My First Bath in Three and a Half Years

A Winter Solstice story

Laura B Fox | The Guru's Ghost

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Freshly bathed mountain people at the Junction Bunkhouse Motel (and spa)

For Winter Solstice this year, my husband and I tucked the animals into their straw beds when the sun set at 4 pm. Then we drove down the mountain into town, past farmhouses decorated with strings of Christmas lights, and rented a motel room with a bathtub.

Our first winter here, all I could think about was how much I wanted to sink into one of those steaming motel tubs, feeling the heat seep into my chilled bones, but I couldn’t afford it.

We do shower once a week, at the same motel which is also the laundromat and the town’s only 24-hour convenience store/gas station, and the place where you can get packages delivered if you’re so remote that delivery drivers can’t find you. This place is called The Junction. The Junction Bunkhouse Motel (and spa).

The Junction

The second and third winters were bitter cold. I was constantly going back and forth from the kitchen stove to the yard with my kettle to thaw the animals’ water. The lid was sometimes frozen to the kettle by the time I got back inside.

I thought about the motel and its row of rooms with bathtubs. But most of our neighbors don’t even do the Junction showers. They just have cat baths at home. “I don’t need to get water all over my body all at once to be clean,” my friend said.

Last winter that same friend, who lives on Palmer Mountain (home of the Alaskan Bush People), got snowed in for so long that she and her husband ran out of supplies and had to walk down into town. They stayed in one of the motel rooms, and I know she took a bath.

I thought, if she can take a bath then I can too. So this year, we finally did it. We got a room on the longest night of the year. We figured that was when the animals would miss us the least, since they don’t see much of us after dark anyway.

My big reservation was that I was afraid we would say, “Oh what we’ve been missing!” and start going to the motel all the time. We would be spoiled for off-grid life and we wouldn’t be able to do it anymore.

But that didn’t happen. Instead, we came home early.

Civilization was… ok. It was nice in a lot of ways, but it was also strange. Rumbling engines and the occasional sharp honk of a horn instead of a distant chorus of coyotes. Our home on the range (we literally live on the open range) is more comfortable to us now than all the modern comforts. Partly because we’ve made it so with our own hands and hearts, and partly because it’s just more familiar now. Home is where the animals are.

So we packed up at 4 am and ascended through the fog, the frozen road glittering under the headlights. We were home by 4:30. The dogs were relieved, and the cats forgave us pretty quickly. I don’t think it made any difference to the goats, but they’re hard to read sometimes.

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Laura B Fox | The Guru's Ghost

Ghostwriter, book coach, and off-grid goat farmer. Author of The Soul-Driven Author's Nonfiction Book Planning Guide. MA in Social Ecology and Anthropology