Nature Bathing

Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a safe, warm wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.

Aunt Lillibet had been in bed with a bad cold for a week and she was very grumpy. She had read all her gardening books twice. She had knitted two pairs of socks and one-and-a-half scarves, and she had finished three baby jackets that Aunt Moss had started for baby Rosie and stopped because the pattern was too hard or the neck was too tight or she had lost one of her needles halfway through the last sleeve. She was so bored she could scream.

“Arghhhh!” she screamed. “This is the most boring wombat hole in the universe!”

Aunt Moss said, “Lillibet, don’t get so upset! I’m sure it’s bad for you. Would you like another cup of sage tea?”

“No!” Aunt Lillibet said very loudly. “I’ve had so much sage tea, my feet are turning green! And if you make me one more horseradish and lemon myrtle sandwich, I’ll throw it at you!”

“Oh dear,” said Aunt Moss.

“Don’t worry, Aunt Moss,” said Benson, who was lying on the floor, comfortably out of reach, drawing a crocodile circus. “Aunt Lillibet is just in a mood.”

“I am not in a mood,” Aunt Lillibet said in a very scary voice. “I am sick and tired of being sick, and tired,” she said.

Benson’s mother said, “Aunt Lillibet, I think it might do you good to go for a little walk, out in the fresh air and sunshine.”

Aunt Moss said, “Oh, yes! A little nature-bathing is sure to make you feel better.”

Aunt Lillibet said dangerously, “Moss, a walk in the bush is a walk in the bush, not a nature bath or a sun shower or a fresh-air fun fair. I’m not going to take my clothes off and swim in a puddle!”

“No, of course not, Lillibet,” Aunt Moss said. “But don’t you remember Shelley saying how good it is for you to spend time taking in the beauty of nature and getting in touch with your inner naturist?”

Benson’s mother said quickly, before Aunt Lillibet could blow her top, “Benson, why don’t you go for a walk with Aunt Lillibet? That way she’ll have someone to chat to, and if she gets tired, you can help her on the walk home.”

Benson didn’t want to go for a walk, especially not with a grumpy, fire-breathing Aunt Lillibet. He wanted to keep drawing crocodiles juggling and crocodile clowns with red noses, and crocodiles on trapezes, but his mother had a look on her face that said, If you take Aunt Lillibet for a walk, there’ll be muffins or possibly a carrot cake when you get home.

“Oh, all right,” he said, getting up slowly. His mother raised an eyebrow at him, and he changed his expression into a cheery smile and said, “I’d love to go with you, Aunt Lillibet.”

So he and Aunt Lillibet set off. It had been raining earlier but now it was nice and sunny. Aunt Lillibet lifted her face up to the sun and felt better straight away. Benson lifted his face and tripped over a big tree-root.

Aunt Lillibet laughed and helped him up again. Benson brushed off the dirt and they kept going. Aunt Lillibet breathed in the fresh air and felt so much better that she started to smile. Benson breathed in, and snuffed a bug right up his nose. He snorted and sneezed until it came out again, while Aunt Lillibet fell over herself laughing.

A bit further down the track there was a banksia covered in golden yellow flowers. Aunt Lillibet exclaimed, “Aren’t these flowers beautiful?” A bee came buzzing out of the bush towards Benson. He backed away quickly, trying to gently whoosh the bee away without making it angry. He slipped on some moss on the track behind him and fell backwards into a huge pile of wet, slimy leaves.

Aunt Lillibet laughed so much she had to grab onto a branch and sit down. Benson tried to get up, but he slipped over again on the leaves. When he sat up, he had leaves stuck to his head and coming out of his ears, and leaf slime all down his back. He looked at himself and he started to laugh too. He threw handfuls of leaves up into the air and let them rain down on him, and he rolled over and over in them. He burrowed deep into the pile, smelling the dank, earthy smell, then he lay down on top of the soft pile of leaves and looked at the sky.

After a while, he said, “I think it’s time to go home, Aunt Lillibet.”

“Oh, all right,” Aunt Lillibet said. She was really feeling much better. They went home, with Benson dripping leaves and dirt and slime every step of the way.

“Oh dear, Benson, what happened to you?” Aunt Moss said, when they got back.

“He’s been nature-bathing, can’t you tell?” Aunt Lillibet said.

“I think he needs a proper bath,” Benson’s mother said. “And then there’ll be muffins AND carrot cake!”

Benson smiled happily and went off to have his bath.

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