Monday, April 30, 2012

Back to the Present

Last night we returned from our sojourn in West Virginia. First thing we did on our way home from the airport was stop at our local Whole Foods (whole paycheck) to load up on the kind of vital food we normally eat and felt a bit depraved from the last few days.

We bought heads of lettuce, kale, chard and several different types of dehydrated kale chips, our new favorite snack food. I think when we head out to Missouri in a few weeks we will bring a box of the kale chips with us.

I'm now scrambling to get all the orders that came in out while unpacking, washing out all those icky synthetic chemicals that trapped themselves in our clothing and re-orienting. Be back with more photos and the story of our trip shortly.

Image: Dogwood tree blooming on the West Liberty University Campus ©RoxanaVilla

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Adventure ahead

 I am off to West Virginia where I will be presenting two short lectures at West Liberty University. Thus, blogging and answering e-mails will be sporadic or on hold until next week. I'll be back to fulfilling orders on either Monday or Tuesday.

The folks at West Liberty University, one of which was my student when I taught at Otis, asked me to present twp lectures. The first lecture I will present is on my journey as an illustrator working in publishing to my current incarnation as a natural perfumer, the second will be on marketing.

Thus I have been re-organizing the slides in my keynote presentation into two different lectures as well as all the new imagery from the last two years.

I've never been to West Virginia and am excited about the adventure, visiting the land of the Paleo Indians, hanging out with fresh, young minds and experiencing a new place.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Love, Peace and Bees

The yearly ode to Gaia, Earth, took place yesterday with celebrations around the globe. We attended the two day event in Topanga where on Saturday we manned the Backwards Beekeepers booth with two other club members. The day was bright and sunny with clear blue skies while the hillside bloomed with native salvias. Topanga Earth Day takes place at the Topanga Community House Fairgrounds nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains.

I love attending this particular Earth Day celebration because I feel like I am amidst "my tribe" and usually make new friends. This year featured the regular line up of eclectic booths circling the main grassy area of the grounds, around the base of the ancient oak and up top near the community center.

Our booth was located along the edge of the road that leads to the community house near the Kids area and The Conscious Film" tent. We set up our large white canopy with two tables, a hive body, some old comb, a variety of large bee related photos and an observation hive. The observation hive had a comb of mostly capped honey with about 30 bees, a huge draw for those passing the booth, especially the kids.

Since there were four of us at the booth each of us had plenty of time to wonder around and take in the local love, peace and very hippie vibe. At times all four of us were at the booth all answering questions to very inquisitive folk wanting to know general information about honey bees, what is CCD, are the bees dying and why, how can they become urban beekeepers and did we have honey for sale.

The old comb on display attracted quite a lot of the local bees from the woodland which added an extra dynamic to our booth and facilitated lots of questions about Africanized bees and fears of getting stung.

One of my very favorite reasons for attending Topanga Earth Day is Donna De Lory, the embodiment of the Goddess. Donna is a local here in Topanga and performs at this event each year. Her music combines pop, chants and hypnotizing, rhythmic melodies.

"Donna rocks us again with the divine elixir of her extraordinary voice 
remixed with new music alchemy for yoga, dance, and making love to life." 
~ Shiva Rea

Around the booths I discovered a few vendors that I found particularly worthwhile to post here. The first was BuBees, a company in Malibu that specializes in handmade Top Bar hives designed specifcally for the natural urban beekeeper. Steven is a graduate from Art Center with a refined sense of color and eco awareness. He builds the hives himself from reclaimed wood and then covers them with beautiful shades of milk paint. A gorgeous work of art.

While walking across the main field I spotted a gorgeous ruffle skirt worn by a beautiful brunette, her name is Felicia. At her booth she had gorgeous Goddess wear, like the ruffle skirt she wore and leather belts. I've got my heart set on one of each. The skirt, belts and other handmade items Felician carries can be found at her portal site Rockin  Leather Belts.

Greg discovered the booth Gaian Mind Institute which is a Permaculture and Prepardeness which teaches subsistence strategies that rely on the abundance of nature, not the scarcity of the industrial economy, for survival. Their purpose is to reunite people with each other and the land to restore resilient systems of human ecology. We loved their sprouting jar and brought one home to sprout brown rice which is supposedly quite delicious in soups.

The other environmental and garden related product we found super interesting is Blue Sky biochar who offers a Biological Charcoal soil supplement which "sets up a naturally organic support system that retains both water and nutrients concentrated at the plant's root level." Not only is it great for vegetable beds but also for the composter and as a nutrient for humans and animals. Michael Wittman, the owner, told us that this charcoal is being used with cattle to help the cows digest the food and then breakdown the manure in the soil.

At the end of the day on Sunday "The Vanishing of the Bees" documentary was shown in the Conscious Film Tent. This insightful film is directed and produced from fellow Backwards Beekeeper and Topanga resident George Langsworthy. At the end of the showing Jennifer Youngs, the coordinator of the showcased films, asked me to do a Q&A for attendees who had questions.

"The Vanishing of the Bees" presents quite a compelling look at how the EPA and government in the United States is radically different from that of Europe. In the end we witness how the way of the bee and her organized community based system is a good model for humans. By the end of the film it became clear that the EPA. environmental protection agency in the US is there to protect big business not humans. If we want to witness change here in the US then that will come when as a collective we finally decide that the way of corporate greed no longer serves and we choose to take action. If you haven't seem the film I highly recommend it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Renewal and vitality have arrived on the navigational winds of Spring, mainly due to the unseasonal rain we were graced with last week. Here in this terrestrial ecoregion known as the California chaparral we tend to get our biggest rainfall in the Autumn. The City of Angels this past Autumn was abysmally bleak of elemental water.

Then, just when things were looking pretty bleak for the Spring blooms and forage for the honey bee, the rains came. Unseasonal and quite welcome, we were graced with April showers. The rain seems to have woken the garden fairies or perhaps washed the dust out of my eyes to perceive them.

All the different native sages in the garden have finally started flowering, while my beloved Apiana (bee) sage and Matilija poppies are starting to grow tall. The wild woodland roses I moved up slope in the Autumn are super happy in their new location. I can tell because they have lots of new siblings from underground runners. The new location, away from the sandstone rocks and Eucalyptus roots has allowed them to stretch their legs. Fingers crossed for some of their beautiful pink flowers later this Spring.

Like last year at this time of year I am seeing lots of volunteer plants most likely due to the increase in visits from the pollinators and local fauna. As instructed by the Theodore Payne Foundation I leave the seed heads on the plants for the birds and trim them off later when they are empty.

In the last year I planted more native sages, some pretty white roses, a helichrysum from Australia (pictured above) and cistus down among where the roses were. Its take the roses some time to get acclimated, unlike the natives that although slow growing adapt perfectly to the difficult clay terrain.

Meanwhile, I have been re-shooting some of the photos of the ever multiplying illuminated perfume collection. Although anyone and everyone seems to call their perfumes "natural" these days, despite what they are made with, I am incorporating a more natural Darwinian feel to some of the imagery. Weaving all my artistic talents to more fully illuminate our natural, botanical world.

Photos ©Roxana Villa

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Talking Dirty

In French Goût de Terroir means Taste of the Earth. It is a term referring to wine and the flavors imparted by the earth in which the vines grow. The term originated in the 1700's and used for marketing later in the 1800's. Although the term appears to be specifically related to the taste of the dirt absorbed by the roots of the vine, other it is more a reference to the flavors of the terrain imparted on the vine. For example if you grow the same exact plant in two different parts of the world the wine from the two vines will have different flavors. This is due to the earth as well as the other three elements fire (sun), air (wind) and water (rain).

I came to this knowledge, not through wine but through the study of essential oils in aromatherapy courses. A lavender essential oil of the same species and variety grown in France will have a different aromatic make-up than one grown in Southern California. The 400 or more chemicals that make up the oil shift according the the conditions where it is grown, thus impacting the aroma.

For years I have been using an Oud from Cambodia for my perfumes. It is most prominent in Chaparral® and Rosa as well as featured in other perfumes and accords. This little Cambodia gem that I have been using is just about out and thus I will be switching to a different Oud obtained last year by way of Laos. Since the aromas are so varied between the two, the fragrance of the perfumes will be altered. This is one of the variables that exist in the land of natural perfume. In fact it is one of the reasons the large perfume houses prefer synthetics, not only because they are substantially less expensive and have extreme longevity but the aroma is consistent.

Nature is not consistent and although I work to have some consistency in my line sometimes mother nature has an altered plan. Cheers to our aromatic adventure and all those twists and turns that keeps us on our toes while still planted here on Earth.

Photos ©Roxana Villa, taken during a trip to Ecuador in 2009

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Month of the Spring Goddess

A very Happy Veneralia: Day of Venus to each of you on this first day of April the month which was named Eostre Monath by the Anglo Saxons after "Eastre or Eostre" the Goddess of Dawn or Spring.

"Eostre is generally said to be an Anglo-Saxon Goddess associated with the renewal of life: Spring (season), fertility and the hare (for its quick and numerous reproduction). Eostre has been made to be a "goddess of Dawn" by modern writers, improvising on the theme of Eos; there is no sanction for this aspect in any historical document or ancient tradition. Though it has been said that she was sometimes depicted with a hares head, no authentic animal-headed deities appear in Germanic or Celtic cult objects. And, perhaps for good reason, there is no Celtic depiction of an Eostre whatsoever. Most likely the name of the Spring Goddess was lost and the name "Eastre" was substituted in the transcriptions of the 8th century. Other names given to her include Ostare, Ostara, Ostern, Estre, Eostre, Eoster, Eostra, Eostur, Eastra, Eastur, Austron, and Ausos."- edited from Wikipedia

Many of the attributes associated with this Goddess which I have listed below appear to be from contemporary Western neopagan traditions. I suggest working with what "feels" right to you and honoring the many varied festivals and traditions on our multifaceted planet. Here in the wooded hills we begin to see the bunnies at this time of the year, thus, the mythology that the Goddess of Spring was associated with rabbits fits quite nicely.

I'm rather liking the idea of Alice of the WonderLand as a modern icon of the Spring Goddess Eostre. She's fesity, very brave, smart, witty and has a great sense of adventure. And Mia of course, portrays her so perfectly.

Colors: White, green, pastels
Associated symbols: Rabbit, egg
Best day to work with: Monday
Best Moon phase: Full Strongest around Ostara
Suitable offerings: hard-boiled eggs, honey cakes, first fruits of the season
Associated Planet: Moon

The full moon for this month arrives on Friday April 6th, it will be in the astrological sign of Libra and is called The Pink Moon. The name is in reference to the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. Other names for this month’s celestial body include the Full Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and among coastal tribes the Full Fish Moon, because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn.

This month we are wondering in a forest of Alder wood. According to the modern neopagan Ogham calendar, it is the fourth month called "Fearn" (Alder) falling between March 18 - April 14. The Alder is associated with protection and courage. Steve Blamires, my favorite Ogham scholar, refers to the Alder period as one to find the strength to face things you have been avoiding.

The Song of the Alder Fairy
by Cicely Mary Barker

By the lake or river-side
Where the Alders dwell,
In the Autumn may be spied
Baby catkins; cones beside —
Old and new as well.
Seasons come and seasons go;
That's the tale they tell!
After Autumn, Winter's cold
Leads us to the Spring;
And, before the leaves unfold,
On the Alder you'll behold,
Crimson catkins swing!
They are making ready now;
That's the song I sing!

Pagan News
Pagan Book of Hours
Farmers Almanac

Mia Wasikowska as Alice in Wonderland
Alder Photo by Phillip of Halifaxlight on Flickr