The Candle Scent I’ve Put on Hold
January 9, 2019
Oooohhhh, Lemon Mint Leaf candle, how I’ve missed you!
The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve come to compartmentalize different parts of my life. If I’m involved in one particular activity — say, exercise, or freelance magazine-writing, or crossword puzzle-solving — I have little rituals associated with each that are reserved exclusively for that activity. For instance, I have one music playlist for walking, one for biking, one for reading indoors, one for reading outdoors, etc. Another example: I listen to podcasts only when working on jigsaw puzzles. Ditto travel: Charleston is my walk-til-your-drop city; Hilton Head is my plan-my-new-year locale.
It’s not that I’m hopelessly anal, or that I mind spillage from one delightful pursuit to the next. It’s that I’ve come to consider everything I love sacred in and of itself, and I want to honor the specialness by creating unique associations for each. I’ve often remarked that I love the process of aging, because the older I am, the better I understand myself. Although I’m open to new experiences, I’ve become a quick study of what I do and don’t like, and why. I’ve reached the age that virtually everything in my life is here by design; I’ve learned which activities most reliably fire my synapses, and I don’t waste a lot of time or energy on things that I reliably suspect will bore, dissatisfy or disappoint me.
And the things I love are even more enjoyable when I have delightful associations with one thing at a time. This ensures I’ll never go too long without hiking, or biking, or starting a new crossword, or heading for the beach. I relish the delayed gratification of hearing “Hidden Brain” only when entranced by a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle. Likewise, I know I’ll never grow tired of the Byrds, because I listen to the band only when reading in the back yard. I’ve even grown to honor periods of ennui, because I know there are things I cherish that I will only do on rainy or low-energy days.
Which brings me to my Lemon Mint Leaf candle.
My authorship is full of minty, lemony associations. These are two of my favorite scents, and I reserve them — either individually or combined — for the times I’m waist-deep in writing a novel.
No single activity lights my synapses as reliably as fiction-writing, so many of my best memories involve sitting at my desk clacking away on a keyboard — always with a minty and/or lemony background aroma.
I haven’t smelled this aroma in a while, because I’ve been on a self-imposed sabbatical. In the past seventeen years, I’ve published eleven books, many of which were produced in lightning-quick succession. I’ve loved every minute of it . . . but after the publication of my latest novel, “Things I’d Rather Do Than Die,” in September 2018, I sensed a need for a bit of downtime. I wanted to purposefully step away for a moment or two, catching my breath and waiting for my next project to tap on my shoulder and whisper to me in the wind rather than force it to cry uncle after I’ve managed to chase it down and wrestle it to the ground.
I’ll never disparage the drive and ambition that have propelled me from one project to the next. But I want to be a little more relaxed, a little more mindful, this time around. Patience has never been my strong suit, so this is a challenge.
But I want to honor my art by rising to the challenge. I want to live the dictum that the fallow times are as vital as the fertile ones, and to trust myself to know when the time, and the project, is right.
I’m sensing that the time may be nigh, because I miss my fiction scents more than I ever imagined I would.
Stay strong, Lemon Mint Leaf. We’ll be together again soon.