Fresh Water Ponds, Writing a Novel, and Taking a Break from Making Candles

A sheet pan filled with candles in my baker’s rack

I am running out of room to store my candles. The workshop in what used to be my dining room includes a full sized commercial baker’s rack along with a half sized rack. Both racks are now filled with candles. I have additional candles stored in the garage, on book shelves in my hobby room, and stacked in boxes to one side of my stairway.

another sheet pan filled with burger candles

My kitchen has long since been given over to candle production. The counters and the island are filled with silicone molds and candles in various stages of assembly. Pots filled with various colors, aromas, and amounts of melted wax have covered my stove and are stacked in a pile against a countertop toaster oven. A plastic storage container filled with wicks, a pair of scissors, and assorted brushes is sitting on top of a half sheet pan that’s lying across an open drawer because I ran out of counter space.

It has belatedly occurred to me that there may be some truth to the theory that people on the high performing autistic spectrum may have obsessive compulsive issues related to their areas of interest. A 2013 paper published in Dev Psychopathol is one of several research articles that have highlighted this tendency. The title of this paper (which included a spoiler alert) was, “Interests in High Functioning autism are more intense, interfering, and idiosyncratic, but not more circumscribed, than those in neurotypical development.” It was the premise of this paper that although one of the defining symptoms of ASD (autism spectrum disorder) are repetitive behaviors and restricted interests, these very interests may have “socially isolating effects due to their intensity or unusual nature.”

corn on the cob candle

While I will admit that my preoccupation with making candles when I am not at work or asleep has taken up much of my waking time, I would also point out that my reclusive tendencies have always made it challenging for me to socially interact with others. Given a choice, I’d rather stay home than to date or to mingle with others. While I cannot speak for all autistic people, I think the idea that interests may have “socially isolating effects due to their intensity or unusual nature” is a false premise. Although I have had friends in the past, I have found that developing and maintaining these friendships have always been emotionally exhausting. After I was clinically diagnosed with autism and I transferred within my school district from a high school in the greater Las Vegas area to a small rural community, I decided to stop socializing outside of work as an effort to reduce my overall levels of stress. My candle production and other interests have simply become ways for me to productively fill my time. In other words, my interest in making candles does not preclude social interaction. Being an autistic reclusive introvert precludes social interaction.

Having run out of space to store my candles, a simple solution would be to switch from Shop Nevada to Etsy. Etsy has a lot more customers and selling candles would clear my storage areas giving me the opportunity to continue making candles. Doing so would unfortunately require me to visit the local post office to ship my candles. Given my recent experience with opening a PO box, the behavior of one of the postal clerks has made me very nervous. I didn’t like seeing a postal clerk bully a customer by forcing her to wait for over 30 minutes while the clerk served other customers. When I objected to being served ahead of the woman who had been waiting, I didn’t appreciate having the clerk snap at me to “STEP UP TO THE WINDOW OR GET OUT OF LINE!” Since this is a particularly busy time for the Post Office given how everyone is trying to mail Christmas presents to friends and family, I’ve told myself that I will open an Etsy store over the Christmas break. I will plan on opening this store in January after the holiday rush at the post office has ended.

French cuiriassiers

One of the things that was not mentioned in the Dev Psychopathol article was that hobby interests among people with ASD may also be cyclic. Included among my interests are building and maintaining fresh water ponds, collecting and hand painting 15 mm. Napoleonic wargaming miniatures, culinary arts, filming, and writing. As much as I like making candles or painting miniatures, there comes a time after you’ve painted your 120th French cuirassier (heavy cavalryman with front and back steel breast plates) that some change is needed and I rotate to another interest.

This is a 2,400 gallon fresh water pond that I built in my backyard when I lived in Arizona

Although my current home in Nevada has ample space for building a pond, health issues (that have since been addressed) and our on-going drought have kept me from pursuing this particular interest. With summer temperatures in excess of 110° F. on the hottest days in June and July, I have calculated that with all of the sunlight my backyard gets; water could evaporate at the astounding rate of 0.9% per cubic foot per hour.

After abandoning the idea of placing my pond in the center of the yard, it occurred to me that I moved it to the left of my gazebo a smaller pond would receive the benefit of shade from both the yard’s wall and the gazebo’s roof. Partial shade would reduce the rate of evaporation. A planter built along the back end of the gazebo would also give me someplace to put all of the excavated soil. The planter’s height even be used to create a modest cascading waterfall.

A pond that I built in Arizona some 14 years ago. This picture was taken before I added pond plants.

The creation of this pond will become my December project and I will (largely) stop making candles until I’ve opened an Etsy store after Christmas. Since I can’t order pond liner, a filter, or pump until I know the dimensions of the excavated pond, I will likely not finish constructing this pond until January or February. If I’m able to complete this pond before it starts to get warm, I’ll be able to order live pond plants through the mail to create a bog garden of water mint, zebra reeds, cattails, and water chestnuts as pictured below right. The bog garden will provide my backyard with some much needed vibrant greenery. As an added benefit, a well constructed and maintained pond will also have the effect of raising my home value by as much as 5%.

The entrance to a bog garden adjacent to the main pond of my last project.

Since creation of a pond will occupy my days during the coming winter break, working on my novel will occupy my evenings.

Although writing fiction has never come easily to me, during the last two days of Spring Break in 2020 I decided to adopt Mark Twain’s advice to would-be authors to, “Write what you know.” Since I enjoy reading fantasy novels and am also autistic, I hit upon the idea of writing about an autistic paranormal “fixer” whose specialty is addressing the sort of problems that occur when things go bump in the night. The fixer works with a full corporeal ghost as an assistant and a teenage runaway who has the ability to see dead people. I wrote an astounding 20,000 words over the last two days of my Spring Break last Easter. The words seemed to flow from my mind to my fingers and the characters appear to now be driving the story.

I stopped working on this novel after the school year resumed and got sidetracked by candle production after the start of the summer break in 2021. During my last day of Thanksgiving vacation, I resumed work on this novel and wrote an additional 8,500 words. I plan to resume work on this novel during our two week Christmas break. I hope to finish this manuscript during the coming summer.

I like ponds that double as old fashioned watering holes. There’s nothing quite as relaxing as sitting in crystal clear water on a hot summer day while sipping a cold drink and listening to the trickling sounds of a water fall. The pond I will build in my backyard will have a maximum depth of five feet and a ledge to sit on that’s two feet below the water’s surface

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