Presque Isle, Wisconsin
Few things in the world make me as happy as the smell of Dr. Bronner's 18-in-1 Almond Pure-Castile Soap. We have a long history together, this soap and I. A joyful history. A mostly naked history. Of course, I use the soap for doing dishes too. Although then I'm often clothed.
Put simply, Dr. Bronner's Almond Soap is the greatest smell in the world. (2nd–4th place ribbons go to orange peels, freshly split oak, and rain). I've used a lot of this soap over the years and I've paused every time to breathe in its deliciousness.
One thing I've never done though? I've never used it indoors. I know this isn't what the good people at Dr. Bronner's have in mind. They'd rather I use it every day, indoors and out. Volume! Increased usage occasions! They're running a business, after all, and I'm sure they'd appreciate my full support.
I'll say that Dr. Bronner's is definitely a business worthy of support. They're still independent, they're still run by the Bronner family, and over the past decade or so they've been leaders when it comes to fair trade, industrial hemp, and just plain flying right as a corporation. Plus there's that batshit-perfect bottle copy.
If you don't know the story behind one of America's weirdest brands, it's definitely worth checking out. They're growing fast, but still a small and strange blip compared to Burt's Bees (aka The Clorox Company, revenue $5.6 billion) and Tom's of Maine (aka Colgate-Palmolive, revenue $17.2 billion). So of course I really want to support Dr. Bronner's. And I do support them. They make all kinds of stuff these days. But when it comes to Almond Pure-Castile Soap, it's outdoor use only for me.
Cuz see, it's like this. That smell? It reminds me of things. Perfect things. Things that are the exact opposite of showering for my desk job, or leaning over a kitchen sink to scrape at dried-up ice cream.
I want that smell, always, to remind me of things far away. Of woods and water, of greens and blues.
And it does. It reminds me of the summer after my freshman year in high school. Of pulling the seats out of a school bus and replacing them with mattresses and backpacking gear. And of us rolling that yellow box West: a dozen high schoolers chattering and flirting and sleeping and randomly stopping traffic with an easily deployed STOP sign.
It reminds me of our long slow drive to the Rocky Mountain trailhead and then the long slow tromp to 10,000 feet. Of unrolling tents. Of stripping to nothing and jumping from giant rocks into water so clear you couldn't tell where the air ended and the lake began. It reminds me of dropping through blue sky, of splashes and laughter and smooth skin slicing snow-cold water.
I know it's just soap. But it reminds me of what's important.
Of bathing at tree line. Of the unholy trinity of horseflies and deer flies and lathery skin. Of that bare-ass hopping stumble, feet wet and leaf-covered, caught hopelessly in clinging underwear.
It reminds me of so many late night slides into black water. Early morning dishes, bright aluminum, sun. Afternoons in small tents, under big rain, with the reading of a soap bottle as the primary passer of time.
I'll be honest, I have no idea what got me started on my soap kick today. But I know this. The smell of that soap reminds me of things I never want to forget.
It reminds me of those magical times and places where I felt perfectly clean and right and at one with the world.