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Over the Sea to Skye

Where's your favorite place in nature? The place that touches you to your core?

Mine is at any body of water, but the coast specifically. It almost doesn't matter what coast—I just need the surf rolling to shore, a salty breeze, and an occasional glimpse of sun. I'm actually happier walking along the water's edge when it's cooler. And quieter. And, well, a good deal less bright.

Here's the thing: I'm really pale. I mean, like, burst-into-flames-vampiresque pale. I've known two shades my whole life: porcelain white and lobster red. Clouds are my friends.

I found the perfect combination of my favorite seaside elements in Scotland last August. Touring there was like a bucket within my bucket list: every time we neared a coastline I became giddy.

What about you: do you come to life around water? Like each wave that hits the shore takes your worries with it as it rolls back to sea? That's what it does to me. I'm invigorated and calmed by the surf at the same time.

For our 10-day tour of Scotland, the excursion I was most looking forward to was the Isle of Skye. I'd heard of its beauty many years ago, and its allure was increased over the last few years as "The Skye Boat Song" played before each gorgeous episode of Outlander. I could barely contain my excitement that we were going. 

The day dawned...um...gray. But that was okay. We'd discovered the sun often popped out later in the day, at least for a little while.

Then it started drizzling. Well, it was Scotland, after all. It was to be expected. That's why everything's so green. Okay, onward. 

Then the bus broke down—but started up again within an hour. Huzzah! 

And then, just as we got "over the sea to Skye," our accursed coach gave up Macbeth's ghost on some random road—far from any magical vistas.

In short, I traveled all the way to the Isle of Skye and all I have to show for it is this lousy rock.

Actually, I think it's a beautiful rock. It's not only jewelry-worthy; I feel it captures the look and feel of the Scottish coast perfectly—rugged, turbulent, bracing, golden-green, and gray, with streaks of bright white light. 

I knew when I saw this landscape painting of a stone that I needed to create a scent to match it.

What—you don't think a rock deserves a perfume? I do! 

Beyond its sheer beauty, I feel like it reminds me to notice the brightness and hope in rough times in my own life. What better message to wear, like a comforting shawl (or tartan plaid, as the case may be)?

I chose to interpret this slice of Scottish marble from the Isle of Skye for the final project for the intensive natural perfumery course I pursued last year. I searched for these characteristics in assessing potential ingredients for this project: salty wet wood, “greenness” without moss, and cheerfulness without floweriness; in other words, I wanted to represent the ocean depths, mixed with the shore, mixed with a brightness that could pierce through the clouds.

 Starting with the base notes, I laid down a deep saltiness with hinoki/Japanese cypress (fresh driftwood), seaweed (green, musty water), and choya nakh/roasted sea shells (churned surf and salt). The heart presented itself to me more like a deep top rather than a heady bouquet, so I composed a slightly floral citrus accord from green mandarin, petitgrain mandarin, and orange blossom. As for the top, it needed to be super bright but abstract, like the light that peeks through the clouds in the stone—always there, but appearing only from time to time. I eventually struck an unexpected but pleasing balance among white pepper, anise seed, and litsea cubeba.

The final perfume, which I called "Sea Change," seems to continuously roll rather than evolve linearly from top to heart to base. It starts with a surprising plunge into the rocky surf (base), quickly followed by a lightning-fast shot to the sun (top). The softness of the heart acts as more of a backdrop than a central character. But that was intentional: I didn't want it to behave like a typical heart-centric perfume. To truly represent what I saw in the stone, it needed to only hint at a horizon (heart), instead infusing the perfume with the motion of the waves themselves (base) and occasional glimpses of a sunny sky behind the fast-moving clouds (top).

This all-natural blend, like the Isle of Skye marble itself, lacks an equilibrium between highs and lows, just as turbulent times in our world challenge us to remain centered. Life is rarely a smooth transition from one event to another. We can either be pulled under by the waves, or take a step back to view the beauty in each sea change.

So does this mean I've made my peace with not being able to tour the Isle of Skye? Of course not! But until I'm able to go back, at least I can take a whiff of my new perfume to help me dream of that bonny coast.

You can take a whiff, too! Click here to request a wee tester strip of Sea Change.

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