Sunday, December 4, 2011

Creative Manifestation

There was a time in my life when I was faced with quitting a particularly physical job for the sake of my pregnancy. Everything about my life was about to change with the birth of my daughter, so it seemed like a good time to re-evaluate the space into which I was bringing this new life-form. In hindsight, I think of this as my hedonist period.

It started with bag balm. For those of you who’ve been pregnant, you know the relief this can bring to stretching skin. For those of you who haven’t, imagine cow udders massaged in a balm that would relieve the pressure and swelling of constant milk production and extraction. Yeow. Bag balm spawned the desire for other body pleasure/necessity products: soothing oils, lotions, gentle soaps, herbal toothpaste, scented shampoo. . .

One of my favorite spots on earth was the Berkeley Body Shop. I had moved up from Berkeley a couple years earlier, and when homesick for the chaos of city living (at that time, we were living on the side of a mountain, miles from anything, next to a burbling creek, surrounded by trees), I’d drive a couple hours south and spend the day in my old Berkeley haunts. The Body Shop was a place that met the needs of all my senses (yes, there were even edible massage oils). I used to dream of having a life surrounded by this sort of luxury, as I would pay for one bar of exquisite smelling hand-milled soap, or one carefully chosen bottle of scented lotion.

Pregnancy for me was a hugely inspired, creatively filled endeavor. When I quit my job, I decided to open my own retail business, selling all those scrumptious products I was driving to Berkeley to buy, one at a time. I’ve always been a learn-by-doing sorta gal, so with the help of my then-husband, I launched into a mad information gathering quest, learned how to do business proposals, a fictitious business statement, advertising, how to deal with wholesalers, keep records, price and display products.

We were putting the final coat of stain on the double Dutch shop door the day before I went into labor. Three days after my daughter was born, we opened up shop. My daughter had a special place on top of the counter, and a small quiet room for uninterrupted naps as needed. We were surrounded by luxury. In good weather, the top doors were open, allowing scents to waft seductively onto the street. New Age music welcomed people into the shop. Incense, music, scented soap, thirty different fragrances in bulk that could be used to scent lotions, shampoos, massage oils, shaving lotions, bubble bath, individual essential oils, jewelry, East Indian clothing, baskets, gift packages, lip balms, natural make up, hair brushes, foot massage products, Reflexology charts—virtually everything to soothe or stimulate the senses—could be found in this little haven of hedonism.

It became a hub, a center, a gathering point for like-minded people, breaking the isolation that often comes with new motherhood. Local artists displayed their work. It became an information distribution center for events in the community. It became a drop-in, safe and welcoming haven for patients from the nearby state hospital who were on day pass. It became “that place where the baby is growing up.” By the time my daughter was two, I was known about town as, “the Scent Shoppe baby’s mother.”

Fast forward a few decades. I sold the shop when my daughter was five, and returned to the university to finish my education. My life reinvented itself, as life does, although I didn’t lose touch completely with the word of scents. I went through a period of fascination with medicinal essential oils for healing. I’m partial to using Frankincense for removing skin tags. You want to know what you’re doing before you try this, or you’ll damage your skin. Geranium oil is good for those pesky fungal conditions and antibacterial needs. My favorite is an oil (blend) that reportedly was used back in the days of the Black Plague to boost the immune system.

Life moved on, and I got distracted with a host of other interests. I gave away my collection of oils and books on healing.

Recently, a friend passed along a recipe for foaming hand soap using essential oils, and I found myself returning to this old passion, the desire to bring a little luxury into my life. If you’re feeling particularly hedonistic and adventurous, here’s what you’ll need:

A foaming pump bottle. The only place I could find these where you didn’t have to order in lots of 1,000 was on-line. They’re very reasonable—a little over a dollar each. Into this bottle, fill ½ your container with Dr. Bronner’s unscented liquid soap (most health stores carry this, some in bulk); ¼ your container with filtered water, and 1/8 your container with an oil of your choice (jojoba, olive, almond, etc.). Add your favorite essential oil—a few drops or more, your choice. Shake gently to blend. The pump will do the rest. It creates a luxurious, scented, foaming soap worthy of anyone on your Christmas gift list. Or, perhaps, just for yourself.

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