PART 2: Mages
Chapter 7: A Retreat of Our Own
Kaitlyn bounced out of bed the next day with purpose and verve, clearly attempting to sublimate her worry and sadness in activity.
After breakfast, she walked — still naked — out into our backyard and told me, “I’m jealous, Davie. Our all-natural retreat area is nicer in some ways than my parents’, but I think we need to step up our game. We’re going to be seeing clients back here soon you know…state license board willing, I mean.”
“You want a pool, too?” I asked. “It’d be expensive to run: we don’t have free irrigation like your family farm does.”
“No, I don’t want to copy their thing, I just want to rival it somehow. If we want a natural soaking pool, we can go to my parents’. I want something of our own, something unique to our retreat, something practical yet showy, you know?”
I thought about that some, then said, “I’ve got it. I need to go to the hardware store. You stay here and do…whatever.”
An hour later I was back at the house with the short pickup bed of mi burro filled.
By the time Kaitlyn had lunch ready, I’d plumbed an extension of the bathroom’s cold water line up along the inside wall and out onto a south-facing section of ground floor roof, outside our bedroom window.
There I built a shallow wooden box about a meter square with corrugated greenhouse fiberglass covering its upper surface. Inside the box, I put about two dozen lengths of black PVC pipe, their ends connected with elbows to turn it into one single pipe roughly twenty-five meters long, doubling back on itself to cover the whole span of the exposed box face. To one end of this single long pipe I connected the cold water line up from the bathroom. The other I clad in insulating foam sleeves and ran it down the outside of the house into an inline tankless water heater. The outlet of that I connected to a short pipe ending in a shower head.
When Kaitlyn came out to announce lunch, me still dressed in the clothes I’d gone shopping in and she dressed not at all, I showed her what I’d done so far. “See, the cold water comes up from the bathroom and through that maze of black pipes on the roof where it gets warmed by the sun most of the day. That’s why I used black plastic for that section, making it a type of solar water heater.”
“Isn’t that an electric heater below it, though? Why have two hot water heaters, solar and electric?” she asked me.
I explained, “The solar heat is effectively free, passively gathered through the daylight hours, but the only way to control how hot it gets would be to adjust its tilt carefully, and that would have to vary as a function of the outdoor air temperature and the angle of the sun as it changes year-round. That’s impractical, so I added the electric heater as a temperature controller. At the moment it can only boost the water temperature from the solar heater if it’s colder than the set point. I think I might have to add a second cold line from the bathroom and run that and this hot line from the electric heater into a mixing valve — you know, like in a regular shower — to let us cool it back down. For now, I’m adjusting the water temp with the electric heater alone, since the solar heater hasn’t yet had enough time to reach its maximum temp.”
“Can I try it?”
“Hang on a sec, we don’t want to make a muddy bog in the back yard. Let me pull up some paving.”
I stripped quickly, slid into a Gaia trance, and felt around underground for some sort of suitable rock. As at the Gutierrez family farm, I found a lot of slate down there and decided to use that here, too. I felt Kaitlyn’s magical presence join me, and wordlessly we worked out the details, pulling up several sheets of the material and spreading it out over the area under the shower, then further out into a small patio where we could add chairs, a table, and such.
With our coordinated power, all of the slabs ended up with the right shape to allow them to interlock neatly, as if dry-fitted by a skilled mason.
Not wanting to leave the new patio un-mortared, I hit on an idea to seal it naturally, focusing heat on sand in the cracks, sintering it together into a rough sort of glass that bonded tightly to the slate, forming a shiny translucent earth-toned glass that set off the greenish-gray of the slate beautifully. I let the glass cool naturally, so it cracked occasionally, but that only added to the beauty of the overall look, turning the smooth material crystalline. Once she saw my plan and learned the technique from watching me there in our rapport with Gaia, Kaitlyn helped me with that, too.
“It’s beautiful, Davie,” she said when we’d finished.
“Thanks, babe. Let’s go do lunch, then we can come out and try the shower once the water’s heated up and the patio’s cooled down.”
Twenty minutes later we were out in the back yard, and I was watching my wife dancing bare under the warm spray. The electric water heater perfectly countered my PVC contraption’s dropping temperature as she drained its gathered heat.
“You know what we need next?” my wife asked, wiping warm water from her eyes, droplets falling from her short red hair onto her shoulders, glistening as they caressed down her nude body and onto the new slate patio.
“I’ve got lots of tasks still lined up, my love. There’s play sand in the FJ, and I need to frame up a sand box for it under the shower like the one your parents have. I still have to seal and paint the solar heater box. And on top of that, I still haven’t decided about whether I’m adding that second water line and a temperature adjustment knob.”
“Yes, yes, all of that, but we also need to do something with the water once it’s had its first use,” she told me. “It’s no good just dumping it on the desert.”
I replied with a slightly smug smile, “Go take a peek in the back of the FJ, farmgirl.”
She did, finding garden fencing, vine climbing poles, seed packets, live plants, a hoe, a hand trowel, and more. “Oh, you’re so thoughtful, Davie!” Then she turned and ran into my arms.
Once I’d gotten enough of my armful of naked Kaitlyn for the moment, I said, “I want to sculpt the slate under the shower to feed into the patio runoff scheme and put the garden just off the back edge so it catches that water.”
I continued, “You know what this means, of course: we’ll be forced — forced I tell you! — to shower outdoors every day to keep the vegetable plants healthy!”
“And if we have shower sex?” purred my wife.
“Fertilizing the garden, naturally. Who knows, the vegetables may even grow better that way.”
“Oh, they absolutely will, two nature mages doing it nearby.”
“I do believe you’re right, wife mine,” and I squeezed her in a hug, getting my front all wet, requiring me to join her under the shower.
After we’d finished consecrating the ground — and just never you mind the details! — Kaitlyn said, “You know, we could even use this with clients, having them get into the spirit of the massage before they begin. I know I’ll be happier working on clean bodies than…whatever it is they bring in with them.” She gave a bit of a shudder with that.
“Ahead of you again, actually,” I told her. “That long wide box in the FJ’s bed is a portable dressing screen for clients, the long narrow one is a coat rack, and the short square one is a sturdy patio drawer set that’ll double as a dressing bench and a place for clients to keep things while we work on them. You can build them while I finish work on the shower.”
“You big meanie! Leaving me with the cryptic instructions and all!”
I shrugged at her. “We can switch places if you want: you on the roof in the hot sun and me puzzling out the Chinglish.”
She stuck her tongue out a bit at that, scrunching her face in mild disgust. “On second thought…”
“That’s what I thought. Time for me to get back at it.” I grabbed up a paint can, paint brush, and a caulking gun and got to work finishing the solar water heater box.
By sundown, we were ready for a second test, after which we agreed that we’d definitely need to plumb in the cold line: that solar heater got the water seriously hot by day’s end! That lined me out for the following day: plumbing part Ⅱ.
We spent the rest of that first week home getting our backyard retreat ready for use as our primary client massaging area: fine-tuning the shower scheme, arranging patio furniture, planting the garden, and adding what we may characterize as “biological inputs” to it.
All of Kaitlyn’s local kin visited us at least once that week.
The new solar shower was a big hit. Mary extracted a promise from Ramón and Miguel to rework their retreat shower to match ours. She also liked our new glass mortaring trick, demanding that we do it on their retreat area, too. The reward for good work is more work!
By week’s end, we’d stopped using the hallway bathroom for showers entirely, using the backyard one exclusively. Gotta keep the seedlings healthy, right? Right.