Friday, July 24, 2020

The alchemical trinity of Chaparral

The perfume Chaparral is not a reference to the creosote bush, Larrea tridentata, which sometimes goes by many name chaparral, as well as greasewood and la gobernadora. I named the fragrance after the California biome distinguished by wet winters, hot summers and drought-tolerant shrub land. This biome is also found in the Mediterranean, South America, Australia and South Africa. The word chaparral comes from the Portuguese and Spanish word “chaparro" meaning evergreen oak shrub land.

Back in 2006, when Chaparral was conceived and launched, my intention was to bring awareness to this community of plants which are very undervalued in Los Angeles where residents opt for pesticide and water hungry lawns and non native palm trees, rather than the local sages, artemisias, oaks, etc. 

In creating the perfume Chaparral®, I weaved together my love and commitment to the indigenous plants of California with skills in aromatic plant preparation and the artistry of perfume formulation.

“Art arises when the secret vision of the artist
and the manifestation of nature
agree to find new shapes.”
~ Kahlil Gibran

My husband, Greg Spalenka states that there are three main components of great art which applies to the full spectrum of the sensory realm including visual, auditory, culinary and olfactory orchestrations.

He adheres to these three components as a trinity of "Mind, Body and Spirit":

Mind; the idea and/or concept
Body; representing the materials
Spirit; the love, passion, integrity and/or soul nature

In alchemy the trinity is Sulfur, Mercury, and Salt, code words for what is also referred to as "Soul, Spirit, and Body"

Sulfur = Soul = Consciousness 
Mercury = Spirit  = Mind
Salt = Body  = Mineral

So if we go back to Greg's trinity, I have overlayed Greg's trinity with that of alchemy in this way, substituting Greg's word Spirit for Soul/Love.

Mind; the idea and/or concept / Mercury = Spirit
Body; representing the materials / Salt = Body
Soul/Love, passion, integrity and/or soul nature / Sulfur = Soul, Consciousness

All these components, working together at a high level of sophistication and awareness, create a synergy, where each component becomes more than the sum of its parts.

In perfume the mind aspect (Mercury) is the concept that the fragrance is built on, encompassing much more than a scent based on a fragrance family or type. The body aspect (Salt) is made of the materials contained within the perfume, the artist’s palette. Soul (Sulphur) is the burning passion of your creation, this is where the true artist weaves their own authenticity into the constructed artwork using their consciousness. Each is important and is required for the finished art to transcend the ordinary, to reach the heights of the sublime.

Over the last twenty years I have come to keen realizations regarding California natives and their value. The journey beginning with guided instructional walks led by herbalist David Crow back in the 90's when he would lead nature walks in the Santa Monica Mountains. Davids introduction than deepened with lessons from communicating with the mighty Oaks on my property and its surroundings, when we lived in the Santa Monica Mountains.

The California native Coastal live oak was the one who spoke to me and revealed the value of native plants just as I began organizing my community to protect four large trees on an lot next to us. In an attempt to secure the safety of the trees I created a perfume devoted to them. The perfume is called “Q” for Quercus agrifolia and was the first in a series titled Californica.

The second perfume in the series, Chaparral® was birthed in October 2006 when I was researching incense. Incense was used by a variety of cultures depending on the plant material in their particular region. The indigenous people of California use the sacred white sage, Salvia apiana, to clear a space or fumigate an individual. I chose to create an incense themed perfume devoted to the California indigenous people based on the plants of the area.

The trinity mentioned above works in Chaparral like this:

Mind/Concept | Mercury/Spirit: The native plants of California, the chaparral.

Soul/Love: The soul nature of this perfume is expressed through the mindful harvesting and preparation of the plant material. The fragrance is created by hand with an intention to expand awareness of native plants.

Body/Material: actual, vital plant material used in tinctures and essential oils to represent an “authentic” fragrance of the regions native plants.

California native plants add tremendous value to a California garden including: authenticity to a landscape design, low water needs, benefits to wildlife habitat, increased biodiversity, and the ability of these plants, particularly the Coastal Live oak, to sequester carbon. Learn more about the chaparral at the website for the California Chaparral Institute.

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