Rolling hills give way to the worn cobbled sidewalks of one of Connecticut’s more secluded communities. Main Street South in Woodbury holds a cluster of unique, small businesses masquerading as homes with weathered sidings, and asymmetrical gabled roofs hiding behind trees, immature and ancient, bare from the lengthy winter. Amongst these businesses, a sanctuary nestled tightly between a real estate office and antiques dealer, the Ruby Tree, a small metaphysical shop and healing center is easy to miss on a rainy March afternoon when the faded yellow building blends into the low light gloominess of a day that precedes the change of season from winter to spring.
Stepping over the threshold of the heavy front door, curious newcomers and regular visitors are transported from the continuous static of rain to the insulated silence and smoke-thickened atmosphere, reorienting the senses from the ordinary world to the mysticism of spirituality. Inside, the scent of sharp earth mingled with the sweeter, herbaceous smell of incense floats over an uneven thicket of containers glittering with crystals and other semiprecious treasures. Baskets of neatly packaged herbs labeled with their names and properties are wreathed around the legs of the tables. Bowls of sage bound in white thread sit beside smaller containers of palo santo on shelves also crammed with books and boxes of tarot cards, healing tinctures, and cleansing sprays. Opposite this forest of finery, a backlit glass case displays skilfully carved crystal pendulums and necklaces swaying gently from their cylindrical perch, the filigree of silver wire encasing crystals of varying shapes and colors glint in the light beside rings of the same delicate design snugly anchored in squares of black velvet.
Dana Salvador emerges from the back room, offering help with a slight smile and sparkling brown eyes; peeking out from behind a short caramel bob with red velvet bangs. Salvador is radiant, shining herself as if she were a piece of jewelry on display. On top of being a licensed cosmetologist and a certified massage therapist, Salvador’s business is beauty and it is easy to tell. She’s an employed vendor and dear friend to shop owner Christina Boisits-O’Keefe.
“I own Light Cosmedics,” Salvador explains, “a holistic skin care business, but I address the whole body. I work with frequencies and create customized, holistic products.” Beginning with her own skin irritations and finding products that worked for her, Salvador’s interest led her to focus primarily on skin care, but her business grew far beyond what she initially expected. “Once I had people on my table, I found that they would come to me for greater healing than just from an aesthetic standpoint and they received a greater healing.”
To better understand the importance of the mind-body connection, Salvador worked to acquire the five hundred hours of training required to become a registered teacher with the Yoga Alliance, while also becoming more familiar with other “energy work” such as the Japanese practice of Reiki, a healing technique based on the flow of energy throughout the body. The creation of Light Co-medics combines the healing practices and beliefs within Salvador’s spirituality with the enchantment of beauty as a ritual, bringing the magic of wholeness and healing into the everyday experience.
Cradling a few small bottles in her hand, Salvador stands next to the display that advertises several different body butters, exfoliants, and sprays. The Yogalicious: Rose Gold Facial Mist primarily contains rose and lemon, as the name suggests, and is described as antibacterial and also a skin freshener. “And rose,” Salvador adds, “has the highest frequency than anything measured on the planet. A healthy human person is like seventy megahertz, Rose essential oil is three hundred and twenty. So if we’re feeling down in the dumps we can use that frequency to raise our own outlook.” Salvador lifts one of the black misting bottles by the nozzle twisting it this way and that , showing off the sparkling magenta label. Bestseller “Ritch Bitch Juice,” contains colloidal silver, which has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, making it beneficial for the skin. Laughing, Salvador explains the eye-catching name, “You know the term ‘born with a silver spoon in your mouth?’ So that came from back in the day. The wealthy were able to feed their children with silver but that silver was also an anti-bacterial. Now, in a way, everyone can be rich because they have access to silver and your health is your wealth, right?” She tosses her head back and laughs, “Inspired by my daughter!”
The dim sitting room is sparsely furnished, with few pictures gracing the walls and a plush, red velvet love seat with a matching chair tucked into a corner. A clothing rack with handmade children’s dresses sits across from a shelf, sagging under the weight of candles decorated with crystals and herbs embedded into the top layer of wax, next to a seemingly endless selection of incense. Sitting amongst the extra inventory is shop owner Christina Boisits-O’Keefe and her two small daughters offering a small, yet warm smile that relayed the comfort and ease at which she felt among her family, and within her business. Her soft features, inlaid with years of happiness and heartache, is indicative of the wisdom she has accrued through the path that her life has taken. With a bachelor’s degree in business and a Master’s in clinical nutrition, Boisits-O’Keefe didn’t think that the next step in her career involved becoming an Usui Reiki healing master, but found herself on that path through dealing with the end of her first marriage.
“I had befriended a woman where I worked at the time and she had been practicing Reiki most of her life. When she started giving me sessions every now and then she would always make a little nudge as if to say, ‘You’re supposed to be doing this’ and I was always like whatever.” Smirking, she rolled her eyes at her past hesitation. “As I was going through my divorce, receiving healing in this way, it was at that point that I decided that I was finally ready to give and sought out my own training, so I could give to other people.”
In the creation of the Ruby Tree Christina Boistis-O’Keefe explains that as a spiritual woman, “I am on a mission to aid in bringing wellness, joy, wisdom, and abundance to the local community, to the earth we share and beyond.” Through hosting vendor fairs and fundraisers, the Ruby Tree works closely within the Woodbury community, on top of working personally with individuals from all over Connecticut–and business has never been better. The rise of COVID-19, and isolation through quarantine, coupled with the rising popularity of tarot readers, psychics, and spiritual practitioners on social media have brought record business to the Ruby Tree. Boisits-O’Keefe muses about the flood of teenagers and young adults that had come in looking for moldavite, a stone classified as a tektite, made popular by hundreds of TikTok videos showing the dream-like effects or devastating consequences of owning one.
“People are more open and leaving what would be considered the conventional within western religion and western medicine because they are not getting what they need out of them.” Boisits-O’Keefe leans forward “They’re stepping out of those boxes and looking for other forms of healing and religion. People are realizing they can have this spiritual journey and really kind of get to the bottom of who they are, and who they want to be and grow into the wonderful person that they can be. People open up more and more to who we are and what we do within this field. Which is huge.”
The Ruby Tree, small as it is, thrums with the energy that Boisits-O’Keefe has breathed into it through sharing the experiences of her own spiritual journey. She provides the opportunity for deeply personal healing and a space open to anyone and everyone. One of Boisits-O’Keefe daughter’s stands dutifully beside the register, while the other runs circles around the shop, her blond hair crowding her cherubic cheeks, splotchy with color from the exertion of her movement. She clutches a slim satin pouch in one hand and a whittled willow wand in the other. Stopping in front of a small podium, she taps repeatedly on a statue with a crystal ball centered on top of luminescent lavender clouds with a banner that reads, “I see love in your future.” Warm smiles, light laughter and open arms create the thriving heartbeat that exists within this small town and smaller business. This scene is a microcosm of the healing love and gracious spirit that the Ruby Tree works to create in a society that is long overdue for compassionate acceptance of community and the people within.
Header image from left: Christin Boisits-O’Keefe, Sherri June, and Dana Salvador; credit: Raven Rucker
Raven Rucker is a Staff Writer for Blue Muse Magazine