Exiting the Post Office into a bright August afternoon on the California coast, I carried three packages in my hands.
One was a book I had ordered, the second was an ‘earthing’ pad for working at my computer, and the third was a brown paper-wrapped parcel from England. The handwriting on the label I instantly recognized as that of my dear friend Sara, and I grinned happily as I walked back to the car. A quick scan of the international Customs label read, “candles and tea.”
Arriving home, I set the first two packages on my desk, and the special one atop the dining table (which sits in the main room of this little cottage). I would open it later, after supper. Customs label aside, I pretty much knew what it contained because my friend had sent me an email telling me the parcel was on its way.
Later, after an al fresco supper on the front deck—a fresh salad of organic baby greens served alongside a grilled, free-range chicken breast topped with a garlicky basil pistou—as evening arrived, the sky faded to a whisper of pale violet, touched with notes of cypress and the nearby sea. I fetched a pair of scissors from the kitchen, crossed to the dining table, and cut the packing tape on the paper-wrapped box. No sooner had I opened it when the gentle, honey-like scent of pure beeswax wafted up to greet me.
Peering inside the carton, I couldn’t help but smile. In addition to several bundles of candles wrapped in wheat-colored tissue paper, there were two purple boxes of my favorite tea from a London shop, and a couple of bars of Green & Black’s Espresso organic dark chocolate—almost impossible to find in the States, and becoming scarcer in the UK, too. Delighted as a child on Christmas morning, I nearly squealed.
There was also the requisite Sara card, this one an image of a dear miniature owl sitting in a drain pipe and peering out with wide yellow eyes. My friend and I both adore these remarkable winged creatures, and I never cease to be amazed at her ability to find an array of fabulous cards with owls on them. (I must have at least a dozen from her tucked into my desk, or framed and sitting around the cottage.)
Fellow artists we are, each with our different craft. (It’s absurd how talented she is with anything related to art.) There are myriad facets and bonds to our ongoing friendship, but she too appreciates the disappearing art of craftsmanship, along with all things handmade that somehow touch the elemental soul.
Unwrapping each of the several bundles, I pressed the fragrant candles to my nose, still smiling. Made by a local beekeeper in England and hand-dipped, the tapers are charmingly rustic. I think the short ones are particularly precious (though obviously they don’t last as long). They make the very best sort of gift, exactly the sort of thing that I cherish and use with deep appreciation. Similarly with the exquisite tea and wickedly good, espresso dark chocolate.
Such a haul of beeswax candles cannot have been inexpensive, and then add to that the cost of shipping the parcel internationally. She does this sort of thing repeatedly, and once again I am blessed with a lovely present from my dear friend. I stand for a quiet minute, the wealth of tapers (half a dozen tall ones, and more than that of the shorter ones) unwrapped and laid on the table, and feel a wave of emotion flood through me.
Without doubt, the Good Witch of Kent (as I like to call her) is one of the most generous people I have the good fortune to know. (Also without doubt, she is flushing pink with embarrassment that I am calling attention in such a public way to her largess and fine friendship.)
Munificence notwithstanding, it is the extreme thoughtfulness of the gift that touches me—that my friend knows I am inordinately fond of pure beeswax candles (especially these soul pleasing, hand-dipped ones), that I light one each morning as part of my greet-the-day writing ritual. I burn them in the evening at supper, too, if I’m feeling extravagant (otherwise I use tea lights, but I must have candlelight with dinner). She knows how dearly I miss my honeybees, and that I value beeswax itself; unlike cheap paraffin or soy-based candles, it releases health-benefitting negative ions into the air—purifying rather than polluting.
The Good Witch knows too (perhaps from a crystal scrying ball) that alongside said candle in the early morning hours, I sit with a pot of fine tea, and that I adore a certain blend from a shop in London above all others (The Tea Palace in Covent Garden, in case you are wondering). Thanks to her, even though I now reside back in the strange lands of America, I am rarely without my preferred breakfast brew.
As for the coffee-infused chocolate, it was I who hooked her on the organic, drug-laced cacao while living in England. I cannot think how many pounds of the stuff we’ve consumed between us. All other coffee-meets-chocolate bars fall short of Green & Black’s Espresso. Heaven, I tell you… and just as difficult to find.
Little treasures of a Soul Artist’s life these candles are. Another remarkable gift of nature. Yet perhaps a greater present is the deep and enduring friendship, one that persists through regular emails zoomed halfway around the globe. In all the ups and downs, the triumphs and heartbreaks these past years, we have been there for each other. Encouraging. Celebrating. Consoling. Offering a prayer to the moon when the night seems darkest and without end. Lighting a candle for solace and inspiration. Raising a glass of good bubbly.
Seldom is it more than a few days that pass without one of us reaching out to the other, whether it’s just a short note or a long, rambling missive—a “two cuppa,” we call such correspondence, indicating the number of cups of tea one could drink whilst reading the entirety. So it was that I knew the candles were on their way to me:
Anyway, having caused havoc at the kitchen shop, I went back up the Pantiles to find the dear little garden shop now open, and promptly cleared them out of beeswax candles. (Keep an eye on your mail box in a week or 2, I haven’t posted them yet.) The very sweet girl in there looked at me like I had escaped from the local loony bin, when I threw myself in the door and said ‘Oh, thank the Goddess, I came earlier and you were closed. I have simply got to send these to California!’
Admittedly, I almost hate to burn them, these gorgeous and fragrant things. As a once-beekeeper (who will be again someday), I know how long and diligently those little winged alchemists of nature worked to create their sweet honeycomb. Even now, as I sit at the table and write in my notebook, fountain pen scratching with its familiar voice and trailing a tumbled scrawl of black ink, I catch the honey scent of the unlit tapers nearby.
I will burn them, of course, savoring their warming, healing glow while also appreciating a dear and generous friend too far away, and while sipping a cup of Palace Breakfast in my favourite blue and white tea cup from England… calculating the hour at which it becomes acceptable to have a nibble of espresso-laced chocolate.
I say that when a relationship supports your most authentic essence, when it celebrates who you are and your unique offering to the world, it becomes that most special of things: a soul gift.
Bless the bees for this golden wax and the essential work they do. Bless the good earth and the Camellia sinensis that became this lovely tea. Bless my dear, generous friend.
In uncountable ways in every day, we are, each of us, unspeakably blessed. Soul gifts abound. May we have not only the grace, humility and open-hearted wisdom to recognize and welcome them, but the generosity to share them with others.