donalee Moulton

I found my bliss — in the bathtub

This is my second blog as part of the gang. I realize we’re still getting to know one another so I thought I would share a little something about one of my favorite activities. This piece originally appeared in The Globe & Mail.


I’m a splish-splash person. I relish the warm envelope of water that embraces you in the bathtub. I enjoy being able to put my head back, relax, and wash away the day. I like taking my time, meandering in my mind, and humidifying at my own pace.

I understand the appeal of showers. There is a functionality and practicality to stepping in, under and out. How efficient. How equally unimaginative and boring. In the shower, there is nothing to savour except getting the hell out from beneath 50 pounds per square inch of pulsating water. The fact that showers are measured in psi (as opposed to bubbles) speaks volumes.

Baths were a way of life in our house. There was a dangling thing above the tub that was occasionally used after my dad mowed the lawn in the relentless summer sun, but other than that showers were simply something other people took, mostly people we did not know. So, I grew up turning on the faucet, spreading out the bathmat, and stepping, gingerly, into a steamy pool of water with welcome delight.

I kept this tradition up even after I moved out of my parents’ house, into a marriage, and through the divorce that followed. It wasn’t until years later, however, that I discovered my understanding of the bath and its possibilities had been severely limited.

It started with a gift. I can’t remember if it was my birthday or Christmas. I can’t even remember who the gift-giver was (although they will surely go to heaven), but I remember the gift. Or rather, its life-altering implications. I’m sure the packaging said something underwhelming, like Bath Set or Bubble Break, and the presentation did not spark interest or inspiration. I opened the present to discover bubble bath, a bath bomb, exfoliating lotion and glove, and moisturizer. Two of these I’d heard of. The scent was lavender, which I associated with wrinkled aunts and my grandmother’s underwear drawer.

Turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.



At the next bath, I decided to try out my new gift set. I filled the tub with steaming water, and the most wonderful scent filled the room. I smiled, bent down, and breathed deeply. Not my smartest move. Inhaling bubbles is not generally recommended. But it didn’t matter. I was happy. And about to get happier.

I stepped into the tub and unwrapped the bath bomb. This is never as easy as it sounds. For many manufacturers, I have since learned, it is a point of honour to ensconce the baking soda/essential oil blend in a plastic sheath that has no identifiable opening and the tensile strength of tungsten. I persisted. The result was a round, heavenly little orb that exploded when it hit the water. Gently, of course, and with a colour infusion that filled the tub with a lovely glow.

As with the bath bomb, I had to read the instructions for the exfoliating lotion and glove. Apparently, we have dead skin that sticks to us like a June bug on a hairy leg. The exfoliating duo will do away with it all. You feel the resistance of the glove on your skin. Perhaps even a snag or two. Then you feel softness.

That was my first shrine. That’s the word a friend once used to describe my bathing ritual, and it stuck. Indeed, when friends and family call, they’ll often ask if I’m about to enter the shrine. There’s an unspoken apology to this question. They really don’t want to interrupt this sacred time.

Sacred may be too strong a word, but it hits the mark. I’ve come to realize this time I spend with bubbles, bombs, and bath salts is as much about ritual and reverence as it is about self-care and luxuriating. I realized this one blissful Saturday night as I was about to lower myself into a meringue of eucalyptus suds and my husband strolled into the bathroom, lifted the toilet lid, and got ready to whizz.

He won’t do that again.

In the space between shock and despair, and a few choice words, I realized there is a rhythm to what happens between closed bathroom doors. There is a pattern and a process. Nothing is rushed, there is a natural flow to the shrine; there is room to inhale and time to exhale. When that natural rhythm is interrupted, I’m jolted. Getting back to bliss becomes more difficult.

The rhythm has also gotten more complex and sophisticated over time. Another friend once gave me a candle for Christmas, a gift I appreciated, but admitted to my husband that I was unlikely to use. He suggested I use it in the shrine (and all was forgiven). When that candle burned down to a wax blob, I mentioned to my father, a flea market regular, to pick me up a few more candles if he saw any on his weekly jaunt. A great believer in quantity, a belief he has passed on to his only child, my father arrived home with two over-stuffed bags of candles. All sizes, shapes, scents. All of me smiled.

Today, a shrine includes 10 burning candles: five small, three medium, two large. There is also a tealight candle that burns inside a Himalayan salt holder, another gift from a good friend. (I am blessed with friends who indulge my bathroom bliss.) In addition, I discovered aromatherapy, so there are now diffusers and candle tarts. And there is music, most recently with the chirps and tweets of birds in the background.

My commitment to ritual and reverence hit home when my husband and I decided to do some redecorating. The intent was to brighten and upgrade the kitchen and living room. Somehow, we found ourselves with the decorator in the bathroom. She had ideas. I love this woman.

The result: cabinets with inset lighting, a reflective glass sink, heated flooring. And a tub. This is not an ordinary tub. Who knew paradise came in porcelain. This tub has jets that shoot heated streams of water at select body parts, LED lights infuse a delicate glow, and there is a heated backrest for two. (Like anybody else is getting in this tub.) There is also an aromatherapy unit that sends little fragrant clouds aloft every 20 seconds. Poof.

The bathroom, and the tub in particular, is an expense I no longer attempt to justify. But I have spent some time trying to understand it. Logically I know that self-care is important. That taking time for oneself is time well spent. I’ve read the books (okay, an article or two) about the benefits of taking a breath, treating yourself, and finding space from the pressures of daily life. But that sounds clinical, and what happens in the shrine is anything but. It’s about connection – and distance. It’s about finding oneself – and forgetting about the self for a few hours. It’s about feeling pampered – and humbled.

The need to exit my universe and enter nirvana has, admittedly, led to some unfortunate incidents. There was the episode with the whizzing husband. An apology later – on his part – concluded that rather nicely. However, there was one night, lights low, candles lit, Himalayan salt lamp subtly emitting negative ions. I turned on the tap, poured the juniper bubble bath and Epsom bath salts into the tub and waited to be enveloped in a fragrant mist.

And waited.

Finally, I acknowledged to myself and the woman on the other end of the telephone line that I did not have hot water. Ultramar’s message centre assured me help was on the way. I felt a nudge of joy.

That did not last. The repair guy apparently wasn’t ruining his Saturday night because some woman’s bath water wasn’t hot.

Buddy eventually showed up. But by now I’m in my pajamas. Resigned, and a little ticked. Of course, the fuel guy needed a part he didn’t have in his truck, so why bother having a truck, I wondered. Bottom line: there would be no shrine until at least Monday. I did not hide my disappointment. Buddy did not hide his indifference.

He also noted I’d have to pay for the part and the emergency service call. I noted that was par for the course. Despite having a service maintenance contract to cover such contingencies as this, nothing has ever been covered except a furnace cleaning. I suggested to Buddy perhaps the company should simply call it a furnace cleaning charge. I think he flipped me the bird on his way out.

Monday came, of course. The water heater was fixed, the bath was full of hot, inviting H20. I stepped in and inhaled a heartfelt whiff of chamomile bergamot. But I breathed in more than the latest release from Bath and Body Works. I realized in that moment that my shrine, wrapped in relaxation, and reverence, is really about gratitude. It’s about being thankful to be here, and thankful to be.

Over the next few weeks and the candlelit shrines that followed, I came to understand that gratitude isn’t just about being personally thankful and appreciative. It is about extending that thanks to the world around you. It’s about grace.

I have taken that insight to heart. I remind myself to smell the rose water before I speak out; to soak up the moment before rushing to the next task; to turn off autopilot and turn on an aromatic awareness of what lies before.

And I have apologized to the man from Ultramar.

4 replies
  1. Debra H. Goldstein
    Debra H. Goldstein says:

    Well put. Although I don’t use all the bombs, etc., I find that being in a hot bath is the most relaxing way to end my day. Whether I soak and meditate or read, (one summer I was known to write all letters from the tub as noted by the corner water stain), it is my private time.

  2. Donnell Ann Bell
    Donnell Ann Bell says:

    Welcome donalee, to The Stiletto Gang. I am a bath person, also, through and through. I find our muscles and ligaments crave the warm water. And there is nothing more luxurious than filling your surroundings with scent. However, I am the daughter of an OB-GYN nurse and oils and the like were, unfortunately, discouraged. Terrific post. Thanks!

  3. Barb Eikmeier
    Barb Eikmeier says:

    Yay for baths! When we did renovations on our home I added a big tub in the corner of the master bathroom. I actually sat in other people’s empty tubs to find the perfect shape! No bubbles and bombs for me, but I’m a big fan of scented bath salts. Welcome to the gang.

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