It’s 5 p.m. on a hectic Monday when Iris Hawkins, a local body and spa therapist, rubs scented oil on my tense upper back and proceeds to knead it like bread dough. Through the donuted pillow in which my face is supplanted, I can detect soft, ambient music waft from a nearby stereo and the minty hints of Cyprus and Douglas fir gradually enter the air of her small in-home studio. “This is my woodsy blend,” Hawkins, 62, explained.
A veteran of her industry, Hawkins is fluent in nearly ever form of therapeutic treatment, including acupressure, massage and a more esoteric, spirituality-based healing technique she calls “neoclassical shamanism.”
Her practice, Wild Iris Healing Therapies, serves all of West Marin, offering both in-studio and on-site services to locals and vacationers.
The job is a labor of love, and affords Hawkins the sort of personal and professional freedom that so often do not exist in other professions. “It’s the only thing I would ever want to do,” she said. “It never stops evolving. I just keep meeting people who challenge me with their situations and conditions, even if I see them only once.”
Since moving to region three years ago, Hawkins has worked tirelessly to promote and establish her practice locally, trading work for advertising in the local newspaper, networking with nearby hotels and setting out on foot to post flyers at businesses in the area. She also began offering discounts to locals, as well as teaching deals for those that want to learn how to do the work themselves.
And, in large part, her multi-pronged marketing has paid off. Business is good—though there is a caveat. “This is the fastest that my business has grown and taken hold in my entire career, but I’m concerned because to stay here right now, it’s like, I can’t afford it,” she said. Most months, Hawkins’ entire earnings disappear in rent and utility bills, along with unexpected costs like car repairs and the new health insurance to which she was recently forced to switch.
Furthermore, she said that, despite concerted efforts to participate in local activities such as chi gong and tai chi classes, it has been difficult to find acceptance in her surrounding community.
“I think if you’ve been here a really long time or if you come in more as a homeowner or a couple it is much easier to integrate than if you are an older, single individual.”
Wild Iris Healing Therapies specializes in bodywork and spa treatments, spa parties and packages, and custom botanical products. You can learn more at www.wildirisrose.com.