The Henna Ritual

I woke up this morning – at the tail end of June – with a summer cold. Sneezing, tired and scratchy throat. It’s no surprise since we’ve dealt with weeks on end of damp, rainy weather. So we spent the majority of the day in bed with books and movies, even though it was finally sunny. It’s a good thing we got outside for garden work and play yesterday.

This evening the menfolk headed to the movies and I decided that it would be a good moment to henna my hair. You wouldn’t think that coloring hair is a great task for someone that isn’t feeling well, but using henna is quite different than using boxed chemical colors. It’s a leisurely pursuit – you let the henna “mud” (it’s consistency is exactly the same as thick mud) set for about an hour. You’ve got to use non-reactive containers when you work with natural dyes, so last summer I commissioned a woodworker to make me a henna bowl – it’s crafted from walnut and is about larger than pint sized. It just perfectly holds enough mud for my shoulder length hair (16 ounces of water goes into it for me). I mix it together with a second hand wooden spoon, then let it cure for an hour with my reusable plastic shower cap over the bowl to keep it warm and moist. While the mud cured, I relaxed in bed with a book and some lavender aromatherapy.

Once the mud sets, it only takes ten minutes or so to work it into the hair with gloved hands. And then it’s sitting and relaxing again – I usually let my henna go for two hours, though you can leave it in for up to four hours for darker, richer colors. I find that when I’m not feeling well, a bit of pampering can go a long way to easing the suffering. A relaxing soak, more reading and a cup of throat-soothing tea are in the cards this evening as well while I wait for the color settle in. So once again, I’m learning that a simple ritual improves my outlook and enriches my life, even when I’m not feeling my best. In fact, one could even argue that rituals are even more necessary when we’re not at out best. What a delightful surprise.