My Summer of Molting

by Mary Duggan

I identify with birds. I am captivated and inspired by birds. I heart birds. When I purchased The Rose Cottage, some 6 years ago, I went in way over budget. I had to have it. The yard is filled with birds due in great measure to the bird sanctuary developed by my next door neighbor. Inside of our home, as well, bird imagery abounds. This past winter and spring brought lots of bad news about my health. So, of necessity, this summer begins a period of change, hopefully transformation. My summer molt, if you will.


I have decided to get my molt on. As we are spending very little time in public this summer, I think it’s a good time to take this on. It’s a necessary and natural ritual every now and again to shed ones skin, make some changes and see what returns in the Fall. A molt is triggered by crisis or angst or the not so simple need to regain or reestablish what is authentic in one’s life. Deeply experiencing each category lately, I figure it’s high time and highly important. My sisters think it’s hysterical, but they are learning to accept its meaning in my life.


I stood before the mirror, trying to get my mousy brown paper flat molt hair to pouf. I was racing to get out of the house for our standard Wednesday night at the movies. Clare poked her head in the door. Are we ready yet? This is Clare’s way of saying you are making us late. “My hair looks awful! I look like Margaret Mead!” I offered in explanation for making us late. I was not used to my hair being a problem.

I have always had good hair, cooperative and non-demanding, not to mention professionally cut every five weeks, highlighted five times a year, slathered with layers of hair care products and skillfully blown dry. It is rarely an issue in our lives, if you ignore the expense and health consequences. Clare frowned sympathetically. “I guess it’s just my molting,” I said.  As part of my molt, I had decided to confront a big contradiction in my life; namely, my complete unwillingness to give up toxic hair care products despite knowing what I know about health. My cousin Katie inspired this particular jolt to my summer molt.

I had not seen Katie in years when she arrived unannounced at my home in mid-May on her way from Seattle to a family wedding in Indiana. When she walked in the house I was taken immediately with how marvelous her hair looked – bright blond and super shiny. I wondered how much she had spent on that look and what I’d need to do to get it. As the night progressed we covered all the bases from family history to health. My cousin is a super smart RN and I delighted to find out that we are wildly in sync in our thoughts, opinions and practices on getting and staying healthy. Katie began to describe to us how she had given up perms and coloring and fancy hair care products, gone natural and achieved this completely natural and gorgeous new hair. As she began to describe her new cleansing protocol, I screamed, “That’s Hulda Clark. You’ve gone Naturopathic!” and she had.

Katie’s husband confirmed that over the course of six weeks of following “the naturopathic way” for healthy hair care he had watched Katie’s hair go from mousy brown with grey streaks, dull and straight to this adorable bright blond, no grey, super shiny and WAVY hair! I was sold, or I should say, I was saved! In giving up my hair salon shampoo, cream rinse, detangling gel, root lifting mouse, hair-spray and contouring wax I would be saving big bucks. As I was days away from my standing appointment for a cut and blond highlights, I called my ever-patient stylist and modified my appointment to just a cut. My summer molt had officially begun as I left the salon with my final traces of highlights shorn and again, more money in my pocket. Twenty Mule Team borax and Citric Acid became my new beauty regimen and my summer of shine, simplicity and savings had begun. The molt was on. (*To learn Mary’s new hair care regimen, click here.)


STAGE TWO: Clothing

We have a tried and true formula that serves us well in our celebrating of birthdays. We wildly pamper and indulge each other as much as we can afford to. Manicures and pedicures are frequently on the agenda. A new outfit or a purse or some jewelry, depending on each sister’s needs, were usually in the offing as well. Standing in front of the slim pickings of my summer wardrobe, I knew I was well on the way to a new summer outfit, which would normally be great, as I LOVE fashion. Annie’s questioning confirmed my suspicions.

Would you like this? Would you like that? What do you have a yen for, as our Mom used to say? I was beyond stumped. I wanted something completely different, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what that was. Finally I picked up the pair of Kean sandals Annie had encouraged me to buy earlier in the year. The “I Look Like St. Francis of Assisi in Drag Sandals” was what I had said when I first put them on. Now I wanted everything to look and feel like them. I had grown to love them for their comfort and support and simplicity. I felt authentic and genuine and real when I wore them and now I wanted everything in my life to match. Molting is definitely about authenticity.


STAGE THREE: Activities.

In the days preceding my June birthday, my sisters were trying every which way to get my input on how to celebrate the day. I am a big fan of birthdays and never too shy to whip out a well-developed list of gift suggestions when called upon to do so.  I am also full of suggestions for lots of fun ways to spend the day: translation, lots of fun ways to spend on ME. But this time, all my sisters were trying to determine was Tapas or Italian? Comedy show before, after or some other time? I was no help. I don’t know, I offered, it just seems it should be something different this year. Something other than the usual blow out dinner in a restaurant. Something more valuable and meaningful and I’m sorry, I just can’t put a name to it. Really, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be such a brat. My sister’s looked at me, ever patient, ever solicitous, their heads gently tipped to the side, “the molt, huh?”


STAGE FOUR: Everything.

Still trying. They booked a sure thing mani-pedi combo pack at a fancy North-side salon. Annie pre-shopped colors with me and we settled on a really trendy silver metallic. I have a hard time selecting colors once I am in a salon and the nail technician is pressuring me. This was to be my birthday treat so in the interest of no stress and a happy birthday girl (who was making everyone crazy with THE MOLT) we selected a color days in advance and even purchased the bottle. The morning of the appointment Annie suggested taking a test drive to make certain I would be happy with my choice once the big mani-pedi treat was completed. Annie slapped the color on my toes and fingertips – no soak, no clip, no file, no shape, no pumice, no massage, no base coat, and no topcoat – all in the name of a test drive. The new color was great, or maybe not. I wasn’t sure which. I am usually a pink girl. This was a big change. Got the picture? Got a gun? Yep, we cancelled the appointment. Annie had done a phenomenal job, going above and beyond the call of duty to make sure I would love my birthday treat. Who needed a tedious hour in the toxic fumes of a salon? I was loving my home-spun, home-done treat and touched to have a sister so determined to make my birthday a big success that she would test drive a color for me!


BIRTHDAY: Molt-o bene!

Despite the ongoing challenges of my SUMMER OF MOLTING 2012, my sisters created the most wonderful birthday celebration – maybe my best ever. They modified our tried and true birthday formula; not only allowing for the molt, but actually honoring it.

The formula went something like this.

When the day began, they left me alone for a while with a fresh pot of organic coffee and the newspaper. Always a good idea and better still with the demand for reflection that my summer of molting seems to require. We kicked off from work early the day before my birthday to shop for some summer annuals, including a stop at one of our favorite farmer’s markets providing a reconnection with the marvelous farmers and artisans we had stood beside in the early days of our business. They “got me” with a riotously funny selection of cards at breakfast and the laughter set the tone for the entire day. We stopped at mid-day and gathered outdoors with our two employees for Clare’s special asparagus risotto with grilled chicken, and toasted my birthday with wine.

Clare's asparagus risotto with chicken.

Clare's asparagus risotto served with lemon chicken.

Our dear employee, Janet, presented me with a healing Selenite crystal and then from an antique store, a small, stemmed eye wash glass. I gasped when I unwrapped it, stunned at her remembering. During the back-to-back vitreal detachments that had clouded my experience of springtime, I had mentioned to her how much I missed my mom at times like those; times when a medical doctor was necessary, as she always knew the best doctors. I reminisced about the small, stemmed glass eye cleaner that was always in her medicine cabinet and pulled out when anything went wrong with our eyes. In her sweet and simple and thoughtful gifts Janet had brought a healing memory of my Mother to my birthday table.

Team Duggan celebrates Mary's birthday at the Rose Cottage.

The sun was scorching, so we moved indoors to the dining room and air conditioning to have a gluten free orange zest cake that my nephew made. The same nephew who’d said a grace before lunch so lovely that we all sighed. A bouquet of yellow roses adorned the table and honored my belief in the healing presence of St. Theresa here at our rose cottage. The surprise of a small ice cream container spilled out scraps of paper that revealed an evening at the symphony: all molting certainly goes better with music and Muti.

My nephew Joseph sings Happy Birthday while presenting his homemade cake.

Joseph made Mary his famous orange zest birthday cake -- and it's gluten free!

Molting's just better with Muti.

When it was time to leave for dinner at a favorite spot for Tapas (okay they had stepped in and made some necessary decisions despite my molting funk) I saw how tired my sisters were. I saw how hard they’d worked to make my birthday so wonderful. They were at their desks working feverishly to get just a few more things done before we left. I made a final birthday request. Couldn’t we just stay home and have a simple dinner together? I didn’t need a fancy dinner. I just needed them. I saw the relief on their faces, and recognized again how hard they’d pushed. Pushed past the molt, that is, to the essential I was craving. And one more thing, I asked, would you mind if I went out for my daily walk and then a long hot bath? Putting in place a daily exercise plan had been one of the more difficult and necessary gifts of the molt. Learning to make a space for movement and a daily sweat was creating wellness in my life like nothing else. Of course, that would be great, was their response. Actually on this year when I had faced so many health challenges, Annie said, ‘Please take your walk. We want you here for many birthdays to come!’

I would like to say that was my final gift; but, of course, it wasn’t. When I returned from my walk there was a FedEX envelope on the front porch. My nephew Joseph was so upset that the gift he’d ordered had not arrived on time. I knew this had to be it. I handed the padded envelope to my sisters, as Joseph was long gone. They opened the package, wrapped it and presented my final gift to me – a blow up pillow to comfort me as I bathed in my too small tub. They texted Joseph immediately, “All is well. It arrived on time.”

At the end of my perfectly authentic birthday, the birthday that survived the scrutiny of the molt, my patient and pleased sisters came into my room to say good night. I was lying in bed, propped on a pillow and reading from my new Kindle. No celebration is complete in our house without a new book. Only this time I was given a Kindle, and the promise it held of so many books to choose from whenever I pleased; more important though to me was its perfect molting message of not being afraid to change or to try something new. I sense that my 2012 summer of the molt has even more gifts to reveal. I will keep you posted.


About the author:

Mary Duggan is Co-Founder and President of the Duggan Sisters.

The Duggan Sisters cracked the code and created a natural deodorant that actually works: lifestinks.  We hope you will spend a few minutes exploring to experience their spirited approach to wellness through their natural products and healing stories.

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