These days it’s common to check the weather forecast- who knows when the rain would pour down on us! And it’s also fairly common to keep an eye on the economy. Harvard-graduates do a lot of research on this stuff! After all, it does affect our livelihood. But who knew one could keep an eye on one’s business margins too. I’m not talking balance sheets and numbers. I’m talking astrology! A while back, I ran into an acquaintance who confidently told me how a small business can turn into a Fortune 500 if I listened to the astrologers. I toyed around with the idea just for fun. I mean, they do play a number game as well, although its components are stars, planets, birth dates and locations.
Coming from a family of lawyers, logical thinking makes sense and I wonder if astrological charts would fit the bill too.
It’s 12:00 a.m., and she’s fast asleep. All the guests are asleep. In fact, it’s the week that we’re out of town, but we let a couple we know stay a few days at our residence. It wasn’t supposed to go like this, but it did. The loud noise woke them up. It almost sounded like wood or maybe metal or some sturdy material banging against a door or wall.
She heard it first and jumped out of her bed shaking her husband.
“Did you hear that?”
“What?” he replied groggily.
“The loud noise!”
Then something crashed. It was loud and clear. The couple stared at each other. He grabbed a torch and and his son’s toy baseball bat and ran downstairs.
“Who’s there? Show yourself.”
Before I begin this story, let me admit to a guilty pleasure of my childhood, although I didn’t quite feel guilty about it then. I had an accomplice too- an Austrian friend I hung out with a lot at boarding school. We had a lot of good times and adventure- mind you not as wild as Harry Potter’s, but as close as one can get in the real world.
We stood in the long corridor waiting. The phone didn’t ring. We waited. It was temptingly quite. We couldn’t wait any longer. My friend dared me to use it. We weren’t supposed to use the school phone without permission. There were a few landlines outside certain teacher’s rooms that sometimes lay unattended. I went for it while my friend kept watch. I picked up the phone and dialed random numbers.
I’ve always been told that amongst all the qualities an evolved human can possess, patience is supreme. After all, it’s been around in human consciousness for a while as the saying goes, “Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can seldom in a woman, never in a man,” although I’m not sure if I agree with the latter. See, my man happens to have a peculiar streak of patience. He can sit back and relax while others argue, not feeling the need to convince or control. And although he cares, he can just chill while everyone worries about the next snowstorm, economic downturn or even the end of the world for that matter! And I wonder if it is this streak that has got him on the road to soap making.
You see, after soap is made, it needs to sit. Just chill. Not hibernate for months like a bear, thank goodness. But it’s got to cure for a month at least (unless it’s a pure Olive Oil soap, which takes much longer.) Making soap takes patience, which I’m learning as part of the soapmaking house. I refrain from using it as soon as it’s made no matter how tempting. I watch it like a child gazing into a confectioner’s shop, wondering about those chocolate covered delights that he can’t have until he’s big enough to learn self-restraint.
A while ago I had visited my friend in California. A few months before my visit, she was in Morocco. Beautiful Morocco. A place I’ve daydreamed about many times. She brought back with finely cut metal lamps, also known as Moroccan lamps. They had red and green color shades, which gave her gazebo an enchanting touch. We ate lamb kabobs, chicken with herbs and flatbread as she reminisced about Morocco.
I had so many questions. What was it like? What did she feel as she stepped out of the plane and so on. But something struck me out of all the delights she told me of.
“I felt power in that land.”
What kind of power I asked her, imploring her to tell me more until it became as clear as a picture perfect summer day.
“I don’t know,” she said. “But when I stepped out of the plane and drove a few miles, I had an urge to feel the land. I stepped on the earth barefoot and felt a surge of energy fill my being.”
She felt power in the earth. The soft clay that she walked on absorbed her negativity and refreshed her. That’s what she meant by power of the earth.
I sat staring at her bewildered.
And then she handed me a packet, “I found some Moroccan clay for you from the Atlas mountains.”
Now I may not know much about the biggest mountain range of Morocco, but I remember a Geography teacher once telling me about the special soil formed there from volcanic deposit. On further research I found that Moroccan Clay’s high mineral content has a detoxifying effect on skin and has been in use for thousands of years!
Oh and Morrocan clay is also known as “Rhassoul clay,” which in Arabic means “the matter that washes.” It couldn’t get better.
I think I can guess my soap maker’s next magical ingredient.
And as for me, I still long to visit Morocco, but with Moroccan clay on hand, at least I can immerse myself in that delightful feeling my friend felt when she touched Morrocan soil.
The basement is where it began. Soap batch number one. French Clay. A curious aroma filled our house. It came from the kitchen. I worried about the onion I managed to burn. The recipe said caramalize the onion for the curry base. I’m pretty sure I burnt it. I worried about the smell. The guests were to arrive in the evening, and my husband was busily working at his own recipe like a soap chemist without the lab coat. Well, he doesn’t wear one outside his professional field of chemical engineering.
I’m diverting. The smell was strong. I thought maybe bake a cake to deal with it. Baked goods smell so welcoming! Right, but I was out of eggs and milk. Alright then, I was just going to accept it- smelly house to welcome guest. I better make up for it with good food. I got to work with another batch of onion till I got the curry recipe right. It was late. I called my husband, and we sat together for some homemade chai tea. He excitedly told me about his latest soap discoveries. He was going to add one the most sought after ingredients- Turmeric and Neem- both known for their curative properties and used in Eastern traditional medicine since ages. I told him I couldn’t wait to try it. And I also told him I couldn’t wait for him to get ready. The guests were to arrive any minute.
He rubbed his fragrant oily hands together, “Well, I’m ready. Can’t you smell it?”
“Very funny,” I responded. “Nobody will smell it with this overpowering burnt onion filling the house!”
“Ah, we’ll see,” my husband said with a twinkle in his eye and off he went to change into a clean T-shirt and khakis.
The bell rang. I opened the door with a smile, but I was still conscious of the curry smell. The guests sat comfortably on our red fabric couch. After some warm apple cider and roasted nuts, they gravitated to the kitchen. A painting of red rocks caught their attention midway.
“That’s Sedona,” I said, hoping to keep them away from the kitchen because of the smell.
“I smell lavender,” said one of the guests.
“You do?” I was surprised.
“Oh yes,” my husband glowed with delight. “That would be our soap factory downstairs.”
He went on enthusiastically telling them about the wonders of handmade soaps, and they too listened quite attentively. He even took them on a tour of the soaps.
I was relieved. I thought about that twinkle in his eye, and I bet he was telling me, “You think these soaps don’t carry enough weight to overpower your curry?”
I’m so glad they do! I guess there’s an advantage to having a soap factory in the house. The basement may be where it all began, but it certainly isn’t where it’s all contained. Perhaps our next guests may be treated to a hint of rose or musk fragrance. How welcoming! I wonder what magic he might be working up next…