Sex, Drugs, and Public Health

November 10, 2013

The Mud Bath

Filed under: Uncategorized — cbmosher @ 6:08 am

If you have a caricature of the hard-working, middle-aged Northern European woman in your brain, drag it out now.


She greets me with a flurry of no-nonsense, no- smiling Estonian or Russian or something when I open the door. She urges me to hurry into the mud room, even tho I am five minutes early.


Her blonde hair is chopped short to keep it out of her way, and her 200-plus pound body is a mix of muscle and fat adequate to do 12 hours of work a day and still keep her warm thru the Baltic winter.


She holds a pail of steaming, sulpherous mud over the table and impatiently keeps up her jabbering with occasional increases in volume and gestures in the air with her free hand.


“No Estonian,” I shoot into a brief lapse when she inhales. “English.”


She shakes her head decisively while smearing mud over the table and continuing her pantomimed harangue for me to get undressed. I catch a few words only: “English, no,” she shakes her head. “Finnish – – – German – – – Estonian – – – Russian – – – ” and her incessant talking flows from her like mud plopping from a bucket.


Naked, I climb onto the table, squishing into the mud, serenaded the entire time by her river of impatient verbiage.


She gobs it on me, spreads it up and down, her hands, like her voice, never pausing. Down to my toes; up to my neck; and everywhere between.


I believe I hear the timbre of her voice change from giving me orders to reassuring me as she wraps plastic and blankets around me, forming a mud cocoon. Then she flashes all ten fingers twice, and disappears.


The silence of her absence uncovers the New Age music that the resort pipes in to suffuse the rooms. Same stuff as back home. I close my eyes, try to ignore the supherous odors oozing from my wrapped body, and empty my mind to meditate. Or sleep.


But it only lasts a few seconds. An intermittent squeaking disturbs the rhythm of my escaping toxins and emptying mind.


A leaking pipe somewhere? Air bubbling thru the steam pipes?


Soon I can concentrate on nothing but the strange sound.


The squeak becomes a squawk.


Then, a clacking.


Gulls, I finally realize. The sound of sea birds, meant to be soothing, but screeching down my eardrums like fingernails on a blackboard.


Then the mud therapy lady begins a cacophony of towel ripping, door closing, water running sounds on the other side of the privacy curtain, and the gulls with their pastel music sink beneath the quicksand of her activity again.


In she storms, all work like, and comes over to the only part of me showing. With her meaty  hand, she softly brushes my hair back from my forehead and smiles at me. Smiles right thru a barrage of incomprehensible Estonian or Russian or Finnish. She holds up five fingers and disappears behind the plastic curtain again. That flimsy metaphor of the now-defunct Iron one.


Like an enchilada heated in the microwave, I watch her approach with a little apprehension when it is time. The only thing missing from the scene is the innocent “ding” of a timer. She signals me to sit up, slides some plastic sandals on my mud-slick feet, and points to an open shower. 


I am enjoying the re-birth of my skin beneath the showerhead when she walks into the shower stall, jabbering. My naked body turns to see what her hands might be telling me.


She slaps the back of her neck, then points. I aim the showerhead and, sure enuf, mud-clumped water oozes down my back, off my buttocks, down the drain.


Toweled, dressed, but still smelling of surpher, I head out the door, determined to give her one more smile, whether she likes it or not.


She smiles in return, and almost reaches out to touch my shoulder – the prelude to an Estonian hug. But her professionalism won’t allow it. Touching me, even in that fleeting social way, is too uncomfortable for her.




Addendum:  on the outskirts of this resort town, Haapsalu, is an elaborate train station of painted wooden beams with what is alleged to be the longest covered platform in Imperial Russia (230 meters long). A century-old steam locomotive with Cyrillic lettering on its side remind me that the Czar himself came to Haapsalu for the therapy of the Mud.




Who, I wonder, was allowed to see the Czar naked and smear him with mud?

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