I’ve been playing giddily in my new studio in Asheville, amazed at what it does to a life to have a space dedicated to creativity. The lined-up jars of herbs and clays and petals and powders set my mind spinning down roads of possibilities and the scent is overpoweringly delicious.
Yesterday, dreaming about an upcoming workshop I’ll be hosting to inaugurate this space, I let the threads of life’s whisperings to me meet in this recipe for a fizzing foot soak. That sounds a little grandiloquent, so let me explain.
This summer was a welter of weddings, dear friends diving with great celebration into the future; this fall has been a deep and sobering reminder of mortality, with the loss of loved ones to cancer and addiction and accident. I remember one moment from this summer, standing at the head of a lovely contra dance promenade to celebrate Anna Lena’s wedding. Her bridal bouquet, which was hand-gathered and heavy with fresh basil, was being passed from person to person in the dance. As I stood there, playing the role of ‘bride’ in the dance, the spicy-sweet aroma of crushed basil woke my memory of so many summers past, growing basil amid the rows of flowers at Touchstone Farm, blending basil from my california garden into a delicious potluck pesto, steeping holy basil in a tea for a hurting friend. This basil that I held now felt like a friend too. Yet this sprig of basil was grown in a garden far from those of my memory. My idea of basil was overspreading, incorporating this sprig and every other I had held and grown and tasted. This one branch of basil that I held was a symbol, both an individual and an archetype.
It was not a great leap from there, standing as I was in the role of “bride” at a wedding, to understand myself in the same way. I have attended weddings in the role of flower girl, in the role of attendant, in the role of bride. We move through the roles of these ceremonies in an ancient dance, sometimes the maiden, sometimes the mother, sometimes the crone. Our lives wax and wane, and we dance the circle and fall, but we are more than just our one small life in the dance. As we dance it, we incarnate every archetype and hold all the power of that role, all those who came before, in our small selves. I felt that, standing there with the bouquet, that just as this small sprig of basil evoked every experience I’ve ever had with basil, each time I engage in love, or heartbreak, or art-making, or poetry, or friendship, I am participating in an ongoing dance that is far bigger than I am. I get to dance the idea of love, of art, of poetry, of friendship. And in that moment, I am more than myself. I represent the vastness of that idea, breathe in all that has come before.
So, you’re wondering, how the hell is she going to bring this back to footsoaks? So glad you asked. When I moved here to the mountains of North Carolina, a deep sense of home settled in my bones. I have never been in love with geography the way I love the contours of these mountains. My feet lead me through twisting rhododendron paths and amidst towering oaks and maples, and my heart almost hurts with the joy of it. I explained this feeling to someone I’d just met at an herbal gathering, and she told me that the substrate here is mica, a mineral whose message is “you’re okay.”
You’re okay. Isn’t that the essential message of self-care? I like to pick up flakes of mica from the soil and crush it in my fingers to a fine silver powder, then dust it into my hair and onto my face, so that I glitter in the sun. I like the silver my feet pick up when I hike barefoot here. I put powdered mica in all of my bath bombs now, so that when I step from the bath I am covered in a silver sheen, glittering and steeped in I’M OKAY.
I put lots of mica in these little footsoaks I made, thinking of that contact between foot and ground, the archetype there. Bare foot to bare earth, all of the feet that have walked these trails before me. It’s powerful. We can have feet of clay and of gold, both. We’re all of it. It’s okay.
And I put turmeric in, thinking of a friend of mine from India with radiant skin. I asked her about it one day and she said she made traditional turmeric masques for her face once a week. That weekend I mixed turmeric powder with an egg yolk and some calendula tea, placed it all over my face, and waited twenty minutes. When I washed it off, I was every bit as radiant as she said I would be. Because my face was yellow. Deep, bright, permanent yellow. It didn’t wash off for a week.
I am too white, it turns out, for turmeric masks. But I never forgot the power turmeric has on the skin, the way it nourishes and draws life and color to it. A pinch of turmeric in a foot bath draws the blood to the surface, enlivening and awakening our heroically perseverant feet.
I added sea salt, for the power of the ocean and the exultation available in racing the surf, the deep delight of feet in warm sand. I added rosemary, for its woodsy scent and evocation of memory, and its way of stopping nasty little infections in their tracks. And lavender, because OF COURSE.
After I pressed the little golden, shimmering foot soaks into their molds, I went to rinse out the bowl in the utility sink. It fizzed up golden and aromatic. I balanced on the edge of the sink and submerged my feet in that scented water. I breathed in, aware that in this moment, so many of my dreams have come true. I am working as a counselor with women, doing what I can to ease the heavy burdens of their lives. I am deep in love and deeply loved. I have an art studio on the river! I carry everything that has come before, all of the other roles I have played in the dance, and the dance goes on. In this golden moment, I am one with all of it.
Golden, sparkling feet touching earth, for this moment, and all moments.
FEET OF GOLD FOOT SOAK
1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup citric acid
1/4 cup sea salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons crushed mica
2 tablespoons sweet almond oil (infused with calendula, if you have it!)
1 tablespoon cocoa butter
1 tablespoon rosemary essential oil
1 teaspoon lavender essential oil
Rosewater, for spritzing
Mix the dry ingredients carefully together, preferably with your hands, because then they will glitter the rest of the day! Add the cocoa butter and knead as though you are making pie crust, rubbing through your fingers until it pebbles evenly. Add the remaining oils and mix completely. Spritz very sparsely with rosewater just until the mixture holds together into a ball when squeezed. Work the rosewater in very quickly so the mixture doesn’t lose its fizz. Press into molds (silicon baking molds work well, or old plastic easter eggs) quickly before the mixture sets. Let dry overnight.
Drop one into a warm tub of water and submerge feet. Dream. Walk on feet of gold.