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The Adventure Begins

The Adventure Beings
A few years ago, I gave up on one futile dream (finding true love, giving my daughter siblings to play with and all those shenanigans) - and replaced it with the more humble and doable one:
Making a pot of tea together wherever we go.
In my fantasy, we'll be going to some remote places, with these simple pieces of equipment, an open mind and a willingness to step out of our comfort zone - and brew tea for others and perhaps also be invited to their brew.
I hope we make many new friends in the process, even for just the duration of the tea party.
And if not - at least we had a heck of a good cup of tea, outdoors.

I had the teapot for a long time now. It belongs to a lost love that by now I've given up 99% of hope to ever seeing again. I think after more than a year passed since two lovers have seen of each other is time to move on. At some point, the heart does not grow fonder from absence, but simply gets used to it and tries to forget the pain of being ripped apart by life's cruel injustices. The heart needs to give itself wings to fly and grow - and get itself smashed into the rocks again by another chapter of cruelty.

But I digress.... I had a kettle that can serve as a teapot -  stainless steel and lightweight as it should be. And also with sentimental value, which is always great for an object you plan to encircle the globe with. But I had no way to heat it up. I'm just take on the characteristics of a clueless chick when it comes to anything hardware or that remotely resembles camping-gear. For that reason alone, perhaps it is good that I met someone new to break my heart. We had a few outdoors tea parties together and I realized those portable little gas burners needn't be heavy nor complicated to operate, so I quickly acquired one for myself while my heart was still bleeding. Because of course I wanted nothing more in the world than to brew a pot of tea outdoors like he did for me. Apparently I'm the kind of masochist that likes to remind herself for as long as possible of the person that she should really forget about immediately.

Did I digress again? Sorry. It's all part of making the point that my repeatedly broken heart brings me eventually to the conclusion that really all I can do about it is make tea. I am a fully capable adult, I've accomplished plenty of things in my life, mostly all by myself,  including raising a child, which is probably the most challenging thing do to solo - and I'm pretty proud of it. The thing with relationships, is that you can't do them all by yourself. There is always another person involved, and that usually wrecks everything. I mean - the success of such operation is only 50% dependent on what I do or say, and 50% is entirely up to another person. Which so far hasn't really proven to be all that great... Maybe it's even worse than that: it's only third my responsibility, third the other person's, and another big third is left to chance/luck/serendipity/divine providence - call it whatever you like, it's something we have zero control over.

So here I am, finally hanging the towel and admitting I just can't do this. Especially not the heartbroken phase. It's just too painful, thankyouverymuch. Instead, I'm going to travel the world with my little girl (who is quite grown up now and loves to travel way more than I do), and on the way we're going to stop in places and make tea. Whomever is going to join us or interact with us is welcome to do so. And I hope we'll also be invited to a bunch of tea parties along the way. Our first destination is the area of Mt. Hermon where we set off for a little weekend adventure. And what we brewed and drank there I will tell you in the next few posts...

Yurt Life

We are moving into my mom's charming little yurt today!

While waiting for our permanent home to be renovated (which, as it turns out, takes even longer than building a new home) - we've been living semi-nomadic life for close to four months now, about three of them in a yurt.

Life in the yurt is different. There is no way around it (pun intended). For one thing, it provides a round space, that encompasses most of life's functions in one area: cooking, eating, reading, puzzling, snuggling, cat-feeding (an extra duty we've picked up on the way to freedom - not unlike an unwanted pregnancy that you just can't get herself to terminate), office work (whenever my MacBook Air has enough power to work for me - not to mention its battered battery now needs replacement, which turns out to be a HUGE ordeal in the land of milk and honey), Pilates practice, and even occasional entertaining (when it rains even my dear family avoids it like the plague). It's not truly all in one space, because it actually has an annex to the north, with the washroom (including a shower and a compost toilet - a killer combination for dirt and cleanliness), as well as a sleeping den which has beautiful greenery all around it, as it is built from old wooden windows.

That beauty comes with the price of this space being as cold as the outdoors in the winter. In the summer this room is actually a lifesaver, because the yurt collects way too much heat, although it is much better insulated than the sleeping den - even when its skylight is open. We don't have an oven, but were able to pull together delicious and nourishing meals from the two-flamed gas stove, and have even prepared some raw treats for our daily tea parties. To be perfectly frank - mostly, we've been lazy and buying baklava and cookies whenever we are in the vicinity of a bakery - so I am now in the know of where to get good baked goods. I'm sure this knowledge will come in handy in the not so far future, even after we're back to our productive baking life. When it comes to baking, it's always good to have a good back-up plan.

Of course, that did not stop us from being experimental in the kitchen, trying new ingredients such as nigella seed spread and authentic freekeh, which is an amazing way of preparing green wheatberries by burning them off the wheat chaff. The result is a smoky, nutty grain that is delicious and easy to cook (and digest) and really gives unmistakable character to dishes (the one I bought in Canada was actually stale wheat dyed green). More on that in another post!

To sum it up - living in a yurt is "an experience". Just like camping is an experience. In camping terms this is a five star facility. I'm sure with its running water and gas-operated refrigerator it is also considered a luxury in comparison to straw huts in Africa or yurts in the Mongolian steppes. You get the picture. It's an experience. And we're three months into it and can't wait to experience something else.

To lift the edge off the nervous anticipation for proper housing, I've decided to compile a little list of fragrances (both mundane and wearable) that will let you into this experience, even if just a little... This compilation is a random array of fragrance fit for yurt life, even though I imagine most people who choose to live in this humble abode would rather dab some animal fat and cooked cabbage juice behind their ear than any designer's fragrance. Nevertheless, I find the task amusing, and I hope it will make for a fun read.

We are moving into my mom's charming little yurt today! Here is a view of the inside.

I also hope that my mom does not get hurt because apparently in our parts of the world, patience ("Savlanut") is considered a virtue (which very few uphold), and also belongs grammatical to the same root as the word suffering ("Sevel"). And in this part of the world, stating the facts is considered complaining... I'm sure those who choose to live in a yurt or even just stay in it for a short amount of time will thoroughly enjoy it - it is cute, rustic, pretty, calm and completely in tune with nature. You get to experience all the elements - fire (sun), air (wind), water (we have running water, and thankfully also very little of water leakage despite its very temporary feel); and last but not least - you can't get any closer to earth than this. It is a very, very earthy dwelling and you really feel Mother earth's belly as you tickle it with your slippers walking to and fro. Last but not least: nothing compares to coming out of the yurt at night and seeing the clear black skies dotted with bright stars.

Muscs Kublai Khan - for the obvious body odour effect - musk-enhanced unwashed hair and sweaty armpits with hints of rose and aldehydes.

Kiehl's Fig Leaf & Sage - milky herbacous weirdness. It's unusual yet very easy to wear and has a freshness without being boring. It also goes well with the cucumber and parsley scented products we currently have in the house - hand wash, shampoo and conditioner. Something green and clear-smelling yet non pretentious.

Aromatics Elixir - an earthy, big sage scent that is sophisticated yet at the same time rustic enough to wear in the wilderness. Especially grateful for it on cold wintry days.

Arabie - the spice market, sweat and dusty cobblestones - and all the spices I have in storage (and don't have in my kitchen) kvetched into one bottle. Awesome.

Coco Noir - the opposite of yurt life: polished, elegant, artificial and urban. Jasmine, berries and plums, rose, patchouli, musk and vetiver with a a dusting of cocoa.

Poivre Samarkand - because I heard that there are also yurts in Samarkand (Uzbekistan). Can't find any perfume inspired by Mongolia (which is where the yurts supposedly originate). Besides, it's a perfect sprinkle of heat on those chilly nights when the shower runs only boiling water or ice cold ones, and when you step out of the shower it's the same temperatures as outside (not as extreme as in Canada, but 5-11c is cold enough to feel like real winter).

Musc Nomade (Annick Goutal) - I'm picking this one because of the name alone. I remember smelling it very vaguely and that is was vegetal and delicate... Admittedly I'm also too lazy to go digging in my shipping container now and find the little box where I "filed" all my music samples but I'm pretty sure I've only tried it once when I was in Paris.

Tam Dao - if you've ever encountered compost toilet, you know that it's the human equivalent of hamster cage. pine or cedar shavings are used to cover up the mess, and the result is a more subdued version of human waste, that eventually turns into a nice scent of the forest floor. Anyway, this explanation made me think of Tam Dao, which is a fine sandalwood and cedar fragrance and also has some clean smelling musks underneath, to make you forget all the other business.

Tea for Two - We've been enjoying my limited selection of teas that I make a point of finishing off. True to form, we've been brewing lots of chai, which I've been already giving you plenty of recipes for... And of course Hulnejan - the wonderful root brew of galangal, dried ginger and cassia bark.
Zangvil also reminds me of this "witch brew" with its notes of fresh and dried ginger, honey, amber, jasmine and ginger lily.

Finjan - we've been drinking lots of espresso on the stove top mocha machine, and lots of Arabic/Druze/Turkish coffee (each nationality claims it as their own - but essentially this is very dark roasted coffee with cardamom that is brewed on the stove). The latter is well represented in the perfuem I created titled Finjan (the name of the little porcelain "shot" cups that you sip the coffee from; mistakenly, most Israelis refer to the little pot used to brew it as "finjan" - but its real name is "Ralai").

Mastic - Whenever it rains or gets really chilly, the mastica bushes and wild ivy behind the yurt release their fresh, green-balsamic scent. Grin's smell encompasses this verdant freshness with its notes of galbanum, violet, oakmoss and a classic floral bouquet.

Geranium and Wild Oranges - My citrus orchard was overcome by wild orange shoots, and I've really let it go. We finally pruned the orchard this fall, which mean an overwhelming amount of wild oranges that had to be put into use somehow. The result? An orange cello with a touch of herbs from the yurt's garden, among them rose geranium. One sip of this liquor is enough to uplift the spirits.




House Heart Beat

Bidding farewell

It was so hard to leave last night. Everything felt so rushed… Even though the place was practically empty, it still felt like home. I didn’t want to leave it. Tying so many tiny loose ends (and leaving many others to friends, because frankly, I just couldn’t have finished this task alone - both physically and mentally) seem to take forever and I came to terms with the notion that it will be yet another sleepless night in a series of very sleep deprived and work-loaded months. I went room by room and it didn’t feel right to leave. Even with all my furniture and belonging gone, it still felt cozy and sweet. Like all the friends I hugged before going away, there were tears in my eyes and a whisper in my ears to not go.

As I finally made my way out, it felt more like saying goodbye to a friend. A massive-sized friend that housed us in her belly for almost twelve years, and has provided much more than just shelter - it has been a source of comfort and coziness, warmth and connection whenever everything else fails. nothing could have prepared me for how hard this is going to be. I never lived in a place this long. And I have gone through so much in this place - like several lifetimes, really. 

It was a place where friends could stop by unannounced for a cup of tea, or to stretch and chat by the fireplace, break bread or pour their hearts at the piano. It was a steady home and a friend that was always ready to receive me, no matter how harshly I mistreated it. It was a place that sometimes I would not leave for many days because I was broken hearted and struggling with depression - and a place that was actually not that bad to be locked up in even through five months of debilitating back injury that forced me to look up from the window from a lowly place on the floor. It was a place I was proud to call home and celebrate so many happy occasions, make new friends and I think also other people made new friends in. 

In this place I was able to finally bring to fruition the vision I had to my business - simply because it provided the right space for that. I was able to create a little bit of community around me, in lieu of the family I missed so much. And to whom I am now returning. 

I hope I am not going to regret this move. I certainly am going to miss living in this home and the life in the West End and on the West Coast. I am thankful that this neighbourhood has been my home for the last 18 years. It allowed me to grow as a human, artists, and to raise my daughter to the best of my motherly abilities. I don’t think I would have been able to start my business and build this life for my daughter without that elected exile of 18 years. And this is exactly what also enables me to return back to my original home and family. 

As I contemplate this feeling of leaving the house, and feeling the house’s heartbeat - I realize this pulse is a reflection of all the love that we carry around us. Despite much suffering that I’ve endured in this space, it has been filled with love, laughter, friendships and was always a welcoming place for those who needed it.  

My only regret was not being to pay due resect to the old piano… I was so happy when I got it and that my daughter was benefitting from it too. But I have not been playing it much in recent years, and it has become more of a symbol of stability than a musical instrument; an anchor in the household. I was unable to find a new home for it before I left, and had to send it to the recycling station, which is practically a piano’s grave. I am so sad about this and feel that this was very ungrateful of me. My only consolation is a vague hope that maybe someone picked it up from there and is playing it right now… 


Moving

Pathos Still Life

One of the strangest and fondest childhood memories is when me and my mom moved from Jerusalem to our village in her tiny car, whose trunk was filled to the brim with our houseplants. My mom did not trust the movers to handle them gently enough. So I got to enjoy their green grace through this long ride (only two hours, really, but tremendous length in Israeli terms). Their leaves filtered the sun and made the atmosphere cool and comforting. It was like traveling inside a little jungle, that sang a silent lullaby in my ears.

When we arrived at the village, the plants had a special spot in the shade until our cabin was built (we lived in a hut with dirt floor for a while). And I liked to spray their leaves with water and help my mom care for them.

Decades later, I'm returning to the same village only from much further distance. And I don't trust the movers to take care of my plants so I will hope my friends will adopt them. I don't trust the movers to pack my perfumes and raw materials either, so I'm doing it myself, with the help of some mad friends who I have no idea why they would take on such a task; but nevertheless I'm thankful because without them there is no chance in hell that I will be ready to leave in time.

Also in my suitcase are going some seeds I want to saw of fragrant plants, in what I dream to be a miniature perfumer's botanical garden and an part of an educational project for micro-distillation and old-fashioned extortion methods of fragrant plants. I'll start with some violate (Viola odorata) and green shiso (Perilla), and bulbs of lily of the valley, snowdrops and tuberose that I'll have to remember to unearth from my potted plants... The rest I will have to scout and research once I get there.

Climbing the Mountain

Climbing Mt. Daniel

Last Thursday, we were vacationing in the Sunshine Coast, and I decided to climb up Mount Daniel with my daughter. It seemed especially appropriate because this mountain was traditionally used by the Coast Salish people (the region's First Nations) to initiate their young girls into womanhood. Our vacation was all about celebrating my daughter's high school graduation - so this seemed meant to be...

We packed some snacks and water, my handmade mosquito spray, lavender oil for bites and cuts, and started going up the trail. It was supposed to be about 45-60min hike, climbing up to 440m elevation. My daughter is significantly fitter than I am - she never gets tired when we walk the beautiful trails in the parks around us, and there is no shortage of uphill and downhill where we usually walk. She always walks way ahead of her old mamma. I thought she'll enjoy the challenge. I was so wrong. She was still walking ahead of me, but made clearly audible signs of discomfort and discontent with the whole ordeal. Five minutes into the walk I was already worried so I asker her if she wants to go back to the car or walk on and she wanted to go back. She complained about headache and looked kinda pale too... Or maybe I was just imagining this.  I have no idea why, I decided to continue... But insisted that we stop for breaks and drink water and snacks on the way up. And also that she walks behind me (in old mamma pace, that is) rather than lead in her super-girl stride. Things got a little better then, and she was not in as much distress as before.

We kept walking up what turned out to be beautiful but not at all easy trail. Which meant that we couldn't really enjoy the flora and fauna all that much because our gaze was too focused on the trail and what our next step should land on. And the summit is always invisible, which adds to the uncertainty, anxiety, and anticipation. It's really easy to lose the big picture when climbing a mountain, forget why we are even here... Each step, and sometimes breathing itself is so painful and we get too focused on the rhythmic stride and breath-mechanism and feeling the suffering - unable to converse or sing or really pay attention to anything else that makes striding along a path in nature enjoyable on most other occasions... And from a caregiver's point of view, it is much harder to pay attention to my daughter's needs and state of mind if I'm struggling myself. It's so much easier to help others and be mindful of their needs when you are well yourself.

Mushroom Heart

In the end, it took us more than an hour to get up there (we stopped about 4 times to catch our breath). And when we got to the first summit I thought we got lost - because there was non of the view that everyone who told us about this trail raved about... But we enjoyed the grass and moss covered rocks, and the warmth of the sun, and the smell of West Coast Garrigue - the mingling of arbutus, berries, sun-warmed grass, conifer needles and moss-covered rocks. I even found a heart-shaped fungus! We peeled an orange and Tamya drew a little bit and began to feel happy and proud again.

Pride

Thankfully, we quickly found our way back to the obscured trail, and less than five minutes later the second summit with the promised view unrolled in front of our eyes. We stopped there for a while, snacking on wild blueberries, drawing and writing in our journals, meditating on the meaning of climbing a mountain and dragging your children into an adventure that perhaps has very little meaning to them... But is important for you. And now after watching this trailer, I'm also seeing the other broader analogies to this very stressful transitional time into adulthood. As a society, we expect our children to fly the coup at 18 (or 20 at the most). We equate "independence" as "success". But what when this is not possible? Where do you draw the lines between what your grown-up child's needs and what you need as a human who's been a caregiver for over 19 years, and mentally should prepare to remain in that role for as long as you live? How do you keep that balance of respecting another person's choices (or even giving them choices), when it is very unclear which understanding they have of major life decisions? Which brings me to - what do we know at all about major life decisions? And what happens when all your mistakes don't just affect yourself, but also your dependant yet grown-up child?

Mt. Daniel, Pender Harbour

All my life I've been told that "What's good for the caregiver is better for the dependant too". This seemed like golden advice when my daughter was still a minor. Somehow, it feels really selfish and icky to take on that responsibility of potentially ruining your most beloved person in the world just because you need to do something for yourself for a change. And then you realize, that like anything in life, decisions are never cut and dry "good" or "bad". That even a "better" decision will always leave you with a huge chunk of gut-wrenching guilt and sadness. And that sometimes you don't really know that you made a mistake until 20 years into it...

Pender Harbour Self Portrait

P.s. You should watch the trailer (or the whole movie) "My Brother is Brave" 

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