Noele Lusano

  — An appreciation for scents

"Most people that work in perfumery seem to want to keep it for themselves and retain the so-called mystique..." A look at Noele Lusano's first home perfume 'lab'.

A few months ago, I was reminiscing about the first time I stepped into a perfumery. I smelled scents I hadn't ever smelled, and the experience activated my brain in ways that left me tingly in the head.

I decided to order some sample packs of perfumes from Bloom, the perfumery I'd visited. With my husband, we tried out Labdanum, Coniferous Bliss and Cashmeran. Each pack had at least six different perfumes to try.

The first release of the scent differs from how it smells after it's put on. Overtime, with the chemistry of the body, the scent evolves into something different. The scent may become entirely distinct from the initial application. Eventually you get used to the scent and no longer notice, but for a much longer period, people around will experience the smell.

The world of scent is all new to me. When I went on a hike last week, I realized how wonderful the scents in the forest were, especially when there is enough moisture for needles to emit scent. What sets a place apart is often the scent, a visceral attribute that hardly gets described.

"I recall scents from my life without a trigger - can hold them in my mind and feel/analyze them"

"on Treasure Island, a strange landfill island that connects San Francisco with Oakland."

"at Shelldance Nursery in my hometown, Pacifica, CA. I've always been drawn to orchids..."

Noele Lusano is a photographer I admire. Her uncluttered compositions get straight to the point in evoking a channel of feeling (nostalgic wanderlust). While browsing Noele's travel photos, I was excited to discover her interest in scent. In addition to her work, Noele posts articles about the perfume world along with accounts of her own perfume development.

"I've always been a photographer, and have long had an affinity for olfaction and scent"

"Coffee with a friend in Paris...looking at this photograph makes me feel a lot, missing past lives and my wild and wooly days in Europe."

The one thing that strongly defines one place over another is the scent. I can understand what a place may smell like, the scent of the cigarette and perhaps the space of an old European cafe, however, the emphasis of a well-envisioned photo is on the visual.

When I found Noele's post on the scents she found in the forest along with a textural photo of damp moss, I found my imagination heightened when words were combined with the visual. There was more of an olfactory transmission.

From the Smell of Green

Imagine experiencing the following nature destinations via scent...

Butano State Park: "full of coastal redwoods, banana slugs, and the damp smell of vetiver, redwood and soil"

Thornewood Preserve: "padded by soft fallen branches and brush, and both bay and redwood trees line the walk"

Montgomery Woods State Reserve: "proximity to healing geothermal waters" "several miles down a bumpy, gravelly road off the main highway"

Just from the description, I can imagine the smell of the drive to the forest, the gravel before a hint of geothermal water.

My imagined experience of how geothermal waters smell may be entirely different from Noele's or anyone else's, but it utilizes another dimension of my imagination to understand the unique qualities of a place.

"Last year I went to Bangkok to study with an English perfumer there, and the year before went to Grasse, France, to take a summer school course at Grasse Institute of Perfumery."

"I was in Nice, France after spending a couple of weeks studying perfume in a nearby city (Grasse, the home of classical perfumery)"

Noele has even traveled to understand scent further. This is something I'd love to do one day.

"At home, I have my own materials and work station and I've been working on several different perfumes over the past years."

"My goal is to create scents that can be presented as art in tandem with a visual installation somewhere." One of Noele's works, which seems to be a visual representation of the aura of scents 'emitting' through bottles.

Olfactory art is an entirely new field that hasn't been explored much. While my eyes and ears are overwhelmed with a constant bombardment of images, video, and sounds, I think it's time to feel something different, and allow my nose to get a bit of the excitement.

"As I've gotten older I think my passions have become more articulated, and I've realized that there's little standing in the way of acting on and embracing my dreams apart from my own rationale -- so a few years ago I started researching scent a lot more intensely and in doing so realized that although there's a lot of romance and fluff surrounding the subject (it is a relatively unexplored and misunderstood sense after all) it was a subject that could be undertaken as much as any other, so long as I had the desire and commitment."

View more of Noele Lusano's photos at @noele, Flickr and her blog.


Notch Pass Trail

  — Hiking a former Native American trade route

A warm welcome, once you get there

"Today’s Notch Pass Trail likely follows a route once taken by Native Americans, leading from the Quilcene area over the Quilcene Range." - via

We passed three beautiful waterfalls but didn't even notice. I only saw them on our way out.

On our drive to the Notch Pass trail head, my husband drove the car onto a dirt road that had deep divots. While easily accessible for high clearance trucks, we couldn't drive without bumping and scratching the bottom of our compact car. Each slow lurch forward, we focused our energy towards steering the car around deep holes while trying not to fall off the mountain.

A couple hours before, we had unsuccessfully attempted to drive to another trail at the Olympic National Park. Except the road that led to the trail head was covered in snow and ice. After driving over several patches, the snow on the road became thicker. We decided to turn around and try another trail. That's how we ended up on the uneven, dirt road. Our initial failure made us even more determined.

Only certain people can reach this path, people who've committed their choice of vehicle to reaching remote spots

Google maps displayed that we were 400 feet from our destination. There was no where to turn and driving backwards would be an incredible challenge. But the ground started getting worse, there were tire marks that showed a previous car had been caught, spinning wheels while in place.

My husband got out of the car, leaving me on the narrow road overlooking the ravine. I started to wonder why we had so much bad luck looking for a trail. Maybe there was something we overlooked in reading up on trails. After all, we were a bit tired from hiking the past two days.

Ten minutes later, my husband returned. 'It's there.' He nearly missed the entrance of the trail. There was a place to park one car and a tiny bit of space to turn around. No one else was parked. We had the trail all to ourselves.

Icy weather near the summit, very cold compared to the warmth of the forest at the beginning of the hike.

I love hiking without people around, but this time, I knew for sure we were alone. That was kind of frightening. I kept thinking how I don't really know what I want until I'm served something I think I want. It's only then do I realize the extent of how much I actually want it.

During a previous hike, we met people who were escaping the vicinity of a cougar. I don't want to deal with wild animals. The fact we were alone meant we were the only ones to face them.

We started the trail anxious. I was thinking about how to deal with cougars and bears, the differences between encountering the two animals, while my husband was worried about the state of our car, after the many scratches and bumps.

On our way up the mountain, into the lush forest, we saw light beaming through trees. We came across a few trickling streams that required a clever hop to get across. Slowly our worries disappeared.

Trunks ad infinitum, notice how far the trees go back

Towards the top was a young forest. Tons of straight vertical lines, like those commonly found on wallpaper prints of forest, but there seemed to be an infinite number of trunks extending the further my eyes went.

I realized why the trail's name was Notch Pass. The last bit was a pass between two mountain peaks. There was more moss and it felt more like a graveyard of trees. Things were more overturned and dark.

Eerie atmosphere, where air from both sides of the mountain met

The sun was shining from the other side, lighting the top of the mountain, the trees at the top appeared like a golden forest outlining the peaks. In the shade of the pass, I was examining the overturned forest floor. It felt like the pass had previously been used for some sort of spirit worship.

We walked through the pass and entered a clearing. Then we realized it was a road covered with snow. Which way to go next? We were unfamiliar with the trail and we had no map.

Hiking in snow without spikes or snow shoes reminded me of my years in Chicago. Here is my top of the mountain snack.

I was really hungry, so we walked a few feet towards an outlook and saw the snow covered peaks of an adjacent mountain. It was beautiful and seemed like a satisfying enough of a summit to turn around. Then I started to get cold. The temperature was below freezing. I headed to a sunnier overlook and sat down to have some yogurt, granola, and water.

Our way down was simple. While the hike was extremely steep, it was a hard workout to get up. Downhill was a breeze. We didn't get to hike the entire trail, since we weren't sure which way to turn, but it was as complete of a hiking experience as any.

I came and I saw

All we had left was to lurch our car out of the dirt path. It can't be that bad, right? Well, the road was even worse.

I had no idea that a 4x4, high clearance car would be necessary tool for reaching trailheads. Coming across difficult to reach trailheads, I've started to understand that enjoying the outdoors is an entire lifestyle.

No time to read? Listen to a reading of the post on Soundcloud.


Kim van Rijn

  — My kind of getaway

Pink in the midst of sandy colors

Upon first glance, I knew I was seeing an honest depiction of life that rarely gets seen. Morocco is typically packaged as the land of sumptuous riads, winding streets, souks and colorful tiles. I've never been to Morocco, however, unlike most travel images of that region, Kim van Rijn's photos make me feel connected.

"in every new place I go I am enamoured of what the people are up to"

Each image is like peeking into a new corner for the first time. There's something new for me to look at, something I'm unfamiliar with, be it foliage on the ground, or a simple mattress. At the same time, there's a grounded feeling of comfort, home and family. The balance is a bit like eating a meal that has just the right proportion of salty to sweet. I can dive deeper into the unknown, examine details with a far more open mind with the stability in believing I'm safe. This isn't the feeling I get when I travel. I often feel disconnected and uneasy.

Unintended growth of foliage, natural to that region

Many years ago, I traveled to the Bahamas. A place known for vacations, yet, the islands made me feel incredibly anxious. While driving through the residential portions off resort property, it's clear how different the locals' lives are. It felt exploitative to be enjoying a place where locals lived in run down homes. I was suppose to be on vacation, taking a break from work. But there was a tremendous amount of unease in the disconnected experience. It was anything but a pleasant getaway.

When I travel, I love taking in the sensory details that make a place different from anywhere else: the sounds and the scents. I found myself doing the same peering into Kim's photos. This is the type of vacation I'd like to go on, one where I can open my eyes and see new things, while at the same time feel completely safe, completely connected. As I wander through Kim's photos, I notice how I eat, prepare food, and wash linens differently, but at the end of the day, even in a foreign place, people have to put their energy towards the same few things each day: eat, cook and clean.

Small local details, from decorative doors to towels and architecture

Of course, it took assimilation in order to access the world Kim has photographed.

"I spent a month as an artist in residence in Sefrou, a town about half an hours drive outside of Fes, which gave me a very local perspective of what it is to live there. As in any place, if you're present somewhere for a time, you meet people, and bonds form."

"A lot of my photos were taken while walking in this landscape. There exists an openness in Moroccan culture, a curiosity and an honesty, for life and for art, which helped me overcome my shyness to photograph certain things."

"Many of the photos in dwellings, and of children, were taken one day visiting the village of Henajen, an Amazigh community headed by a jovial soul named Mimoun."

"I joined a family for Eid Kabir, the family of a local artisan named Abdul Haq who lived just around the corner. Being a holy day, and graphic, I had expected to rest my camera. But Abdul welcomed - insisted- I document everything, including the ritual sacrifice at the center of the celebrations "

"All the photos are analog photos, and on film is how I prefer to work - the process of it, and the sense of magic and suspense..."

"The colours appear as they did in the real, for the most part... sometimes my use of light or flash may amplify certain things, but there's no manipulation..."

"I did buy a few dusty rolls of film at a tiny camera shop where I was living in Sefrou, which lent the resulting photos a gauzy quality..."

Kim's photos provide hope: it's possible more travel can promote connection. Her images show that the locals are the one's who guide travelers into new worlds, places where only invited eyes have the privilege to see.

"As for the way people responded, it was generally with much warmth... although that hinged to how much or how little time we had spent together prior"

Read Kim's account of her trip to Morocco and view more of her images at @kimnvanrijn.


Home Workshops

  — Non-standard formats

Visited the original barn where the Boeing Company first started. It's part of a museum now but the interiors were inviting.

"Whenever I find an empty room, I convert it into a workshop so I can move around. One day I draw in one room, the next day in another..." - Joan Gardy-Artigas

I'd previously been thinking of new home formats where rooms are designed to provide a mood rather than a function. Instead of having a kitchen, living room, game room, I'd have a relaxing room with cool green colors, a Zen room with Japanese and natural elements, and something energetic, like an '80's glamour ' room with flashy details.

Interior made entirely of wood.

When I came across ceramic artist Joan Gardy-Artigas, he had a different format: each room in his home is a workshop. Imagine having space to work on projects, be able to leave them there, come back the next day and continue working.

I don't watch tv programming so I can't imagine having a home set up in the traditional sense, with a large tv and couch. When I project videos from my computer to our television screen, I'm usually at a large table making something and only glancing if the program really catches my attention. That does not happen often. So why bother setting up my home in the way other people would? I don't know what it'd look like, a large table in the place of a couch for the living room, but I guess there's a lot more to figure out when making a home a home.


Be Back Soon

  — away from the keyboard

View from the summit of Little Si

I'm doing a lot of hiking this week. Will be back in a few days!


Wallace Lake

  — Fear at every corner

Peaceful looking, but I was quite scared at the time

Today I hiked to a lake in the mountains. Was it cool? It was scary. We didn't run into anyone on the Greg Ball trail and there were signs posted about bear sightings.

The signs also provided a review of what to do in case you see a bear. Basically act cool, bears only react when they feel threatened. A few other pointers are to make yourself look larger, avoid eye contact, clap and back away slowly.

Towards the base of the mountain was a trickling stream.

I wanted to be prepared if the occasion did arise, so I ran the scenario in my head again and again. All that did was make me super anxious.

I was happy to arrive at the lake at the top of the mountain without any problems. My husband and I were at Wallace Lake for only five minutes. The water was frozen but there was a nice view of the peaks surrounding the lake. We had to hurry back down before sunset and in the shadowy mountain pass, it already got dark.

It was the lack of hikers that got me even more anxious about the possibility of seeing a bear. There was an eerie atmosphere during parts of our hike as well. Dead trees were covered with sombre looking moss and topped with dashes of fresh snow. It was spooky in comparison to the beginning part of the trail. There seemed to be a concrete line we crossed where the forest divided itself from looking happy, lush foliage and bright green plants, to depressed in grayer browns and dark greens.

The friendly part of the forest

After the ten mile hike, we were extremely hungry and we headed to the Cheesecake Factory for a ginormous meal. Although I prefer less people around when I enjoy nature, I obviously can't handle no one being around. Fear is a huge part of any journey and today there wasn't a shortage of it.


Railroad Museum

  — Victorian style

Built in 1890, the Snoqualmie Depot, now a museum.

At the Northwest Railway Museum, I came across an image of two women harvesting hops. Even in the fields with baskets of hops, the women wore fancy Victorian dresses. Were they dressed for the photo?

People, including me, do all sorts of unusual things when getting their photo taken. Corset dresses don't seem like a productive way to harvest crops. The baskets aren't even full.

Perhaps the dresses are the reason they aren't full.


Little Si

  — A hike that's value for money

A tumble of mossy rocks at the beginning of the trail

My husband and I are hiking every day this week. Before making this plan, I didn't anticipate how much time and effort it'd take to research which trails to go on. Since it's winter, there are plenty of closed roads. We have to make guesses as to which trails are accessible. Our non-winterized, compact car doesn't do well in less than perfect road conditions.

On a previous attempt this week, we turned around after driving an hour to a trail head because there was too much ice on the road. There's no information on rural road conditions. Despite the challenge in finding winter hiking spots, it's worth it. The trails are less crowded, I don't ever get too hot and on mountain trails, I can see more because there aren't leaves blocking the way.

My mom recommended that we check out Little Si. This is a smaller mountain attached to the much larger Mount Si. She knew there wouldn't be any snow, so we didn't have to do much work before heading out.

Enjoying the summit, celebrating with water and crazins.

Little Si is one of the most entertaining hikes I've been on. The elevation varies, goes up and down, but not much of it is very steep. Within a few minutes of the beginning incline, we were immediately rewarded with an open view of the surrounding mountain range.

The trail leads into another area with a left side that was super rocky and a forest that inclined on the right. It felt so safe, walking into this protected valley. The rocky side is part of a more elevated portion that makes up the summit.

While walking in this valley, I found one rocky section cut vertically like a wall. There were ferns popping out of small crevices, leaves draping down. 'Wow, this is the wall I've been looking for! This is what I want in my home.' I wondered if it was possible to build around a boulder. Maybe with a trillion dollars...

The wall I wanted to take home and my husband walking away, tired of me obsessing over wall.

As we approached the summit, my husband and I abruptly came to an overlook. My eyes started freaking out trying to make sense of all the trees on the other side. All the intricate branches were visible, every little detail. It felt like I was seeing 4k resolution for the first time.

The rocky side had a beautiful surface. Running into the overlook of Mount Si, the larger mountain, was like running into a wall of evergreens.

It was super easy to get up to the summit, I wasn't out of breath at any point. Little Si is a massively popular hike among locals. The trail had a variety of terrain and multiple open views. There were rewards at each corner, for every incremental step.


Gone Hiking

  — winter exploration

Shag carpeting is back

I found these lovely trees while hiking with my husband in the Olympic National Park. They reminded him of druids, a fantasy creature from Magic the Gathering. The trees looked as if they could move, with limbs and arms.

A shorter druid and an area that looked as if it came out of Dr. Seuss

I'm hiking every day this week. I'll be back as soon as I can! If I don't get lost...

A visit to the Olympic National Park


Ruby Beach

  — For people who have good balance

There's rusty colored water...

Visiting Ruby Beach is like playing one of those video games where you have to jump from log to log. There is a large pile of logs that you have to cross before getting to the sand. They're all slippery.

"The beach is so called because of the ruby-like crystals in the beach sand."

The tide was rising fast when I visited. There was nothing ruby-like in the sand.

A window to the ocean, seen from one of the large boulders on shore

As someone who doesn't visit the gym, hiking is the best way for me to get exercise. There are so many random obstacles that use different muscles. Getting back to the parking lot was tricky. I kept slipping on the driftwood.

Entrance view: looks worthy of slipping on driftwood