Sunday, January 20, 2013

Once Upon a Hammam...


(in Islamic countries) a communal bathhouse, usually with separate baths for men and women.
Origin:  (< Turkish haman ) < Arabic ḥammām

In Morocco people of all ages go to their local hammam once a week and spend a few hours getting steamed and going through a very deep cleaning ritual.  I sat in the courtyard with a pink binder in my lap wondering what I had just signed up for.  She had me at "spa experience."  It didn't matter that I had no idea what to expect, or what it would be like.  In my mind I pictured a marriage between a steam room and some mud, mixed with some spa-like magic. 

What I quickly found out it really was, was an opportunity to have another person literally scrub me down with what can only be described as a brillo pad in a very warm and damp room while I just sat there...naked.  I spent the first 5 minutes being super mature and suppressing giggles at my obvious nudity and the fact that the other woman in the room seemed to not notice.  Very soon after that I finally allowed myself to relax and try to enjoy it.  This either sounds very very uncomfortable, or like the makings of a spiritual awakening...

I probably wouldn't write a blog post about it if it was just very very uncomfortable.

So let me tell you about  my spriritual awakening on a warm Morocco afternoon:

I'd like you to think of your favorite ceramic casserole dish.  Maybe you got it as a wedding gift, or maybe you bought it from a local artists while you were visiting Europe.  Maybe an artist you knew made it.  However you got it, you find it precious yet sturdy.  It's not delicate like china, but you would never give it to your four year old to store his toy cars in under the bed.

You use it all the time.  You give it to other people to borrow for special occasions.  It is your go-to dish in times of emergency, and it asks nothing in return.  Together you make the perfect pair.  You come up with the recipes, the dish sees it through. The dish doesn't mind being used, but after every baking experience you toss it in the dishwasher, leaving it to fend for itself.

After a year of baking amazing dishes you notice it has food residue burned onto it's shiny sturdy glazed finish.  It's not as shiny and beautiful as it once was.  Different ingredients have burned and formed a black film in places.  Putting it through the dishwasher everytime hasn't completely cleared it of former residue.

So you get out your brillo pad and you scrub.

You scrub HARD because the dish is sturdy and faithful.  But when you turn it over in the sink you are gentle, knowing that the wrong kind of blow with anything hard can shatter it into a million pieces.  You have no idea the job you've taken on, or the beauty you had forgotten lies underneath until you see layers and layers of stuff fall off of the dish and onto the floor. 

Then the dish begins to silently cry.

Okay, so I'm the dish (for those of you who still haven't had their morning coffee).

I watched as layers of dead skin fell off me.  Extra skin I didn't know I had, or could spare for that matter.

I watched as layers of myself that had been used and abused just washed down the drain.

I watched as parts of this last few years peeled away from me and I could see for the first time how they were clinging to me.

I watched as the resentment I had built up on my exterior fell away and revealed the beauty I remembered had once been underneath.

I watched as parts of me I didn't know were expendable fell to the ground.

I watched as my armor washed away.

I didn't have a chance to say a proper goodbye; but a "good riddance" slipped out from between my lips when no one was watching.


thewonderfulhappens said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

You write so beautifully. You almost made me forget that you were naked, and getting scrubbed with a brillo pad.

But really--beautiful post.