It’s been awhile since I’ve enjoyed reading a book so much that I wanted to keep reading well into the night. I happened upon The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro by chance and thought it looked interesting, but the book is so well-written, I couldn’t put it down. So many “important” books these days are so depressing, as if good writing can only be attained if your story is tragic and your characters miserable and unhappy. Even the books that don’t win all the awards seem to be completely lacking in anything uplifting. I read the Hunger Games trilogy thinking that there would be an inspiring conclusion only to come to the end of Mockingjay thinking, Really? That’s the end? God, how depressing that after all that, that’s the best one can hope for in life?
So Tessaro’s story of an “odd duck” of a woman finding herself in Paris and unraveling the mystery of who she is was truly a joy to read, inspiring and uplifting. It’s the story of a woman who is given a large inheritance by a woman she’s never met. In learning more about the her benefactor, the woman learns more about herself. London and Paris in the 1950s and New York in the Roaring 20s serve as the backdrop to this engaging novel. Perfume is woven into the storyline like scent wafting through a room. It’s so integral to the story and yet it’s done with such subtlety that it’s like perfume itself. Catching a whiff here and a waff there, and always leaving you wanting to learn all its mysteries. Just like a good story.
We don’t get many beautiful sunsets in Los Angeles. Normally, we lack the clouds required for a brilliant, fiery display. Tonight, however, the sunset looked like something created by Maxfield Parrish. I wish I’d had my camera with me, but my iPhone did a good stand-in job.
I’m reading Amy Stewart’s book Flower Confidential about the cut flower industry, and the first section of the books talks about the creator of the Star Gazer lily. Most people know the Star Gazer because of its beautiful white and pink flowers and heady scent. It was created by Leslie Woodriff in the 1970s as the first lily that combined the large and fragrant, but downward-facing Oriental lilies with the colorful but unscented upward-facing Asiatic lilies. The history is fascinating only to people who are interested in flowers, but what I found even more intriguing was the spiritual and metaphysical aspect to how Leslie Woodriff created his lilies.
Woodriff was a dreamer and he was passionate about hybridizing lilies. Except Woodriff was the antithesis of every characteristic associated with a hybridizing scientist. He never kept records. He had no notes of his process. He never bothered to try to reproduce his results over and over again. His greenhouse would have been considered an atrocity in the plant world–filthy, with viruses and bugs everywhere. One colleague was quoted as saying the reason Woodriff’s lilies were so hardy is that they had to survive his greenhouse in order to see the light of day in the flower industry.
All of these components should have spelled disaster based on what science said. So how did this man create a flower that had stumped the entire flower industry for years? He imagined it. He would walk around with an image of a flower that he wanted to create in his mind. Then he collected pollen from the plants he thought would make a good cross and pollinated the proposed ideal mate. He wasn’t that fastidious about cleaning his pollinating brushes or worried about cross contaminating his specimens. In fact, sometimes he would collect pollen from a number of different lilies, shake it up in a bottle and then release it in a field of the flowers, just to see what would happen. Not exactly the isolated control group most scientists consider mandatory for producing the desired result.
Woodriff imagined what he wanted, put a little energy into it, and let the Universe bring him the finished product. That’s what most of us need to do on a more regular basis. Have the thought, release it out into the world, and allow the Universe to deliver the perfect result back to you. Though Woodriff didn’t name the Star Gazer lily, its name is a perfect reflection of the process used to create it. So many of us give up our dreams and don’t reach for the stars because we need to “face reality.” Well, reality is what you make it. Next time you see a Star Gazer lily, think of it being imaged into being and put your own dream out into the Universe.
Photo courtesy of Van Engelen Inc.