Amanda Saurin of AS Apothecary blogs today about Cypress, her home-from-home and a place she picks and distills some of her most important flower and botanical oils. I went to one of Amanda’s perfume workshops this weekend, it was even more magical than I could ever have imagined and when there, I met TWR readers who had found AS Apothecary because of TWR. This makes me very happy, ‘Hello!’ Anneka and Fern.
“Dry heat. Sun on skin. Light. Skies so blue the horizon seems to disappear, sea becomes air, air becomes sea – an endless continuum. The smell of red earth cracked and parched, the resinous vapour of Cedars and Pines, Cistus, pungent bittersweet and earthy, goats balancing on preposterously small outcrops, Olive trees gnarled and hollow dotting the landscape in silver green clusters, pomegranates with long red flowers, the sound of crickets, the flash of turquoise Roller wings and the days stretching out – time elongating.
Long scrumptious meals with friends in homes built to protect from the searing summer heat. Perfect lemonade, sweet, sugary with a hint of mint. This is Cyprus to me.
This is the world I inhabited for 7 years, the place I learned to distil and a turning point in my life. It has left an enduring mark, a deep understanding of simple pleasures, the power of plants and particularly of scent.
Every year since leaving, I return in April to pick flowers, distil, see friends and drink in the sun and light. I always go with a plan; what needs to be done on which days, how long it will take, how much help will be needed, how much needs to be distilled to last until the next harvest. And then I arrive and it all goes perfectly, blissfully to pot.
As if entering a video on slow-mo, the plans suddenly seem ridiculously ambitious, the days are already too hot to pick for hours and the sea beckons. Within 24 hours I am back on Cyprus time, meetings at 10 start at 11, breakfast becomes lunch, life is punctuated by coffee and ice cream breaks, everything slows to a human pace. It is an opportunity to replenish, recharge and re-centre. It makes me feel well. Really well.
We used to live high on the top of a hill in the middle of nowhere. To get to town we would take the roads less travelled where there was more pothole than tarmac. I know every plant, shrub and tree on those roads, every twist and turn, every change in the landscape. I know them from dawn to dusk, the way the light and colours, sounds and smells change with the seasons, the routes the goats take, the secret places the birds nest.
To know a landscape is a rare and precious gift, to have the time to observe the minutiae of change from season to season, year to year is something so precious, allowed only by carving out enough time to linger and watch. Something so much more difficult to achieve at the pace of life in the UK.
Returning annually to Cyprus to pick, distil and be still is a journey back into the plants, to slowly gather with hands sticky with resin, to spread out leaves and petals in the sun to dry, to spin around on the ridge of a mountain, to crouch down and marvel at the deep cracks in the red earth, to see the ground suck up rainfall and feel the moisture of the clouds rolling in over the mountain tops is a pleasure indeed, it’s more than work or holiday, it’s an annual healing.”
Anyone else feel the need to research Cypress as a holiday destination? Who knew it was so magical?
Amanda’s organic, natural skin products are a joy to use, I stocked up last weekend on the First Aid Kit – TRY THIS I urge you, if your child/you suffer from eczema, it is gentle, soothing and clears up irritations. Also great on dry elbows.
The Body Oil comes recommended by Anneka, so I bought some too and it smells unbelievably good, like crushed flowers in honey. You can also wear this as hair perfume, which is super-conditioning as well as delicious smelling.
I also bought the Pink Peppercorn aromatic water, because it is excellent sprayed over the surface of a G&T (or line the glass with a spritz of it). Or you could do gin, geranium and tonic. Visiting fellow cocktail drinkers will be mightily impressed at this touch. Any of the flower waters can be used this way, and they work as well with fizzy water as with gin.