that, quite understandably, wasn't faring all that well being drenched by water mingled with soap and shampoo scum at least twice a day.

The new window has a frosted pane on the bottom for modesty, even though in all honesty none of our neighbors really has a view of the bathroom. The top panel is clear, or as clear as can be when it doesn't get cleaned very often. It also gets pretty well steamed up when the shower is running.

Still, even at its most steamy, the upper portion of the window lets in lots of light and color. On a clear day a hint of dazzling blue sky will catch my attention mid-shower, and I love wiping off the steam to have a look outside (usually while the water is still warming me up or rinsing me off). Sky, clouds, patterns of tree trunks, branches, leaves, snow--the window offers up visual delights that add to the pleasures of my morning routine.

Then there's the window sill--a replacement sill that was added along with the vinyl window. It's maybe three inches deep, and it is lined with shampoo and conditioner bottles. (My daughters look at me really strangely when I try to call conditioner "creme rinse," but . . . hey, that's what they called it back when my mother put it in my long hair that tangled way too easily.)

This morning I took an informal inventory of bottles, reminding myself for the umpteenth time to ask Anna to throw away (that is, rinse and recycle) the ones that are truly empty, of a flavor now out of favor, or for whatever other reason no longer wanted.

Here's the current census of bottles on our bathroom window sill, from left to right: two semi-translucent red with dark liquid; two translucent pink--one with magenta liquid, one with purple; three opaque purple; one clear and colorless with pale green liquid; one oddball thing of body wash; and one opaque blue. This census doesn't include the five random bottles and tubes that occupy the wider corner ledges of the tub itself.

When I looked at the window sill during my shower this morning, the first seven neon-colored bottles reminded me of a row of exclamation points that a young adolescent girl might put in a note to her best friend, or in her journal, happy to be using a new set of bright markers!!!!!!!

Especially because of the clever way they make such bottles these days, with wide flat caps on their bottoms, so that the liquid contents collect where you need it. I still think of these bottles as able to stand on their heads, even though their tops are actually their bottoms (if you get what I mean). They really do, I maintain, look like wide exclamation points, outlined and colored in.

And the lessons in this? Something about trusting delight, of course.

It started simply with enjoying the colorful row of shampoo and conditioner containers (even though I know it takes only one slight miscalculation of movement to knock one bottle off balance and instigate a domino effect, startling to the nerves and painful to bare feet).

Then I found myself thinking that I'd like to draw them in one of my favorite playful ways of drawing, where I follow the lines and shapes with my eyes and move my pen or pencil without looking at the paper, often creating intriguing quirky results! (Sometimes I "cheat" and look at the paper a little; sometimes I later choose to add color or a detail here or there, or darken some of the shapes or spaces, just to see how it changes the image.)

So after I was dressed and had walked the dog, I pulled back the shower curtain, put down the toilet seat cover and sat on it, and made 5 quick drawings of our bathroom window. One I colored in with colored pencils (don't really like the result, but no big deal). The others I'm saving for other possibilities, or just to keep plain. One is included in this post.

Other lessons? Keep it simple. Go with what delights you. Just have some fun.

One thing about drawing the bottles on the window sill is that I found myself really, really noticing just how truly revolting the state of that window sill is, especially where it meets the window, glimpsed in the spaces between the bottles like bits of horizon visible between buildings.

And presto, I had something low-key and low-pressure to blog about, which I've been hoping would happen. I've been needing a restart, some way back into my blogging that didn't feel too heavy, or too overburdened with trying to write the next great American blog.

And another lesson: just how capable I am of seeing things in desperate need of cleaning, even staring them full in the face, and then ignoring them yet again for another day. I'm trying to do better--honest. It's just that some days, most days, I have so many things I'd rather do.