By Chrissy Tolley
My roommate Jen has a medical procedure coming up. When her doctor asked about potentially hazardous chemicals in her living environment (“Does your roommate smoke, or anything?”), Jen admitted my biggest vices: sage and spray sunscreen. She poked her head into my bedroom later that day to tell me the bad news.
“I’m so sorry. I’m really sorry.”
“Oh, I don’t care. Can I do it outside?”
“Yes! Of course. I just can’t have them, like, in the air in here.” When she bought me a bundle of sunflowers the next day to apologize, it started to occur to me just how much sage and spray sunscreen I use.
I haven’t been using sage or sunscreen in the house for two weeks, so I have to step out the front door to engage in either addiction. We live in the kind of suburban desert cul-de-sac where every neighbor suspects the other neighbor is weird, but I’ve confirmed that identity, stepping in and out of the doorway neurotically in a sea of spray and smoke. That’s the crux of my life, really: I always hope someone’s watching me. I’m always terrified someone’s watching me.
I protect myself with sunscreen. I wear sunscreen every single day, multiple times per day, even in the house, when it’s raining. I use a sunscreen serum on my face (Algenist’s Sublime Defense Ultra Lightweight UV Defense Fluid SPF 50) and spray sunscreen on the rest of my body (typically the cheapest I can find, I’ll admit). People who meet me ask why I’m not tan “if I live in Arizona”, and it’s because I’m not an idiot. I don’t want cancer (a real risk in my family), and I don’t want wrinkles (a real risk in all white families). I don’t tell black or brown beauties what to do, but I have no qualms about bossing other white people around. Wear sunscreen, and when you’re done, pop some Vitamin D3. Melanin is genetic sunscreen. If you don’t have any, make do.
I cleanse myself with sage. The cheapest place to find socially responsible sage in Tucson is at Dry River Witches’ Collective off of 4th Avenue. They sell bundles big and small, and all reasonably priced. The owners’ family harvests the sage for the largest bundles from their ranch near Sonoita. My friends and I once did a ritual in my backyard using this large bundle and nearly lit fire to a shrub, further solidifying my nomination in the“Weirdest Neighbor” category. I suggest cleansing yourself with sage a few times every week, particularly any time you feel bogged down, or off. Sage when you feel bad. Sage when you feel good. Sage when you need to sit in a feeling to process it fully. Sage when you’re ready to move on from that process.
Another professional psychic lives in my neighborhood, up the street from the cul-de-sac. She’ll be seventy in June. “People ask me the secret to my success. Honestly, it’s just water and laughter.” She sipped water from a teal tumbler and giggled. “Humans make things so hard.”
I hope someone asks me the secret of my success someday. You already know my answer.