Sunday, January 24, 2010

Only Change is Stable

This past year has been a roller coaster ride in all aspects of my life. I think a part of me, the adventurer, the seeker, doesn't mind the ride at all, but the other part of me, the mother, the provider, the fearful one, minds the ride very much. In that respect, there is balance. When I reach the point of saturation, the situation changes. I might point out at this time something I used to say to my older kids when they were teenagers dealing with relationship issues ~ "Everything changes. Today may seem like the worst day in your life, but I guarantee tomorrow will bring something different." I never said that tomorrow might be worse, even though it sometimes was. Eventually, the better tomorrow came.

That's the mantra I've been saying to myself since October 2008. It'll get better because worse is unthinkable, unimaginable, though often worse would come and the bar for what was unthinkable would be set higher -- 'how much more crap can you handle?', the Universe would ask.

What could be so bad, right? The condensed, cleaned-up PG version goes like this ~ it began with the death of a patriarch, then merged into a runaway child, two attempted suicides, a calm period of five months when everyone was on tenterhooks waiting for the next moment of mania, and it came in the form of more passings -- a brother whose death came as a huge shock, and two physically distant cousins, both plagued by years of depression and drug addiction who passed because of their lifestyle choices; another runaway, a trip to the looney bin (I apologize for my lack of tact in that description, but that's what it was), and a job loss. A karmic attack. But that's not apt, none of these things happened directly to me, as it were, I was just an unwilling witness, plus I haven't done anything to earn all this bad karma. And I know this is going to sound trite, but what's kept me hanging on by my fingernails was this, creating things, expressing sorrow and anger and love through perfume. Though I haven't sat down and really dug my hands into perfumery in a long time (since about October 2008), I've never, not even for a moment, stopped thinking about it, writing about it, longing for it. During those long dark months, I filled notebooks with experiments, evaluations, ideas, stories, inspiration to keep me going, words I could look back on after the storm passed and maybe bring some of the writing to fruition. That's where I am now. But, I don't for a second believe the crap storm is over. Because it's never over. Not for any of us.

I am an optimist. Really, I am. Even after all of the stuff that's happened to our family, we're all still here, some of us, nurturing one another, helping one another. I see this happening, too, with Haiti. The strength of spirit Haitians possess is inspiring. And it makes the fire of personal tragedy dim somewhat. There are always going to be people in situations far worse than our own. And my heart goes out to them.

One thing I am truly grateful for is my choice to extract myself from the politics of this business. This business being perfumery. My friend Ana likes to say that soap making is a dirty business, and I agree, but an even dirtier business is that of the Natural Botanical Perfume community. So I've shifted my attention from the negative aspects of NBP and placed them on the more positive aspects ~ like the perfumers who throw open the doors of their homes and allow in virtual strangers to stay with them a while, the perfume friends who share their pizza and persimmons and cheese and perfumed sweets and wine and great conversation, and, yes, a bit of snarking; the icons of aromatherapy and perfumery inviting me (me!) in to experience a first-hand accounting of NBP history. There is great beauty and love in all of this.

And that is what Natural Botanical Perfumery is truly about, and my hope for the future is that change is stable. That walking on perfume politics' eggshells changes to open communication and acceptance of responsibility. I told you I was an optimist.


  1. I'm an optimist, too. If I wasn't, I'd be one of those bitter women who talk to lamp posts and yell at rain clouds.

    And it's one of those things where the decisions we make to be one way or another really do see us through to a goal, or at least a brighter tomorrow. Everything passes. It's one thing we're assured of in the universe. Thermodynamics and entropy.

    And this'll be surprising, but I've really cut back on the snark. Doing that set something really peaceful in motion, and suddenly the glass was almost always half full. It is hard to describe. When you snark about something, you empower it, because it's taking up Poirot's precious 'little gray cells' that could be lined up and tabulating something more important. But stepping back and just not engaging it helps to keep the personal where it belongs, personal. And the political remains where it exists, in the political. No, it's not never the 'twain shall meet, but it creates distance that needs to exist in these increasingly virtual communities. (And that's a topic unto itself because I think it is a slippery slope from 'online community' to 'a life half-lived').

    Keeping away from the gossip has really helped immeasurably, too.

  2. Shade7:34 PM

    Dear You,

    You are not the first to write or express concerns about the Botanical Perfumery (let's face it, not all the stuff used is natural) community and I must regretfully add mine as well.

    To be perfectly honest, I feel the reason behind their bitterness, oneupmanship carry on and general bad feeling is due to the fact that there isn't a lot of accurate, workable knowledge between them.

    I've found some alarming discrepancies and downright irresponsible behavior in the forums and on blog sites about materials used, all in the name of "professional perfumery" not to mention a lot of boring, self indulgent blather. For example, I remember reading "I may well be the only person to effleurage these flowers in the USA.." and I laughed so spontaneously my coffee flew everywhere (not a good idea to read while drinking coffee).

    Gardeners and grandmothers, including my own, have been garnering the scent of gardenia and frangipani via effleurage (or extraction as it's also called) for CENTURIES. It's also one of the first skills learned in an ethnobotanical class..although I doubt she's been to any. After all, "self taught" sounds so much sexier, doesn't it?

    It is for this very reason, among a myriad of other frustrations, that I stick to my offline groups amongst whom I have found what you hope will exist online. The professionalism, grace and accurate knowledge backed up by accessible research has been personally gratifying and enlightening. I'm with Sara - tis a very slippery slope indeed from online community to lives half lived.

    I have a better solution for you. Just stop reading them altogether.

    Kind regards,
    Shade xx



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