Skiing in the Sawtooth Mountains has the extra bonus of a natural hot springs down the road from our hotel. The three of us just fit into the metal vat that captures the gushing hot mineral water that flows out from the river bank.
As the guys strategize about tomorrow’s ski route, my attention pivots as if I’ve been tapped on the shoulder. I turn to face the Salmon River and find myself captivated by her winterness. She is flowing wide and flat here in town, a dark slate blue. She is white with chunks of ice instead of rapids.
Usually my kayaker is the one seduced by the river. But right now he is totally captivated by skiing this new mountain range.
So she’s set her sights on me.
It makes no sense at all to leave this tub of hot water and journey out in the zero degree twilight towards her icy flow.
But I guess I’m a fool for her in any season because I do.
I’ve been allowing January lately, healing an over-pronated ankle and surrendering to pizza, naps and my not-so-sexy self. As I step across rocks beside this ice-choked river, perfectly warm inside my steaming bare skin, I feel sexier than I have in weeks.
I move towards some shallow, rock-lined pools and dip my toes in like Goldilocks. I find one that is just right and lie belly down beside the river. My pubis nestles into a mound of warm pebbles, my sinuses fill with the deep-earth scent of the spring. I dangle my hand in the river and flirt back, splashing her on my cheeks, lips and chest to cool my lobster red skin.
I roll like an otter and lie on my back. Algae pools at the juncture of my thighs and floats around my nipples. I catch some between my fingers and anoint my forehead. I place a smooth warm stone on my sternum as I drizzle a handful of hot sand around my breasts.
I lie, suspended, like the crescent moon that floats in and out of the clouds above me.
The final lines of one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems, Five A.M. in the Pinewoods, come to mind:
so this is how you swim inward
so this is how you flow outward
so this is how you pray
Check out the poetry collections by Mary Oliver. New and Selected Poems was my first love and has the poem Five A.M. in the Pinewoods