Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Yom Kippur + Thanksgiving

Pumpkin and thorns

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all of my friends and customers in Canada. I'm quite overwhelmed with the flood of Jewish holidays, and the time difference - so I didn't manage to get a chance to commemorate a tradition of gratitude which I grew to embrace and call my own. So I'm going to merge together the two traditions - Jewish and Canadian - and say sorry and thank you in one post... It's a perfect pairing for Yom Kippur and Thanksgiving, don't you think?

This year I'm particularly thankful for all my friends in Vancouver, old and new,  who jumped to the task of helping me wrap up 18 years of life and ship them to the other side of the globe. I know it was more painful for them at the time than it was for me  (with the tremendous pressure of preparations, the realization of what was really happening has only began to sink in after I've arrived here). So I'm also sorry for all the mess, trouble and sadness my departure was mingled with and sorry for leaving.  We'll have to arrange some trans-atlantic visits. I promise you: there's lots to see here in my new neighbourhood of the Western Galilee. The more I discover about it, the more excited I get about my new life here. 

And I'm particularly thankful for my family, who've received me here with open hearts and arms, and made my landing as soft as possible. Thank you for putting up with the shock and turmoil that immigration entails for those who experience it firsthand and those who support them. I arrived here in a state of shock and only learned after the fact that moving countries brings so much grief. Literally. People spend at least a year grieving the life they had in the previous country as if they've lost a loved one.  Not to mention the daily struggles with language, customs, geography. There is not a night when I don't wake up in horror from a realization (or a dream) that I left something really important back in my old home. Add to that many bureaucratic paradoxality that not only boggles the mind but also directly impedes on our daily life and my family's well-being. 

I have a newfound admiration for immigrants the world over and a deeper understanding of why my countries are the way they are - for better and for worse. Immigrants should be saluted to, not laughed at for their accents or weird customs. 

So I'm going to apologize in advance and ask my family's forgiveness for all the mess that we're going to be facing in the next few months until my home is ready and until we're fully used to our new surroundings. We're off to a very wild ride together... 

Gmar Chatima Tova!

Labels: , , ,

Friday, October 07, 2016


Guavas from my mom's tree

Autumn in Israel has a completely different feel to it, having very little to do with fallen leaves or spooky celebrations, and more to do with the sunlight mellowing and the days shortening. Being on the merging point of three continent, this is a season of migrating birds (southbound from Europe, mostly), striking white flowers that rise fro the dead hay of summer, and carob blossoms with their disturbingly sexual smell.

There's also an overwhelming abundance of fruit that are coming out now, literally falling to the ground daily. Guavas are one of the most symbolic aromas that dominate this season. A single fruit will suffice to impregnate the air of an entire home, and families are often divided based on their attitude to this fragrant fruit with grainy flesh and creamy seed-filled core.

My mom's trees are bursting with fruit, and even though we try to eat as many as we can, we're running out of ideas for what to do with them. Either way, they make a great environmental scent (at least for those who like the fragrance) so no complaints for having a basketful in each home in my family's little "neighbourhood". We already made a parfait with them (it was supposed to be gelato but I put too much gelatine so it congealed well before getting a chance to be frozen). I think we will need to make something else with them to preserve their goodness - maybe a jam or confiture if I can find a good recipe. Guavas also make excellent candy - such as the popular Mexican "Rollo de Guayaba" - a rolled fruit leather of sorts, and guava pate, very similar to quince, but often packed in flat wide cans. Guavas are also used in cooked and fresh, Cuban-style salsa (the pink guavas, which are more watery and less fragrant, go particularly well with tomatoes and onion). Paired with soft cheese, guavas make a sweet filling for empanadas.

Guavas belong to the Myrtle family, which may sound surprising, but when you bite into a firm fruit, or one that is not all mushy and ripe yet, actually makes sense. There is a fragrant green herbal note to guava. And that is the stage I enjoy eating it the most - when the part that is close to the stem still resists the bite a little bit, and has that slightly acrid taste while the rest of the fruit yields to the teeth and melts in your mouth. When the fruit is completely ripe, it has less pleasant odour in my opinion, suggestive of stinky feet.

There is a chemical explanation to this complexity, of course: "in immature fruits and those in their intermediate stage of maturation, were predominantly the aldehydes such as (E)-2-hexenal and (Z)-3-hexenal. In mature fruits, esters like Z-3-hexenyl acetate and E-3-hexenyl acetate and sesquiterpenes caryophyllene, α-humulene and β-bisabollene are present."

To further explain: (E)-2-hexenal is an important component of strawberry's fragrance, and (E)-3-hexenal is a green-smelling aldehyde, reminiscent of fresh cut grass and tomato leaves. So that partially explains why the unripe fruit is so interestingly fragrant and why strawberries and guavas go so well together. The fruit esters that develop when the fruit ripens - Z-3-hexenyl acetate also appear in berries such as blueberries and strawberries, while E-3-hexenyl acetate is described as the green odour of unripe bananas and pears. α-humulene is an isomer of caryphyellene, and is also responsible for the characteristic smell of cannabis - which might explain the offensive odour of the ripe fruit. β-bisabollene has a sweet taste and a balsamic odour, and also acts as pheromone in fruit flies (which is why they probably like ripe guavas so much).

Guava's objectionable aroma prevents them from becoming popular as a perfume note. And when they do make an appearance, it seems to be in commercial-smelling fruity florals and tropical-themed fragrances that I don't usually even bother sniffing. If you can enlighten me on a good scent with guava note I'd be grateful.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Return to Sea

Return to Sea

Shana Tova uMetuka to everyone who's celebrating. I've been up to my ears in adjustment mode and taking care of little details to start our new life here that my celebrations have been restricted to the Rosh HaShanna dinner. Otherwise most days just seem to continue merging into one another in one endless loop of tasks that remain undone and problems that are still unresolved. I know I should give myself a break (moving homes alone is one of the most stressful life events, and immigration amplifies this a hundred fold)  - but I have major responsibilities and there are some things I'm absolutely unwilling to compromise about (such as my child's health and well-being, at any age really).

This is a time for new beginnings, and that means a lot of letting go. Before I left Vancouver I returned all the shells I collected over the years to the ocean. To me this was a symbolic way of giving thanks to nature, and the Salish Sea in particular, which gave me much needed comfort throughout the years. The conception of so many ideas - and perfumes - happened to me as I walked along the seawall, in varying weather conditions and lighting degrees. The water helps me reflect on my life and recollect my thoughts. The fresh salty air around the water cleared not only my lungs but also the mind.

I'm thankful for being able to see the Mediterranean from where I live, and  that it is only a 20 minutes drive away. I've never seen a sea I did not like, and returning to my childhood's beaches is one of the most blissful part of this move (on par with my nephews and nieces' enthusiastic welcome and the fact that they remember us even though we didn't visit for a year and a half).

There is a strip of wild sand dunes and lagoons of the northernmost beach spanning all the way from Banana Beach to Rosh HaNikra/Ras El Nakura  - the grottos which are right on the border with Lebanon. I'm curious to see how it behaves throughout the seasons and the sea's mood cycles. There is plenty of wild life there, both in the water and along the shore - fragrant beach lilies included. I'm looking forward to being able to swim and enjoy the sea and its salty water almost year-around (it gets only as cold as the summer temperatures of the Pacific in wintertime; but it's also most stormy then). I can't wait to see what inspirations these waves will bring me.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Monday, October 03, 2016

Lost in the Lagoon

Lagoons in Achziv beach

We landed in Israel a few days ago, greeted by unbearable heat. As soon as I set foot in Ben Gurion airport, a dreadful realization sank in: we're now homeless and have left everything that is familiar with free-fall into the complete opposite culture, climate and lifestyle.

Nothing remains the same in our life, except for miss T's breakfasts and tea rituals, and my insistence of making it to the beach once a day, if at all possible. Hiking (or even walking) has become unbearable a by the 3rd day after our arrival. The vicious desert winds from the east set in an apocalyptic mood and bring a heat wave that makes even walking the 50 meters to my mom's house next door rather intimidating.

Plus, I won't bore you with the details of Canadian customs regulations about liquids and anything fragrance related; nor Canadian insurance companies' reluctance to cover anything going into a country considered. I'll just say that as I anticipatead, this is going to be a wild ride and we may be without a home or our belongings for quite some times. I packed accordingly, which is to say not particularly light - with 2 small carry-on suitcases and 3 large ones (one of them entirely dedicated to perfume stock, so that my customers can continue shopping online as usual and receive their orders without delay). So suffice to say - my apocalyptic approach to packing those 5 pieces of luggage, although seemed to have lack some coherence at the time will come handy. We have clothes and footwear to take us into winter, and have plenty of paperwork and books to keep us busy for a few months. Mark my word: If you have a perfume business, don't move it. Ever.

Achziv beach
We traded in our comfortable city lifestyle, and what I consider perfect weather (all in all, I always liked rain), our backyard rainforest and next door beach for dusty olive groves, unbearable heat, and village life off-the-grid (although thankfully my family has set up wi-fi in all three household on the "ranch", which makes that transition much easier at least from business and communication point of view). But all those opposites aside, the one winning reason for being here is not lost on me. I'm most grateful for having our free-fall cushioned by a loving and warm family and being surrounded by so much love and support. Their encouragement through this very rough transition is a proof that when tough things are going to happen in life (as they tend to be) I won't be there all on my own like I had to be before. Not to mention, if I were to do this 20 years from now, it would have been a thousand times harder.
Beach Lilies

The beauty of this country (not that this is why I came here) lies in small, hidden things. Stunning wild flowers in unexpected places, like these pure-white beach lilies (which smell much like hyacinths, by the way). People seem utterly impatient, vulgar and uncourteous at first glance but if you look past the few loud shroud voices that squeak too much you discover true kindness and generosity, openness and compassion.

And speaking of flowers: I've already started collecting bulbs of fragrant flowers (with the help of my gardener brother) so that I can start the mini perfumer's botanical garden that I've been dreaming about as part of the new location of my perfumery and perfume school. I've gotten a number of narcissi, hyacinths and Easter lilies to start the garden, and will also get some rhizomes of Iris germanica from my other brother's garden. I've got my seeds of Parma violets and shiso, and there's already jasmine and rose in my garden and some citrus trees in the orchard. But that's just the beginning. Come spring it will become a very happy place.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, September 29, 2016

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… 

Labels: , , ,

Monday, September 12, 2016


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.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Last Garden of Aleppo

"Flowers help the world and there is no greater beauty than flowers. Those who see flowers enjoy the beauty of the world created by God. And when you smell them they nourish the heart and the soul. The essence of the world is a flower" (Abu Ward).
This short TV documentary about the Abu Ward's Last Garden of Aleppo has deeply inspired me. The human spirit never gives up on beauty, hope and continuing living. Even more so when in the shadows of death. My heart goes out to the gardener's boy, who will surely carry on his father's legacy, and I hope will continue growing despite the tremendous loss he's experienced.  

Even if the only pots you have are empty rusty cans and shrapnels - you can grow roses, hazelnut, oleander, loquat and pear - and "rosemary for resistance". Aleppo's remaining residents planted what Abu Ward grew in his nursery everywhere they could in traffic circles and among the rabble. 

Labels: , , , , , , ,