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The Creation of ThereThen

Last spring, I joined a group of friends in Sedona to celebrate my friend Shannon’s fiftieth birthday. Shannon is the Great Connector--the source of many of my friendships and the reason I met my husband. She collects people--especially women--who lead fascinating lives. Her friendships are a reflection of her own rich life as a guide in Patagonia, a wildlife activist, and business coach, and I was excited to connect with a bevy of brilliant women from around the world 

Our retreat was gorgeous, nestled in the red rocks of the High Desert in Sedona. Saguaro cactuses lined the path to our bungalow, and we even spotted a mountain lion on our way to the common area. We were getting together to recharge, take a break from our lives, and celebrate Shannon.

At the time, I was making leather bags and shoes, and, while I was in love with working with my hands and making beautiful things, I wasn’t sure about my next step. For one thing, I was having pain in my hands that made leatherwork nearly impossible. Though I could have switched to machine sewing, what I really loved was the sensual pleasure of stitching by hand. I was searching for a way to be a maker again without being so hard on my body.  

I roomed with Marilyn, a dear friend I had met through Shannon when she lived in SF. Months earlier, while she was living in the Atlanta area, Marilyn had been diagnosed with breast cancer and undergone treatment. That weekend, she shared about her healing journey. Her sweet Southern drawl couldn’t soften the power of her story--healing from cancer had required her to dig deep to regain her physical, spiritual, and mental health. Part of her recovery came from her “potions”--natural essential oils that she had created for herself after learning about the power of aromatherapy. She hadn’t made oils before, but they were clearly central to her healing. 

Inhaling the scent of eucalyptus and mint, which she created for rejuvenation, I was in awe of her artistry. Scent is the most under appreciated sense, but also the most evocative, and I found myself getting lost in the memories her potion sparked.  I wanted to know how she did it, and the path she took to learning about botanicals. Marilyn was happy to explain her process, which sounded wonderfully intuitive: she had done some reading and jumped right in, mixing scents and following her intuition.

Shortly after our friends’ retreat, COVID hit, and we were stopped in our tracks. As the world slowed down, Nature woke up: birds were singing, the sky was bluer without car and plane exhaust. And scent started to come alive for me, in the flowers and native plants of my own ecosystem. Truly, I was forced to slow down and smell the flowers, and the result was transformational.  

Because Marilyn inspired my interest in botanical oils,I began my journey to learn more about how to create scents that evoked my California home. In the study of perfume, I was able to blend my insatiable curiosity, my love of nature, my desire to learn, and my need to be using my senses.



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