Oh, yeah! I wanted to try out our homemade soap today.
I crept through our house in the buff, conscientious of all the open windows. I selected the raggedy end piece of the cucumber mint soap that was curing on the shelf and gave it a sniff drawing in a cool, fresh, barely-there scent.
I tip-toed back into the steamy shower, because quiet = invisible. I let the water run over me as I grabbed my trusty loofah. I rubbed the soap into the loofah and was rewarded with a big pile of lather. I soaped up and scrubbed down twice, thoroughly happy to be covered in lather from our homemade soap.
I washed my hair and rinsed and turned off the shower. I carefully balanced the thin piece of soap on end to allow it to dry better.
In the hours since my shower, I have been noticing the softness of my skin and the fresh scent. It’s lovely.
My mind always goes to the why of these feelings.
Is it the reality of the superiority of homemade soap or the satisfying experience of making a thing, then using that thing, that is creating this lovely feeling?
On the one hand, homemade soap is supposedly superior to mass produced soaps because it retains its natural glycerin created during the chemical reaction. Also, I used good quality oils with a superfat (oil left over after reacting with lye) that I thought would work well on my skin. (It tends to be dry.) Also, I love the fresh, yet mild smell of mint and cucumber and picked out this recipe specifically for the hot, sweaty summer.
On the other hand, I made it myself. I used dried peppermint from my garden to infuse the olive oil. I pureed cucumber in distilled water and added the lye. Then I strained the mint from the olive oil and combined it with weighed out portions of other oils. I blended the mixture until trace and added a weighed out portion of green clay and peppermint essential oil. Then I blended again and poured the batter into a soap mold and wrapped it in a towel. After four days of peeking at it in the mold, I popped it out. Waited a few more days and sliced it up and set it aside to cure. That corner of the house smells so fresh and nice. It could use another week to cure but that thin end-slice was close enough.
So is it the custom fit or the satisfaction of using something I hand crafted? Or maybe a bit of both?
We are growing blackberries and the ones I didn’t pick and eat warm and fragrant from the cane I’ve made into cobbler or frozen on trays. Oh my, the cobbler… The smoothies… Oh the nostalgia of being five years old foraging Blue River for blackberries on those long summer days.
Gabi has a bazillion stuffed animals, but the one she treasures the most is a ratty old teddy bear named Theodore. He gets the primo spot snuggled next to her under the blankets every night. She loves him because Theodore was Charley’s bear from when he was a baby.
My father-in-law’s smoked salmon. Lina’s pickled asparagus. Kim’s brownies. Dad's biscuits and gravy. Tricia’s zucchini bread and stuffed peppers. Lori's spaghetti casserole she gifts you when your family struggles. Warren’s salmon. Katie’s Slutty Brownies. Oma's chocolate cream pie... I could go on, but I won’t...
OK, I lied. Just one more.
That’s it, isn’t it? That there’s just something missing. A missing connection. A connection to our memories. A connection to our efforts and experiences. A connection to people we love.
Maybe that’s why restaurants use so much butter and salt on everything, to try to make up for that missing something? How many times do I eat without even tasting what I’m eating? All the time except, when I’m eating something that I’ve grown, caught, or made from scratch. Then I sit back and take note. Do I notice how nice grocery store soap feels? Nope, I just scrub up and get out while my mind churns on the day’s to do list.
I think we try to fill this something-missing void with new stuff, distractions, ice-cream, coffee, or try to dull it with chemicals, but it never quite does it. We’re still searching for something...
Maybe it’s all those little connections that make life sweet. Feeling connected to our friends, family, backyards where we grow stuff, the lakes and rivers where we fish, and forests where we hunt, forage, and play, and to our past...
So bake the bread. Play and sing the songs. Ferment the beer. Sew the dress. Knit the blanket. Sip the Oyster Stew. Use your dad’s iron skillets whenever you can. Take out your grandpa’s fishing pole. Smell the soap on your skin.
Then share all those wonderful connections with others and weave a beautiful web of meaningfulness and community.
Or maybe I think too much...