When Two Worlds Collide

28 10 2013
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The new, brightly colored labels wrapped in a little piece of history.

The past.  Who doesn’t think about it? What I’ve found as I’ve gotten older is that I have many pasts that, over time, have become compartmentalized so that it would seem my memory now looks something like a neatly organized jewelry drawer. There are pieces of my past that, much like a great aunt wasting away in a nursing home, I simply no longer go to visit. I know that some people are more fluid in their memory, they see their past on a continuum to where they are now — like when they were born, they hopped on the I-5 in Southern Oregon and just keep heading south knowing that one day they will reach the Mexican Border.  Their memories are like landmarks that they’ve seen or visited along the way. I’m more of a scattered road trip kind of girl. I like to get in the car and see where the day takes me, and maybe that’s why I differ.  I’ve had so many seemingly incongruous lives in the past four and a half decades that even after fifteen years of being married, things still come up with my partner that shock and amaze her (and sometimes just piss her off that I’ve never brought them up — motorcycles, that Newspaper I once owned and wrote for, and let’s not mention the snake incident).

We’ve had goats for three and a half years now and, even with the goats, there have been chapters.  Chapter 1: Julianne finishes getting her teaching certificate and, while the rest of her colleagues run to the local colleges for jobs, Julianne runs in the opposite direction (Ukiah) and gets a goat. Chapter 2: Julianne’s friend Danya convinces her to sell cheese once a month at her new underground market. This opens the door to other underground markets and Julianne begins (briefly) to dream of a life as a cheese maker before the government gets too nosy and she decides to try selling soap instead. Chapter 3: Faerie Goatmother becomes a soap company and Julianne (after six years of carefully planning a life of writing and teaching college) becomes a goat owning soap maker.

See? Incongruous.

Lately we’ve been spending a lot of time at home trying to get our house, our yards, or hoard in order.  It’s fallen prey to neglect and we realized that it was time to make our home a priority.  Along with this realization came a desire to just be here more, to feel more connected and settled and relaxed. I’ve been working with a wholesale broker to get Faerie Goatmother into more stores so that we can, once and for all, reclaim our weekends and get to the point of simply performing maintenance on our lives, rather than seeing our homelife one vast unfinished project.  Part of making the soaps more attractive to retailers was to make the labels more visually interesting. I’ve spent weeks designing them and, after many incarnations finally have them the way I want them.  The next question (because I had decided that the box was not sustainable from a business standpoint at 1/4 of the per bar cost of production) was what to wrap the bars in? I don’t like unwrapped bars for retail, and I loathe the paper band — it’s flimsy and cheap and it’s what everyone is doing (aside from that woman at Urban Air that “wraps” her bars in string like one might put string around a bakery box — what’s the fucking point?).  For some people, this is enough but, for me and Danaé, it’s a pet peeve. Over the past couple of years of doing soap seriously, we have seen so many people make what we call “nose love” to the soap.  They rub it up against, and practically into, their nostrils, and the thought of taking that same bar of soap home simply grosses us out. Danaé, thinking specifically of the man with the dripping, oozing nose that visits our booth once a month at a local market, calls it “dirty soap”.  After trying shrink wrap out for a week, I decided that anything that requires me to wear a mask for protection from fumes is not something I want to be doing on a regular basis.  Then two of my present worlds collided — my soap world and my parenting world.

Kaherdin had a field trip to the Palo Alto Art Center to see the Bibliophila exhibit — works of art primarily made out of books and book parts — and I was a chaperone. I was transfixed by many of the pieces. I have always been drawn to visual art pieces that incorporate words into their designs, so this exhibit really spoke to me. Ideas began flooding in as I silently critiqued and improved upon some of the pieces and simply stood in awe of others.  I was inspired and wanted to use books to make my own works of art, but that would have to wait for another life because, in this life, I had labels and packaging to work out.

I dropped Kaherdin back off at school and headed over to Michael’s to look at their paper selection to see if maybe there was something there that I could wrap the bars in. That is when it hit me. Book pages. The docent at the Art Center mentioned how many books end up in the dumpster because nobody wants them, so I picked up my phone and got onto Craigslist scouring for ads for either dollar books or free books.  And this is when it happened — my current life collided with my past in the best possible way.

I have been lugging around hundreds of copies of Rainbow Curve, the now defunct literary magazine for which I was poetry editor for five years.  Nobody wants these copies — they are slightly weather worn, they are heavy, they are abundant and they have been taking up room everywhere I have stashed them for the past decade. I raced home, grabbed a copy and ripped a page from the spine.  It was a Cinderella moment — a perfect fit.

It has been emotional, taking apart the Rainbow Curve chapter. The magazine ran eight issues and, in that time, I had two babies, and a major depression. All of these things were chronicled in my forward for each issue. I would often describe where I was in life as a way of explaining how or why the poems for each issue had congruity. In rereading these forwards I realize how quickly time has passed and how many chapters to my own life have been added (and forgotten) since then. One thing I realize is that I was a MUCH better writer back then, and I would really like to take the time to hone that skill once more.

There is something so perfect to me about wrapping this chapter in the pages of an old chapter. That compartmentalized piece of myself — Julianne the poet, the Poetry Editor, co-founder of two literary magazines — that I had shelved as no longer relevant, suddenly emerged as both relevant and useful. The bars look AMAZING. All weekend at Treasure Island Flea, people were commenting on the packaging and one woman, owner of a shop in Healdsburg, even stopped, picked up some bars and said she liked the packaging and the soap so much that she would like to ditch her current goat milk soap and carry Faerie Goatmother instead.

And now, every time I wrap a bar, or see a bar, I am reminded of my lit life and what a big part of my life it was and still can be. Looking forward, the past looks bright.

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