I have a new essential oil.
I used to make perfumes as a hobby and every now and again I save up a bit of money and get new fragrances for my bath. No-one around me asks about my perfumes and I think everyone’s forgotten them. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but I still love creating fragrances just for me. Not perfumes any more. Scents for my home.
As I change with time, the scents I like change, too. I used to love the sophisticated and the swanky, but now I love to be reminded of the bushwalking I also used to do or for my body to be reminded that it’s fine to put tension and pain aside. It’s hard to bushwalk when walking to the shops is beyond me on most days, but it’s easy to lie back in a hot bath and smell tea tree and lemon myrtle and kunzea. It’s also very good for arthritis, when combined with magnesium salts.
The new essential oil is may chang (litsea cubeb). I mistook it for cubebs when I saw it in the catalogue, but the moment I smelled it, I knew it was perfect for me. Cubebs are one of my favourite peppers for cooking, which is why I bought something I wasn’t sure about. Cubebs is still one of the best peppers for cooking. It is properly peppery and has a delightfully fresh aftertaste. And may chang is perfect with lavender and just a drop of diluted Bulgarian rose for an hour away from the world.
Now I have a favourite cubeb for a scented bath and one for cooking and they’re not related at all. The same applies to mint. My favourite mint for cooking is… most mints. My favourite mint for the bath isn’t a mint at all, it’s a prostanthera, a native Australian plant that smells of mint and just a touch of eucalyptus. When I was a child I had a favourite native mint bush which I always used when I needed mint tea. On the essential oil bottle it says “Bush balm mint” but it is still the perfect mint tea bush from my childhood.
Some of my oils help this illness or that (especially the muscle aches and joint aches that are my everyday), but mostly I like to feel as if I’m in an English country garden, or in the local bush or, in this case, I don’t know where, but the new scent is the best ever.
I also use the oils in teaching writers how to built sensory worlds for their fiction. Or I used to. I developed my scent teaching from my hobby of perfumerie, and taste from my food history background (with some help from a sister who is a wine and olive oil judge). The others were easy once I had techniques that worked to teach two of the senses. I also taught writing family history and personal memoirs, which gave me an excuse to bring home-cooked food and favourite family foods and food memories into play, because they use all the senses. The university I taught at closed most of its outreach courses and so I was suddenly unemployed and I’ve not yet found anyone who wants to learn these things.
It’s a real treat to return to my fragrant past and to remember that just because no-one is interested in learning how to write the senses from me any more, that doesn’t mean I have to lose the cool aspects.
I still look at most novels and analyse the writer’s background from how they use their senses. Australians are my favourite, largely because I am Australian. We love using sight, but also use sound to a degree. It’s quite hard to find an Australian writer of fantasy or science fiction who uses all the senses effectively. Historical fiction writers are more courageous in this, especially the ones who want to communicate the grunge and grime of everyday life. If an Australian writer wants to bring a unique touch to their work, learning methods of incorporating the other senses would do it for so many of them.
I so miss teaching this! It was good for my writing as well. Teaching is very handy for skills maintenance. So, it seems, are hot baths.