November 25th, 2006
the dead hand of habit

Reading in the bathtub is close to a form of praying for me.
Most times I am guilty of thinking too much, wanting to control the outcome of my days, wanting to be productive, wanting to finish the list, wanting to be “that” person who is doing all the things that I want to do with my life.
But “that” person is as human as I am. “That” person struggles too with all of the same things, mood swings and fears and sweat and messy mind and the feeling of not doing “enough”.
Today I made a new list:
-feel the warm socks on my feet after they come out of the dryer
-eat something that is decadent
-read a book in the bathtub
-spend some time lying on the floor looking at the ceiling
-smell the wet earth even though you are grumpy because it is still raining.
-look at the sky a minimum of ten times, and really study it, like it was a painting
-leave the clean laundry in the baskets
when the bath is full I slip into it book in hand. sometimes I stay there reading for hours, pausing every now and then to do a “warm up” by adding new hot water, (often several times). I like it to be hot enough that you can see the steam coming off the top, windows covered and dripping with moisture. I don’t like to get my book wet so I try to dry my fingers on a towel before I turn the pages (I don’t know why I do this but it seems a part of the ritual). On a couple of occasions I have dropped the whole book in the bath, (my copy of “Alias Grace” is forever swelled and stiff after a nights reading a few years ago).
In the bathtub I have only a couple of tasks. To read until my fingers are prunes, and to scrub my body, freeing the millions of dead skin cells as if they are all of my controlling thoughts. I rub them off with the facecloth and they float on the surface of the water having lost all of their weight. I then wipe the sides of the tub, watching as my cells rapidly circle the drain before exiting permanently.
While in the tub I find the words that want to come out of my body, which have been lost for many days now. But when I sit down to write, they don’t come out as directly as I had hoped.
What I wanted to tell you about was that feeling of being warmed by the bathwater, of cheeks that are red and overheated. I wanted to mention the quality of light that comes in from the window, and tell you how it makes patterns on the wall which i would like to trace with a pencil. And also what it feels like to rub dead skin off of that piece of skin just under your ankle while you read a story about a man who has traveled to the sea in search of his past.
I wanted to mention that sometimes the little things that make you feel most alive may not be all that pretty. Many times they involve mud, dead skin, cold air, things that are broken, things that are lost or missing, things that are scarred, things that are covered in layers of dust, things that are buried, things that you are trying to hide from others.
Especially that last one.
“The idea is to turn even familiar actions into everyday celebrations, to make vivid the common, to separate every moment from the next, as experimental films do, so that spontaneity is allowed to break the dead hand of habit.” ~Samuel A. Eisenstein

Nov 25 2006
11:43 am
Velvet Brick writes:

so Keri,
WHat iS it ThaT yoU are trYing tO hIdE ?

Nov 25 2006
11:54 am
keri Smith writes:

the places where i feel most vulnerable.

Nov 25 2006
11:54 am
keri Smith writes:

the places where i feel most vulnerable.

Nov 25 2006
11:54 am
keri Smith writes:

the places where i feel most vulnerable.

Nov 25 2006
12:04 pm
Amy writes:

I feel the same way about reading in the bathtub. It’s such a lovely luxury.

Nov 25 2006
12:26 pm
one black bird writes:

i hope that this post was as satisfying for you to write as it was for me to read. i don’t have a bathtub at present, but i am well aware of the dead skin beneath my ankle. the good in our lives is so often pushed right up against (with it’s nose pressed against the window) of the unsavory parts of our lives. thank you for putting down in words.

Nov 25 2006
12:42 pm
Velvet Brick writes:

Your honesty is so refreshing. May I throw something out for pondering? Perhaps you are trying to prOtecT the places you are most vulnerable…
Being in a bath of hot water harkens back to our lives in the womb…naked, surround by warm fluid, alone in our cocoon. Maybe that is why soaking in a tub is so reflective, so personal, so comforting, so unique to each individual.
blessings and peace to you, keri

Nov 25 2006
12:44 pm
Judy writes:

This was exactly what I needed to read today. I’ve felt so overwhelmed by the accomplishments of “others” (and I know we must never compare). I feel like the slowest, stupidest person I know today. Your post gave me comfort. Thank you.

Nov 25 2006
2:50 pm
meg writes:

I hope one day that I can be the kind of person that YOU are. You are always an inspiration. You inspired me to start journaling. It is the most rewarding activity of my life, and has been for six months. It keeps me sane when I feel like my life is falling apart. It is a constant when I can’t bring myself to make the art I long to. I don’t know you, but I love you. Thank you for all that you do for yourself and your loved ones. Thank you for sharing even a glimpse of that with all of us.
Knowing that you struggle with your art and life from time to time makes the whole thing (read: art, life) seem easier. Its so easy to look at others and see only the product of their efforts and not the struggle, which EVERYONE experiences, to realize that end. Knowing I’m not alone in my struggle gives me hope that one day, I too can accomplish something.
Thank you.

Nov 25 2006
3:20 pm
lyns writes:

Thanks for this— for permission to go ahead and not do “enough,” to relax and breathe and feel that maybe I am still an okay kind of person, even if I don’t cross off every single item on my to-do list.

Nov 25 2006
4:26 pm
Jess writes:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
I love reading in the bath as well, something I got from my mother. There is something about water that I am addicted to. If I could I would take a shower in the morning and a bath at night everyday.

Nov 25 2006
10:16 pm
Kikipotamus the Hobo writes:

Keri, thank you for sharing this. My mother is an artist (paints, sculpts, etc.) and I inherited some talent. Yet going to museums and galleries just made me envious. Others found their voices. I never would. I was always the copyist… imitating others’ art excellently. I could make those birds you made. But why couldn’t I think up anything of my own?
Then this year I started to blog and found my medium. I’m not a painter. I’m a writer. It took 43 years for me to realize that.

Nov 26 2006
1:36 am
stef writes:

these words are exactly what i needed/wanted to hear and i’m going to go take a bath now…
thank you ~ really, thank you.

Nov 26 2006
5:27 am
Chandja writes:

what a thought…..this is my first time to open your blog..and i like it..its enlightening as well as informative…

Nov 26 2006
8:57 am
Sophie writes:

Thanks for the reminder. This morning I took a nice, long (hot!) bath. I read, and thought, but good thoughts, and made a fresh start to the day. Filled with inspiration.
I think I was hiding the joy that can be found in little things -like taking a bath, drinking tea, baking cookies- because we are ‘supposed’ to do stuff all the time.
Taking time to just be is much more rewarding than taking time to just do.

Nov 26 2006
9:55 am
Katie writes:

Hello from a fellow bathtub reader! I even have a separate set of books and magazines set aside for bathtub reading. Things that I don’t mind getting a bit wet.

Nov 26 2006
12:14 pm
secret person writes:

keri, was it hard for you to start blogging publicly? i’m just curious. i have very judgemental in-laws, so i keep my name out of my blogging, but i’m so tired of hiding. but i’m so shy…did you find it difficult at all???
i love posts like this, and sometimes i write in a way that is just wandering. but i don’t want to have to hear about my writing at the next thanksgiving dinner, for example, and what a “flake” i am. it doesn’t bother my soul, but just the very fact that anyone has to do that is so irritating. and for hours on end.

Nov 26 2006
3:06 pm
Debra Roby writes:

Another bathtub reader. It is my retreat.
However, I scrub my skin with nylon scrubby pads… am I just tougher skinned?? or trying to hide/discard more?

Nov 26 2006
5:40 pm
kirsty mitchell writes:

i read in the bath too. and i scrub with a loofah loaded up with some sort of coarse body scrub (salt grains are my favourite).
where i live at the moment doesn’t have a bath, but i just went home for the weekend and spent three hours in the bath at 2am, so’s not to cut back on my time with anyone. it was wonderful.
also, the train stations gave me ample finds for idea 6. i found somer eally interesting things, including a post it note saying ’20 days to go’, which i love.
hope all is well, sorry for my rambling.

Nov 26 2006
8:25 pm
gigi writes:

Beautiful post. I was actually JUST on my way to run a bath in which to read. This little bit of synchronicity now makes it feel like something I MUST do (in a good way).

Nov 26 2006
10:47 pm
Leonie writes:

thank you for your deep honesty.

Nov 27 2006
1:54 am
Geo writes:

It’s nearly midnight and I was just on my way to bed, but now I am thinking that a warm soak sounds like the thing. Thanks for a post that makes my heart happy.

Nov 27 2006
9:18 am
Kyran, Notes to Self writes:

It is always kismet when I come here.

Nov 27 2006
10:29 am
Dalene writes:

I miss my old too-small house for the wonderful DEEP bathtub, in which I learned the art of taking a fine bath. Lights off. Quality bubbles. Candles burning. The only door in the house that I could lock myself away behind was that bathroom door. I could both lose myself and find myself in that wonderful tub.
I find my words come tumbling out during a good hot shower. But, like you, I find they lose something in their translation on to mere paper.
Thanks for this beautiful read with which to start my Monday.

Nov 27 2006
10:52 am
katie writes:

it always seems like I come here at the right times. wonderful thoughts today. thank you.
and why is it that that spot underneath the ankle is always the best place to slough dead skin?

Nov 27 2006
12:39 pm
amy writes:

I’m a fellow bathtub delighter and you couldn’t have written it better! This made me want to jump in the bath immediately :)
Happy Monday!

Nov 27 2006
5:02 pm
Manders writes:

Lovely post–reading in the tub is the best.
And The Sea is a great book. :)

Nov 27 2006
8:54 pm
Devon writes:

I’ve always wondered why it is that the square half-inch of skin just below the ankle bone has so many dead skin cells. Is it because our socks chafe so badly? Or do dead cells just migrate there to die? Ah, the mysteries of life.

Nov 27 2006
10:35 pm
madame babushka writes:

Your bathtub is an example of wabi sabi. This Japanese concept intrigues me.

Nov 28 2006
8:26 am
herhimnbryn writes:

Wabi sabi indeed.
warm socks, what else do you need:)

Nov 28 2006
8:29 am
suzanne writes:

On the subject of Japanese wabi-sabi (madame babushka’s comment below) I think you would LOVE an ofuro All that wonderful heat and steam!
(P.S. Your candle box birds are beautiful!)

Nov 28 2006
8:37 am
keri Smith writes:

my god, that bath is like a dream!

Nov 28 2006
8:37 am
keri Smith writes:

my god, that bath is like a dream!

Nov 28 2006
8:37 am
keri Smith writes:

my god, that bath is like a dream!

Nov 28 2006
4:43 pm
ccw writes:

growing up we didn’t have a tub but i still found a way to read in the shower, propping my book on the caddy and turning the pages with a chopstick. little sacred pleasures that bubbles up a giggle in the belly.
i visited your blog upon mention in lobstersquad – which i adore, and hope to come back often. I must say that your opening got me:
“Most times I am guilty of thinking too much, wanting to control the outcome of my days, wanting to be productive, wanting to finish the list, wanting to be “that” person who is doing all the things that I want to do with my life.”
…very timely in my life right now as i am stirred by a restlessness yet shackled by inertia or some strange, self-imposed defeat and all I can do is endlessly think. I wrote a litany of ironies and strange desires to a dear friend of mine describing some of my more timid wishes and acknowledgements: Oh were I “that” person who read more, baked more, sketched more, created art more, had more inspiration for my theatrical endeavors, could somehow pow all that life energy into something I’m passionate about (and that I perhaps could also subsist on)…in essence be more than just a jane of all trades. This litany also had admissions of things that I “hide from others” and its funny to be able to put it in your context: that maybe these are also things that keep me alive, that empower me?
It was good to have bumped into your tranquil musing, tinged with a determination to have more patience with your self, and gift yourself with time and the simplest pleasures. I hope to learn and share more.

Nov 28 2006
5:34 pm
Regina writes:

Wow, my friend, wow. It has taken me literally YEARS to find my bathtub again. Years of showering quickly for whatever reason. The kid needs to get to school, someone else needs the bathroom, need to hurry hurry HURRY!!
Now it is my santuary and my calm in the mess I call a life. Finding just the right book or article that will fill my mind and free me from the constant, neverending thoughts about what needs to be done, what will never ever get done. The ritual of filling the tub, adding the smell good stuff, bubbles YES PLEASE let there be bubbles. And music and me. It frees me.

Nov 29 2006
12:32 pm
[a}ma writes:

you found a face in your bathtub!
long, luxurious baths rock, esp. with those fizzy bath bombs…and scented candles…
reading, and soaking in warm water: everyone must try this once a week.

Nov 29 2006
4:06 pm
mooncici writes:

thanks for the simply-everyday life story…

Nov 29 2006
4:37 pm
[a}ma writes:

have u seen the kid’s cartoon “george shrinks” [on TVO, perhaps]? your drawings remind me so much of it! (that’s a compliment)

Nov 30 2006
1:47 pm
Faridee writes:

Hello Keri, i found your blog through the no-ad blog webpage, i must say that so far i admire your work and you are a true inspiration :)
Greets from Mexico City

Nov 30 2006
1:57 pm
Occidental Girl writes:

I haven’t felt like the words I write match what I meant to say for a few days now. Maybe a bath would help?
I dry my fingers while reading in the bath, too!
This was great. I enjoyed it very much.

Nov 30 2006
3:21 pm
mary jane writes:

Me too! I love to read in the bath. William McDonough’s book Cradle to Cradle was written on this waterproof recycled stuff, so I dropped it in, but it never really dried right.

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