Every month, I join a group of ten other women, for a Friday of unusual fun. We are led by our two sages, who choose a surprise spot for us outdoors, where we will spend a the day soaking up beauty. Being outside in a natural environment and discovering beauty in unexpected places (not always so wide and wild, as those areas are fast vanishing from the horizon). We start the day alone for about an hour of solitude, meditating, contemplating, or just staring at our surroundings in quiet time along. Some of the day is dedicated to photography exercises, using simply our smartphones and learning how to take better ones, with very little focus on technique and more focus on a specific topic that is seasonal and we tackle it from the twelve different angles that each of us provide. We mostly lavish in the luxury of having time for ourselves away from family, home and work responsibilities. And just with ourselves and sharing time, space and love for nature with one another. We share a meal and sometimes also our thoughts and feelings. It's very simple yet so hard to come by these days.

Yesterday, I drove through a wide gravel road leading to some of the country's last wheat fields of Yizrael Valley, behind Bethlehem of Galilee (possibly and logically, where Jesus was truly born, but not traditionally considered his birthplace). And from the midst of the fields, we were lead through two gates to a naked oak grove amidst the green.

The theme for this month is "Green". The colour of life, renewal and the heart chakra (along with pink). Yet in contrast to all of that, I have to admit I was not particularly excited to tackle this topic aesthetically. It seemed too easy. Too lovable. I felt strangely uninspired.

Moss Green
On the artist's palette, as well as in nature, there are more shades of green than any other colour. Forget about fifty shades of grey. We're talking about 295 shades of green! Can you name any of them? There are precious gems like emerald, jade and peridot; There's sea green and forest green, and then there are myriads of plants and foods with distinguished greens, such as sage green and olive green, pistachio, avocado, lime and many more; The beloved mushroom green (which is the shade I use for my logo), fern and moss green (both dark and light), and of course grass green. The names alone make me feel rejuvenated and recharged.
Sea Green
And rejuvenated I did return from this week's outing, because despite my reservations I did go. I didn't find any earth-shuddering shots or any other ground-breaking revelation. And that is totally okay. I marvelled at the fields of green wheat, and the green pastors among the naked oak trees. Cyclamens galore with their heart-shaped leaves of green snake-like patterns, and plenty of mandrakes just going into fruit, Jerusalem sage, mullein, watercress and stinging nettles  are just a few of the more distinguished plants among a sea of green grass, mostly. I placed a little wicker mat among the white anemones and cyclamens and realized what a ridiculously simple luxury it is to just sit or lie down on the grass facing the sky and the trees like this. And how precious it is to just be in my body in this place. I took in the green, stretched my limbs and spine in the pleasantly caressing rays of the winter sun, and when I looked around I also so moss on the rocks, so bright and vivid. I wondered why I do this lying down and doing nothing only at the beach and promised myself to do it anywhere else I can lay my body on and feel like doing so.

Reseda Green
Reseda odorata, AKA Mignonette (pictured above) is just one of a few typically "Green" notes on the perfumer's palette. But it is not the only one. And it is also rarely available now as an absolute, so I would love to try my hand at extracting it using the enfleurage method. The leaves themselves smell pungent and more than a tad repulsive - almost like rotten tomato leaves or goosefoot leaves (a stinky relative of quinoa). But the delicate cluster of tiny white flowers smell surprisingly amazing! Reminiscent of tuberose dipped in a field of green, it is heady and heavenly with hints of orange blossoms. This note can be found in the stunning Private Collection by Estee Lauder, and is what gives it its unique personality above all other components. When I smell reseda, I find it really hard not to think of this perfume.

Green Grass
For the perfumer, "Green" is not just a colour, but a whole category of aromas that bring to mind imagery of leaves other than aromatic herbs (rosemary, sage and eucalyptus don't count as "green" even if their colour is). The smell of fresh cut grass, one of the most beloved among the thousands of people I interviewed throughout the years, is a universally loved scent. The molecules (Z)-3-hexenol and (Z)-3-hexenyl acetate are what give the distinct fragrance of fresh cut grass. They develop once the grass blades are crushed. These are not extractable into essential oils, perhaps because their concentration is very low. However, they have a high odour intensity which gives off a scent that is associated with relaxation, summer lawns and poolside giggling. They are now synthetically produced to create a very realistic impression of something fleeting that can't be captured otherwise. When trying to bottle an impression of the grassy lawn of Harbour Green park in Coal Harbour perfume, I've used a combination of galbanum oil, tart pine absolute and linden blossom.
Green Mask
Another synthetic molecule that is very frequently used to create a green character or nuance in a perfume is spirogalbanone. This is a manmade molecule is intensely green and powerful, sharp and persistent, and not at all found in nature, but that takes its inspiration if you will from the natural essential oil of galbanum. The resin from this Persian native of the Apiaceae family gives off a most characteristic bright and GREEN personality that is like intensely heady and sharp parsley with hints of balsam, grass blades and freshly squeezed lemon rind, dripping with green juiciness. Galbanum can be found in many classic perfume compositions, the key one being Vent Vert, the Godmother of all green perfumes. Then there are Miss Dior, Ma Griffe, Chamade, Crystalle, Ivoire, No. 19 and more. Galbanum is THE natural perfumer's key green resource, and you'll find it in Ayalitta, Rainforest, Lost Lagoon and Grin.
There are other green notes in natural perfumery: violet leaf absolute (which appears in quite a few of the perfumes discussed today), hay absolute and even oakmoss has an inherent green quality to it. And there are a few categories as well - Floral Green or Chypre Green. Perhaps there is a green nuance in a perfume you love that belongs to a completely different category - for example, the legendary Vol de Nuit, which also contains galbanum, oakmoss and sage but is walking the tightrope between Oriental and a Chypre and manages to smell both mysterious and natural.

For now I will just let you meditate on green wherever you are - be it a green garment, a mundane object such as a garbage bin, or the lovely and nutritious food you eat. Notice the colour and the exact shade of green. Do you see other colours in it and other associations? Does the green you meet have a scent? Do you like it? What does being meeting the green make you feel?

St. Patrick and the Challenge of Green

making a clover chain, originally uploaded by amber_b..

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy St. Patrick’s Day before it's over! – Enjoy the rest of the night if you are celebrating, and especially your Guinness beer!
I’m not much of a beer person but I heard this particular kind is actually really healthy…

Without much time to post (the day was very busy with Spring Break starting today and lots of work remains undone as a result), this would be just a quick post to tell you that my day started with trying Gaucho tea for the first time. There will be a lot more about it tomorrow. For now, before I pass out after a very long day, I just wanted to share a few thought in regards to the challenge of green.

One of the things that both Dawn and I experienced when creating the perfume and the tea, was the challenge of creating something that is different from our own personal tastes and overcoming our own prejudices and preferences. As much as I find it difficult to wear green fragrances, I can tell you that mate is not Dawna’s favourite tea kind. We both had to overcome the natural impulse of rejection that comes from the smell and taste of sharp, bitter greens.

Interestingly enough, what this as an exercise has taught me (I can’t speak for Dawna but I can sense that she enjoyed the challenge…) how close opposites really are. As I was sipping Gaucho this morning with increasing curiosity as we let the tea steep longer and stronger – I noticed that strangely, the more bitter the herbs are, the more sweetness they leave in the mouth after sipping the tea. This sensation has left such an imprint on me that I can still feel it in my mouth as I write…

Tune in for a guest appearance tomorrow – a piece by Dawna Ehman about Seasonal Attunement and the Therapeutic Use of Flavour

Tincturing Matcha

Matcha being my favourite tea, I decided to try to tincture it and see if it will smell as good as the tea itself... The results so far are positively Matcha like. And it's completely different than Green Tea absolute. That roasted leaf aroma comes through very well. I haven't used this in a perfume yet, and am waiting for the right opportunity. My results with tincturing has been very futile and discouraging in the past, but I haven't given up completely - and now with some tips from skilled tincture-mavens, my interest is piqued. Some of the tinctures turned out quite nicely 0 including the Kaffir Lime Tincture (more about that another time). My interest in green notes is being renewed, and exploring the realm of tincturing opens a whole new world of possibilities that are quite exciting. The most pleasurable part of tincturing is, perhaps, the sensual connection with the tinctured materials. Preparing the materials for tincturing involved rinsing, drying, rubbing, crushing, grinding, and viewing the beautiful colours that the plants naturally possess and so generously release into the alcohol along with their aroma. When I made the Kaffir Lime Tincture, I wiped every single leaf with a damp cotton towel, to make sure they are free of dust - yet not dripping water into the tincture. I tried to share some of the sensual process with you by showing the step by step of mixing the matcha powder with the alcohol... Japanese Ceremonial Tea taken up to a totally different level... Next time it will be sake!

Ode to Freesias

orange, originally uploaded by blaueaster.

There are two floral notes that remind me of a flower shop – carnations and freesias. There may be the occasional lily-of-the-valley in springtime that has scent in the flower shops too, but only these can be found almost year around, and actually have a scent besides flower-fridge-aroma. The other thing they have in common are their close relationship with spices – carnation’s eugenol makes it smell very much like cloves, and freesias have a generous dosage of freshly ground green and white peppers.

Dyptique’s Ofresia is a scent that just showed up in my mailbox one day, waiting to be appreciated. I liked it right away – for its simple freshness and pleasant presence. Without being ambitious, Ofresia is the best freesia I ever smelled, with all its peppery spiciness and green freshness. It is also sweetened with a very subdued vanilla base note, which is probably why it is one of the most wearable green perfumes I ever tried*. Ofresia is cheerful, dewy and lighthearted. It can make you feel like the orange background of the photo above, or like freshly ground white and green garden.

* I seldom reach for green perfumes. I love green scents in nature, but when bottled, I often have an adverse reaction to extreme greenness, despite my efforts to make peace with them.

L’Ombre Dans l’Eau

A watercolour painting can portray a complete scent with lighting and emotion with just a few simple strokes of colour-stains. A good storyteller can shutter ones emotions and make one’s imagination wonder to unknown lands while using very few simple adjectives to describe them…
L’Ombre Dans l’Eau does it by using only a few simple notes to conjure a full story with colours, textures and emotions: It smells like the eternal summer at the riverside garden - The Flower Garden of the Woman Who Could Conjure – a chapter in the great story by Hans Christian Anderson “The Snow Queen”.

This scent makes me feel like little Gerda gliding with her boat along the river, running barefoot in the endless summer of the flower garden of the woman who could conjure, and talking to the roses arose from the mud…

Tomatoes, roses and earth, summer and honeybees humming and buzzing around sticky juice dripping from the berries on the vine. How can these greens and berries and dirt and roses be so smooth and opulent is beyond my understanding. There are only few notes that create this scene: a cheerful and energetic green tomato leaf, lush, red and soft roses at full bloom at the warmth of the sun, tart redcurrants and a fertile, moist soil of patchouli and oakmoss. That’s it.

I will not add a single word, Andersen said it much better than I could ever possibly express myself.
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