I’ve had a number of past lives. They have all been lived in my current incarnation, however. One of those was spent at an occupation I may have loved the most – candle making.
I got there by accident, actually. I had been a candidate for a full time tenure track position at a university in Miami, was married to a doctor in Seattle, and had a grown daughter and stepson. Things, as they do, came tumbling apart. Marriage ended, didn’t get the job, dissertation was still incomplete, and I was in a serious morass. The Christmas before, I had started decorating candles as gifts for my friends. As my future became cloudier, I lost myself more in warm wax and painting candles. People started wanting to buy them. I started to need to sell them, at that point because the more I made the more I had to get rid of somehow.
In the early 90s, Miami Beach, more specifically South Beach, was a small town that just happened to host a lot of models, photographers, artists and a growing gay community. We had a market down the main pedestrian thoroughfare every Sunday, so I started setting up there to sell my wares. They sold well. I could make on a Sunday enough to justify my hours spent making candles.
The candles became more than just painted pillars. I experimented with molds and colors and fragrances. Over the next few years, they grew. The developing community on South Beach became richer and more extravagant. I made huge candles that I sold for $500 each, to nightclubs, and to some individuals. Bars and restaurants and small hotels started ordering my candles in large numbers.
I loved the work. The physicality of constructing the candles, and the sensuality of the colors, fragrances, and warm wax. It was a world quite the opposite of what I had been doing- academia, marriage, family.
I had no time, nor the knowledge, to plan. A business plan would be needed, but it never happened. Eventually it would fail.
There are many other stories to tell about those times, tales of betrayal and rebirth, but this is a beginning of reckoning for those years.
That picture takes me to a place I need to reconsider. It needs an arc.