Inspiration: Making Summer Memories
- By Jean Peters-Do
The northern hemisphere is at the height of summer, and for many Americans that means it’s time to celebrate in July. Fireworks and picnics have become a part of our society even if we might not share the same views and motivations of the founding fathers. When our family was young, in the 1980s, we went to Independence Day celebrations at Yorktown, Virginia, where we saw war reenactments at the York River. The battleground was an expanse of green grass and trees. The finest fireworks displays we ever watched were on the river; and yet it was a sobering reminder of the meaning behind the celebration, especially to think about the sacrifices that were made on the very earth our blanket was laying across.
It didn’t seem so great at the time because moving around is hard on a kid, but looking back I had great summer experiences in Texas, New England, Florida, and Virginia. Each place had its own charms and versions of the best recipes for summer foods. Potato salad, iced tea and lemonade, pies and cakes, watermelon and pickles, hot dogs and hamburgers cooked on the grill, lawn games, swimming and playing in the sprinklers are just a few fun activities that we enjoyed no matter where we lived.
It strikes me how much the fragrance of a location influences my memories of those unscripted summer days. The first, intangible memory of summer that pops up is the “fresh” fragrance of digging for quahogs at low tide, followed by the sensations of the sea and sand and their colors. One of my favorite past times was to lay on the grass and watch the clouds to see what shapes they took. The air was very fragrant with roses, dandelions, and sweet green grass. The scent of fresh cut grass is special for me.
When we visited our grandparents here in Texas, the summers smelled like an explosion of wild herbs and grasses and hay, manure, ponds and creeks, fresh milk and butter, garden herbs, pickles, jellies, and melons. Even though I can’t pinpoint a single memory of those events, the smell memory and feelings are crystal clear. How lovely!
Regardless of how you choose to spend your time, summer is the time for making memories, each one composed with its own smells and emotions.
Summertime is Slow Time
It’s really hot here. Our dog Rosie, who is panting on the cool patio, is the first to lament the heat. She says these are “the dog days of summer.” The Greeks and Romans believed that the “dog days” began in late July, when Sirius rises with the sun. These days were thought to be the hottest of the year because of the heat of the two stars rising together. Hot summer days are lazy days, the “hazy, crazy days” of summer.
Deep shade and water beckon us to cool down. Here in Central Texas many people go “tubing” which is floating on inner tubes on the rivers. Once you get in the river, there is nothing to do but lie back and enjoy the ride to your designated exit. These are the days for floating, for going with the flow.
Slow river flow, soft breezes, fluffy clouds floating across the sky, or the lapping of waves on the beach are signs to relax, to step away from the busy pace of the day-to-day; we need serenity to regain our balance. Even though we want a certain amount of excitement and new experiences, the majority of people throughout the world want to live peaceful and contented lives. How can we achieve that in this crazy electrified and digitized hectic world?
Going with the Flow
Even though “going with the flow” might seem passive, it’s about taking advantage of the situation you are in and, by being flexible and accepting your circumstances, being open to opportunities you might not have noticed before. For my own creative process, I take cues from the environment. I slow down and look around to see patterns and harmonies and act accordingly. There is inspiration everywhere!
In 2019 I came across flow state, which precisely describes what occurs when I become totally absorbed in the process of making perfume, lose track of time, and then emerge on the other side, as if waking up from a dream. As I explored it more, I realized that many of my experiences, not just studying perfume materials and creating perfume, but also cooking or crocheting, some meditation practices, drumming, and dancing, to name a few, fall under the category of flow.
The ability to lose yourself in an interesting, achievable and challenging task is flow state. “Whatever produces flow becomes its own reward,” is what Dr. Csikszentmihalyi says in his 2004 TED talk linked above. If you are in the flow, synchronicity will happen more than usual. Future blog entries will explore flow state since it illustrates my purpose as Amaravati – restoring intrinsic health: “It’s my hope you find your own path of deep wonderment and personal growth.” My own version of how to achieve flow state and optimize experience uses scent for developing intentionality and helpful habits in a most pleasing way.
Does your family sit around in the evening of a summer day telling stories about one another? In my family I am not the historian. I sit and listen to my loved ones recalling events that I just don’t remember, was I even there? It’s the family joke, “Yes, you were there!” I asked my grandmother once, what was I like as a young child, and she told me that I would just sit and quietly watch and listen to what was going on. Was I forming deep memories, or simply observing in the moment?
Memory science shows that strong emotional experiences form stronger memories. It also describes how smell and memory are connected. Is there a food or smell that triggers bad memories for you? For most of my life I couldn’t stand the smell of popcorn because of a bad experience at a circus in Pensacola in the mid 1960s. The tent was stiflingly hot and the clowns were terrifying. On the other hand, the smell of fresh cut green grass triggers profound feelings of awe, because of sweet experiences over the years. If you were the kid who was forced to cut the grass unwillingly, that smell is probably repulsive.
Now that you know that memories are stored with odor engrams, and that strong emotions form stronger memories, how will you make summer memories? Here are my picks for special summer smells and how I enjoy them in foods:
Grass: fresh cut green grass, plucking the thick stems to chew on
Lime: sherbet, limeade, Mexican street corn(1)
Pickles: Dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, pickled watermelon rind, pickled okra(2)
Melon and cucumber: honeydew melon smoothie; tzatziki and pita chips
Mint: Bluebell mint chocolate chip ice cream; mint chutney and samosas
In my next post I will share the story of how Emerald was created. It includes green ingredients from the list above, can you guess which ones?
Suggestions in the shop
My collection is designed to inspire you, spark your creativity, and offer you choices of gift items based on themes of color and other associations.
Amaravati Emerald eau de parfum is based on leaf alcohol, the odor of fresh cut grass. Read the story of this composition in my next post.
For your scented rituals, check out this 4th Chakra carved soapstone oil diffuser. The heart chakra is green in color and the element is air. It is associated with peace and compassion, representing balance and interconnectedness. Try a few drops of rose geranium oil in distilled water in the diffuser bowl as a meditation aid; rose geranium is a green herbal note that is simultaneously calming and uplifting.
Do you also associate summer with the smell of fresh cut grass and the color green? What natural flavors and scents smell green to you? How do you slow down, find balance, and get a peaceful feeling? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
1 – Elotes is hands down the most delicious way to eat an ear of corn. Here’s a fun-reading recipe I found. Get the grill fired up!
2 — okra is related to ambrette seed, an important natural perfume ingredient. Okra is Abelmoschus esculentus and ambrette seed (muskmallow) is Abelmoschus moschatus. They are in the mallow family along with hibiscus, cotton, cacao, and durian.