Once upon a time about a year ago, my then 8-year-old niece, Caroline, in the thick of a fascination with all things creepy crawly, says: “Aunt Heidi? Why don’t you mix some of this clay with some mushed up slugs and use it as a creme for your massages?”
I was, of course, all ewww and then, “Uh, Caroline? Thing is, I don’t think my clients want to leave their sessions smelling of slug. And, I want them to come back, you know.” To which she, ever with ideas, says: “well then you could add some ginger ale. And cinnamon for good smell.”
Then it came to pass this summer just past that my handmade Shea Butter massage creme-making source moved clear across the country (Emily Taylor, go see her for massage if you’re in the San Fran Bay—she’s great!) and took her little creme-making biz, along with my all-time favorite name “Bye Bye Bitchy Butter,” with her.
Two words: Oh boo.
So yeah. I cried and cried but simply could not bear the thought of returning to the lotions of yore, with their long, tiny-point font, list of tongue-twisting ingredients. And parabens. No thank you.
Eventually, as always happens with tears, they came to an end and I dried my eyes. And then I rolled up my sleeves, got myself a gallon of Shea Butter (fantastic, pure & simple stuff), and remembering Caroline’s suggestion and my early days in Baba Yaga’s Kitchen, I went to play making body butters of my own. (Sans slug—sorry, Caroline).
Oh the fun! I played with all kinds of organic, wild-crafted or farm select essential oils, combining them for therapeutic/medicinal effect and delicious, subtle scent.
I played with grapefruit and other citrus essences for their qualities of joy and uplift.
I played with mint & eucalyptus for their qualities of bringing ease and helping to move through or around stuckage and suckage.
I found a scrumptious Cocoa Absolute and made a chocolate dream creme with my nieces in mind.
I played with ginger and came up with a creme that, honest to goodness, smells like Chai, sweet and spicy. But not too much. (I think my sister might say it reminds her of her adored Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks).
Right now I’m playing with essences to help good and otherwise sane people in the midst of can-someone-puhleeze-calm-me-the-heck-down freakouts. Especially good for hormonal fluctuations of the cyclical variety.
The scents tend to be subtle, because I am so not a perfume girl. (Excuse me while I sneeze at the mere suggestion of perfume.)
And names. Wheeee! I’m playing with ideas: Broken Heart Balm, 3 AM Worry Creme, Pain in the Neck Creme, and MellowDrama, and ChaChaChai, and Maybe, and SassyPants…
So yes, the joy! Awesome cremes, plant essences, and getting to play with droppers and mortars and pestles and jars and bottles. Oh my.
So that’s the story of how I started making my own massage and body butters to use at Heidi’s Table.
And then one day I was doing promotional work for my business at the lovely & local Cambridge Naturals. (If you live in this area and are ever in need of uplift and healthy goodness, go in there. Seriously! Every single person that works there pretty much knows everything there is to ever know about anything related to health and wellness. Plus, they’ll make you feel like a million bucks.) There I was between chair massage clients, when one of their lovely staff says to me, “Heidi, don’t you have something we could sell?” And I’m all like, “uh… why… matter o’ fact, yes!”
So that’s the story of how I started biggifying what had previously been just for me and my bodywork clients.
Um, Heidi, what about the aardvark?
Right… So then one night, when the honeymoon period of my idea had pretty much worn thin, in the throes of some heavy duty discouragement, an aardvark visited my dreams…
We were in Africa. Me, all preoccupied, and he, right there pretty much trailing me. I tried to give him the slip, to no avail. So I got more direct: “excuse me very much Aardvark Animal You, but I have quite the lot to deal with over here without you nipping at my heels thank you very much.”
Preoccupation, oh my. On my mind were things, or rather, Things: like stuff from the past of the kind you pay someone to hear and help you with every week, and the stuff of running a business in an economy that people keep referring to in unflattering terms, and stuff about relationships and mending hearts, and trying to write and make room for creativity…
I could tell you that this aardvark was sensitive to cues and respectful of personal space, but that would be, as my Grandpa used to say, a fib. Because, oh no! This was one ballsy and persistent little bastard. (And no, my Grandpa would never have said that, being a preacher and all).
Do you know what the aardvark went and did then? It jumped up and bit my hand (Owwwwww!) all, “don’t you be ignoring me, missy!”
To which I’m all, “Excuse me very much but this is my dream.”
And he’s all, “Oh yeah? Who died and made you the queen of dreamland?”
And I’m like, “Wha—? Excuse me? It’s my mind, you know.”
And he’s all, “Um, it’s my Africa.”
And I’m like, “That doesn’t even make sense. This discussion is over.”
But it wasn’t, because in the morning, perplexed, I did back-breaking research and learned that aardvarks are native to Africa, which happens to also be where Shea Butter comes from. And they have a terrific sense of smell and a super tough skin. Reeeally tough. Like, put your tongue in a red ant nest to feed (yum!) and have a million ants bite your tongue and you’d be like, wha—? red ants? whatever. So yeah, aardvarks, like Baba Yaga, like Johnny Depp, like Mark Twain, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, are badass and don’t let what people think stop them from doing, saying, or creating what is true for them. It’s a quality I admire: that kind of self-assured and poised confidence.
I’ve come to quite appreciate my ballsy aardvark, so much so that the name of this new creation has become:
Aardvark Essentials: Lotions and potions for mixed up emotions.
Eager guinea pigs around the country have already been sampling the goods. Several of them report hoarding what’s left of their stash until more is available. The massage therapist of my samplers reports being “officially addicted.”
Aardvark Essentials is about caring for ourselves, including the part of us that would rather not bother. It’s about noticing what seems to’ve become my question of the year: what’s essential here? It’s about simplifying. It’s about making room for joy. It’s about helping people understand and begin to enjoy what amounts to an arranged marriage between our bodies and our minds.
Whoa. And, yay! So worth it.
P.S. Ok, quick! Without looking back up, how do you spell the name of this animal I’ve been talking about? (I want to know how people would try spelling it in searches. Thanks for your help. And your yays.