Yesterday I stopped at Office Depot, just 4 or 5 blocks from my office. Across the street is Mikvat Esther, a place I visited when I was about 11 or 12 years old. Too young to use the mikvah but old enough to be awed by it.
A mikvah is a place where women go to cleanse themselves before their wedding, after childbirth, after coming in contact with the dead and 7 days after the last day of their period. It is essentially a ritual bath to rid you of loss (of childhood, of mourning, of a potential life).
The water is a collection (mikvah) of tap water and rain or well water that has not been carried by human hands. There is a woman there (the mikvah lady) to make sure that she is completely clean and has no knots in her hair before she steps in the bath - even checking under her nails for a speck of dirt.
It seems ancient and superstitious, and it is, but it is a practice that Jewish women have been engaging in since before the common era (that would be before Christ (B.C.) for anyone who goes by that calendar). Anyway, I can remember the smell of the mikvah. I can remember thinking that someday, I too would take my ritual bath with all of the other women who come here.
I never have used a mikvah. The idea of ritual cleansing after my period is not something I'm all that hip on, especially since I think that your period doesn't technically put you in contact with death, despite the lost opportunity for life. But there are some things that I do wish, in some way, I could purify in myself - and so in this way, I think a mikvah, despite being a bit (!) ritualistic, is somehow attractive to me.