Fill the beast’s belly with fuel, strike the match and watch the hunger satiate itself, greedily licking, consuming, starting to roar, demanding more sustenance. Kneeling, I obey, slowly and carefully feeding the flames, starting the process, the ritual carried out by every generation that has lived, ritual stretching back to the raw, basic elemental yearnings of ancestral ghosts. The metal beast grumpily cooperates, as I coax it with more treats, it shivers and sends the flames higher to do their job, warming its water filled jacket, stimulating the lifeless liquid to action. It’s time, the ritual has started. My body is cold, tired from just living. The air has a crunchiness that rubs at my skin. I feed the flames and hear the reassuring grumble of the boiler filling up, percolating hot into cold, working hard to fulfil its role in the service.
I wait, patience has become a necessity when choosing the ancient ways. Yes we could install the shiny and the new…just flick a switch and see instant results as we turn on the taps..but where is the connection, the raw feelings, the ritual?
It is time. I move to the inner sanctuary, to complete the next stage. Taps are turned, the magic is released with a long held exhalation of steam. The air is cool, rapidly creating a misty cloak, lingering and caressing as the warmth gradually starts to spread.
The ritual continues as bottles are assembled, thoughtfully selected to dispense their healing balm, to treat the aches, dispel the worries. Golden, viscous and sensuously scented, the oil drops into the warm depths, dispersing its medicine, its soothing, scented essence. Fingers trace the oil through the warmth, and confirm the anticipated question. Yes, it is time.
Gown drops from shoulders, chilly toes tentatively test, slowly dive deeper and invite the body to follow. A sigh escapes from gently upturned lips, warmth encloses the bones, silken and scented, the caressing liquid wraps velvet over curves, smoothing and soothing.
The ritual is complete.