Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Soap Making Day

Today is a soap making day. We'll be making it to 'serve' to our students on Saturday after making another batch of the same soap for demonstration. The scent formulation is fairly simple and straight forward -- petit grain sur fleur neroli is the main raw material, then there's orange oil, lemon oil, patchouli, and a wee bit of labdanum. We made the scent potion last week and it's been 'stewing' ever since. We're hoping to have a full house, upwards of 20 students, and instead of what I usually do, it's going to be a straight demonstration type class. Usually, I allow students to measure and mix, but with a class this size, it won't work out. People bump into each other, everyone wants a turn at the hand blender, plus I am required to provide aprons, gloves, goggles, and sometimes paper face masks. It's too much of an expenditure when I cut the price of the class as low as it is now. This area is a hard sale area -- I've charged anywhere from $40 to $65 everywhere else that I teach this soap class, but here, I'm lucky to get $20. It's not the fault of the good folks who live here, it's the fault of the local economy. You know something isn't right when you drive through town and a huge billboard (more than one, actually) proclaims: "50% of (blank) County is on Medicaid". I haven't quite figured out if the billboard's message is condemnation or praise of the current health care plan provided by the state, but one thing is for certain, if 50% of the residents of this county actually are on medicaid, then something's wrong with the economy here. Under these circumstances, it's a miracle anyone comes out to learn any kind of craft on a warm Saturday morning for more than $15 a person.

I am looking forward to it. These days I'm lucky to have some creative work besides writing to do. As some of you know, I'm rewriting the natural perfumery course at the Natural Perfume Academy where I teach, and it's turned out to be quite the challenge. For example, there is literally one topic left to complete before the edit, final edit, and addition of a full teacher's manual, slide shows, videos, and audio files to the course, and I'm at a standstill. I worked and worked and worked yesterday, poring through books and notebooks, writing and rewriting, researching online, doing everything I could to get this cohesive piece of work done, and I got nothing. What I wrote, I erased. I was confounded by lack of sleep, too much on my plate, and grandbabies busting in shouting, "Grandma!" every 10 minutes. I'm hoping to get back at it tomorrow with a clear head and new perspective. Working in the arts is a moody occupation -- you can be simultaneously depressed and tortured over the outcome, and at the same time feel intense exhilaration from the act of creating alone. A double-edged sword.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Bama's Last Walk

A year ago last June my ex-husband was killed in a car accident. He was with his 12-year-old-daughter (not mine) on his way out of town to a classic car show in Carson City, Nevada, and he was driving his custom 1928 Ford Roadster that he built from the ground up. His Roadster was a convertible, had no seat belts, and, ironically, carried a custom made coffin in the truck bed. Both my ex and his daughter were thrown from the vehicle and landed in rush hour traffic on the 168/180 interchange. Fortunately his daughter survived the wreck with minor scrapes and bruising. My ex, however, sustained major head trauma from which he did not recover. There are a half dozen folks in the world right now carrying bits and pieces of him inside of them -- kidneys and corneas and who knows what else. A month after he passed, my son, one of two children I had with my ex, reluctantly handed over his father's dog, Bama. Bama was a foundling snatched from the streets, a little worse for the wear and happy as a clam that someone found him, got him out of the heat and put some food in his belly. Bama's always been an exhuberant guy. Always happy to see people, always there with a big toothy grin and a vigorously wiggly bum. He's a well-mannered young man. Fully house and leash trained, gentle with children, and adores kitties. Basically, the perfect dog. Today we are having him put to sleep.

Osteosarcoma is bone cancer that is common in larger breed dogs. Bama is a pit bull, robust, barrel chested, and long-legged with a healthy appetite and penchant for long evening walks, or as we like to call them, drags. He hasn't wanted to do those things so much lately. His appetite comes and goes. His love of getting harnessed up and out into the yard has diminished. He sleeps long hours and often doesn't move except to lap up water or ask to go outside for a wee. Last October we noticed Bama had a bit of a lump on his snout, halfway between his eye and the tip of his nose. We took him in and the vet diagnosed an abscess in his gums above his big teeth in the back of his jaw, and recommended having the tooth pulled to relieve the pressure, and then put Bama on a round of antibiotics. During the two-week recovery period we all noticed that the lump got larger. The vet put him on another round of antibiotics. Two weeks later the lump was four times as large. We sought the opinion of another vet, one who came highly recommended as a straight shooter. He shot us all straight through the heart when he said Bama had bone cancer and wouldn't survive for more than six months. He recommended we put him to sleep right then and there to spare him the pain of the tumors that would spread, if they hadn't already, to his lungs, liver, and throughout his bones, but we just couldn't do it yet. Over the past month Bama's health has diminished, just as the vet said it would, to the point that he isn't able to hold his bowels long enough to get outside, his feces are watery and mucousy, his mouth bleeds profusely, when he sleeps, his lungs make sounds like an old bellows. When we walk into the room he is in, he no longer raises his head to check who it is. He just lays there, thumping his tail on the floor, as if he's too exhausted to give a proper greeting. He still growls and barks when someone knocks on the front door, and I think that his doing that, as he always has, has given us a sense of false hope that he is okay. It takes a lot out of him to jump up and bark as he saunters to the front door. There are signs of false hope everywhere, signs that we interpret as it not being time just yet, like last night when I set down his food and his companion dog's food and Bama went to town eating both. He hadn't done that in weeks. In fact, he's never done that, not like that. He usually waits for Mary Jane, his dog friend, to eat a little off her plate before stealing the rest, but last night he just butted his way in and ate it.

Today is the day. Bama isn't himself. He's in pain. His body is failing him. At 10:45 we take him in for his last walk.

RIP Bama, 7-12-2017, 11:07 AM

Saturday, July 08, 2017

108 and No AC

It's predicted to be 108 degrees Fahrenheit today, and I woke early this morning, 5 am, to heat that I learned was the result of a broken AC unit. Great. It's the capacitor or the contactor. The outside compressor thingey clicks but doesn't come on. Of course, we'll probably have to wait for an HVAC "professional" to fix it, which could be hours, or could be days. Either way, it's 6:15 am now and 83 degrees Fahrenheit in the house and rising, and I know these people, it's going to one miserable damned day.


Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Experiential Intuition

The past few days have been difficult, and not because of the hou -- oops! Forgot that I'm not going to talk about it anymore! I have been having a really hard time sleeping and moving around because I tore the cartilage on a lower rib reaching for, of all things, my little granddaughters 'baby', aka, stuffed pink teddy bear. In order to get baby, I reached over the hard wooden arm of a love seat and under the end table next to the love seat to reach baby and over extended in my haste to stop the screaming (baby! baby! baby!) and *crunch* that's all she wrote. It's six to 12 weeks of tenderness and pain and restless nights and not picking up heavy objects.

2010 Academy of Perfuming Arts Promotional Perfumery Kit

This down time has given me the opportunity to read through notes as I found the box in the garage with all of my old notebooks for perfumery going back to 2005 with all of my grand ideas about how perfumes are created, and I came to realize that nearly all of my work -- all of the good work -- has been the result of intuitively selecting raw materials and intuitively formulating them into perfumes. That word 'intuitively' is a loaded word, though. It means 'without conscious reasoning, or by instinct'. How can a first-time perfumer create something good using only their intuition? They can't.  In order for the work to be intuitive (?), there has to be a good, solid base of experience, which is counter to intuition. What I teach my students is that they have to study the raw materials, inside and out. That's the basis for becoming "intuitive" in natural perfumery. Knowing exactly which patchouli within the working palette will elevate a formulation over another patchouli, and knowing -- or at least having a very, very good idea -- how rose otto 5% dilution will behave in an accord of sandalwood 10% (Mysore) and a weak tincture of Siam benzoin. This is where intuition comes into play -- experiential intuition. This is intuition based on what you already know about the character and behavior of any given raw material within a composition, and it takes years to master.

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