In the apartment in which I grew up (age zero to twenty) we had an enormous porcelain tub. It was at least fifty years old; entirely porcelain, it could hold heat for up to ten minutes after being drained. It was six feet long and the end was canted at just the right angle. The taps reached over the end, mounted on separate plumbing, and had handles for hot and cold, allowing for aquadexterity. I spent a great deal of time in that tub. Although it had a shower head, we never used it.

Since moving out, I have never lived anywhere with a functional tub. Even though my present apartment has a tub, it's really only useful as the base to the shower. While I am no cleaner or dirtier, on average, I can't help feeling that my higher stress level can be traced at least in part to my inability to simply take a soothing bath once in a while.

On a piece of family property in Vermont where we used to camp summers, we have a stream. The stream does not go upstream all that far. Even in the summer, the water is cold (especially comparatively) and unless it's high mosquito season, it's quite comfy. Right on our property is a series of pools, formed as the stream goes downhill. All are perfect for simply sitting in. The water is cold, but refreshing; the noise of the stream as it rushes over and around the rocks is one thing that a bathtub cannot compete with. Leaning one's head back so that only your face is above the surface, you can hear the almost-metallic clinking of stones beneath the water, and hear the endless trickling rill of the small falls that feed the pool, eternal and unchanging. The white noise that it generates is enough to cause sleep almost instantly, even with the water freezing in the spring from icemelt. In the summer, however, one actually can sleep in the stream (I've done it) and it's incredibly relaxing.