I grew up hating the scent of lavender.
Mother told me that it was good for headaches, and she frequently suffered from what the doctors called migraines: painful, nearly devastating bouts of light and sound sensitivity with just a hint nausea and discomfort. She would apply little drops of it behind her ears and on her temples and then leave the bottle open so that the aroma could waft through the room. I used to think that the aroma therapy notion was nothing but a hoax. Something about a smell being able to heal: it’s odd and doesn’t feel like it’s all that researchable. Certainly, it’s testable, but it feels more like pseudoscience than true therapy. I guess you could say I’m skeptical?
There was a woman in my hometown that wrote this book called Natural Beauty that explored the properties of natural ingredients and their healing powers for the human body. Even now, I can see the green and purple cover, and the very alluring photo of the author—beautiful, by the way. But when I think about the information inside the well presented cover, behind the smiling blonde, I just immediately start to think about lavender. The soft, floral scent; the gentle, cooling oil; the subtle, delicate color: hardly anything wrong with it on paper. Still: I could not bear to be around the flower. Not one bit. I would sit in the bathroom and hide the scented candles in drawers and put chapstick on my nostrils to filter away the minty, natural nastiness that comes with the territory.
I used to think that my mom would just leave out lavender products to annoy me. She knew I hated it (and I don’t even use that word), but would constantly leave it around the home because it calmed her, helped her, healed her. All I felt was ill. Funny, no? That one little flower can help a person so much, but hinder another to the point of discomfort and, on more than one occasion, disgust. Something about that purple plant: it’s just not for me.
And then River Rock brought it on board. Lavender coldpress, lavender simple syrup, lavender lemonade, lavender latte, lavender…I think you get the picture. It’s already an overwhelming product to be around: and now it’s permeating my workplace? Look at our current special board. Midnight Garden.
“What’s in a midnight garden?” –Clueless Customer
“Well, our midnight garden is the result of one of our bakers’ favorite creations, the midnight garden scone. It’s made like a mocha, that’s our chocolate from Ghiradelli, with milk, and two shots of espresso. Then we add our own simple syrup that comes from locally sourced and extracted lavender. It’s quite the delicate drink! If you’d like, you can try it iced or hot, or even with white chocolate…” -Jolly Josh
People eat it up. They hear the word lavender and they perk right up. What is it about that little flower that makes everyone so delighted? It’s the color, right? It’s a nice, light purple so I can understand the appeal. But everything else about it is just so repulsive. It’s pungent, overriding, and—to be a little anthropomorphic—cocky. It’s an arrogant little plant; it’s pretentious and condescending.
“Look at me! I’m lavender. I’m delightful!”
Yeah, yeah. You’re nice. You’re soft, you’re friendly. You’re a lot of things to a lot of people.
To me: you’re just that little flower that triggers memories of all those times spent in the bathroom trying to avoid my family. Memories of sitting in my room, plugging my nose, and finding ways to ignore the upper half of the house.
If anything: lavender reminds me of being lonely.
Tonight I tried an Iced Lavender Latte. And just as the acronym suggests: all I felt was ILL.
But worse than ill in the sick sense, I felt sad. I felt like that little boy in his room with his blankets and his books and no one around to say: hey, why don’t you step out of this box of boredom and enjoy some time with another person? Take your nose out of pages and your eyes off of words and talk to your friends, to your family, to anyone other than the lonely kid in the mirror.
I was surrounded, enveloped by movement and people and energy. Yet, standing there behind the counter, trying to wash the taste away with water and whole wheat cranberry bread, I was eleven.
I was eleven and alone.
I was eleven and alone and dwarfed by a plant that any child could pluck from the earth.
And all I could think?
What did I do with my chapstick?