July 27, 2005

In exquisite indulgence, I floated in the steaming Icelandic hot springs yesterday, slathering my body in its touted mud masque and showering under its waterfalls. The air here is mild–without humidity and with 60° F temperatures, and the sun shines high, brilliant but gentle. And this morning´s pampering was rendered all the more luxurious by the fact that we came directly from the airport, after a full day and night of travel.
But what left me the most blissfully whole-feeling was the shedding of my inhibitions. Showering before and after entering the springs, I began as a good, modest American, staying suited in the large shower room. But the spa was equipped with specialty salt spring gels, shampoos, and conditioners, engendering an environment of soothing relaxation rather than one of careful self-consciousness.
And so, returning to the showers afterwards, I took my cue from the calmly confident Europeans slowly bathing around me, and I shed my coverings. In doing so, I found I simultaneously shed my self-consciousness. That simple choice–in a sense, I think, a decision to accept this culture I am partaking of as a traveler–left me with an exhilarating sense of liberation. I felt pure, and lovely, as if I was soaking into my own naked skin a small part of the beauty of the women around me. It is good, to be woman.

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