The snow on the roofs of the dark old barns I see out my window is only about a meter deep now, and I can see the ground in most of the small yard below my balcony where the young black Eringer fighting cows stretch their legs occasionally (with bucks and kicks—how great to be a young black cow, and outside, and alive!) during the long winter. The sun comes up well to the left of the Dent Blanche now, though not much earlier than in January since it has to climb over the ridge of the Pointe du Tsaté, and the angle is much steeper. Today the Föhn has veiled the end of the valley but the Dent can still be seen, ghostlike through the cloud.
Had my be-weekly shower this morn. A shower at Villaz has several steps:
- the afternoon before, gather fallen larch branches in the forest. Pull them out of the snow and set them up in the sun to dry off. Check that they crack nicely when stepped on, and that there’s no green rim to be seen under the bark.
- saw them into foot-long pieces.
- set them in the cooking stove and light. While making dinner boil up several liters of water in the pressure cooker (seal makes it go faster), then transfer to thermoses.
- in the morning, pour the hot water from the thermoses into the bucket in the the shower stall. Add cold water.
- get naked and into shower stall. Use sponge to wet body with deliciously warm water. Soap up.
- rinse by dipping pitcher into bucket, then pouring water over body. Ah, heaven!
- if feeling ambitious, pour water over hair as well.
- when bucket is empty, shower is over. Dry off with towel.
Big day today as I’m also doing laundry. The water here is far too cold to do it with bare hands. I use a Scrubba Scrubba bag. Fill the bag about halfway with water, adding detergent while it fills. Drop in laundry. (Bag will handle two shirts, two pairs of socks, two underwear.) Roll up top of bag. Open valve and squeeze out air. Now lay bag on table and smush it all around with your hands. Even this is too cold for bare hands, though, so wear gloves while you smush. After a few minutes, open bag and empty into sink. To squeeze out excess water, roll up bag from the bottom, wringing out the clothes in the bag. Then fill with water, jiggle around, empty, wring again, and repeat. Finally take clothes out of bag and wring by hand into sink. This is the only part that should be done with bare hands, and it’s bad enough. Then take clothes out to balcony and hang on line.I obviously only do this on a sunny day. The Dent Blanche and the Dent d’Hérens stare down at my laundry from the deep blue, and by the time the sun turns the corner behind the neighbor house most of the clothes are dry. Those that aren’t I hang on the ancient wooden bar next to the soapstone heating stove in the main room, or lay directly on top of it. By the next morning I can put them on, or away.
So spring in Villaz is very nice. No longer am I wearing two fleeces and a down jacket inside the house. Today I’m not even wearing long underwear. The cold water, and the cold air outside the shower, are far less daunting than in those short, dark days of winter. Birds are singing, my legs feel light and free inside their jeans without the longjohns, and it’s hard to believe that the sun, in the next few months, will reach even greater heights in the sky.