One of the special events of autumn is Halloween, and perhaps the strongest visual symbol of this day is the 'jack-o-lantern' pumpkin, carved with a grotesque face and lit from inside by a candle. Children always enjoy making Halloween pumpkins and it is possible for adults to get in on the act by re-interpreting this idea to make an unusual table decoration. Look for an unbruised pumpkin with the stem still attached and follow these instructions:
- Use a pencil to mark where you will cut off the lid of the pumpkin lantern. Use cookie cutters to imprint a pattern around the broadest part of the pumpkin. Mark the position of the design firmly by hammering the cookie cutter into the pumpkin to a depth of about 1cm. Choose moon shapes or stars, circles or hearts. Leave about 2cm between each shape so that when they are cut out, the shapes will act like windows to the inside of the pumpkin.
- If you like the idea of adding a lustre to the pumpkin you can spray it with paint - gold and bronze both work well. Keep the design simple or just add a drift of colour to catch the glow of the candle when the pumpkin is lit. Leave to dry before going on to the next stage.
- Cut out the lid with a craft knife or small kitchen knife. Inside you will find that there is pulp and seeds which you can discard. Then scoop out the flesh (which can be used for soup or pies) so that the skin is no more than about 3cm thick. You will need to use a strong spoon or perhaps even an ice cream scoop for this job.
- Use the cookie cutter or a knife to cut out the 'windows' of your design.
- Spray the inside of the pumpkin with a strong dilution of essential oils in water, up to 20 drops in 100ml will give a powerful mix. This should match or complement the plant material you choose to complete the decoration in the last step.
- Place a nightlight in the base of the pumpkin. Make sure that it is stable and level.
- Use a skewer to create holes in the lid and top of the pumpkin. Then choose some leaves, twigs and flowers to place in these holes. Garden roses may go on flowering until Christmas and can look and smell marvellous alongside stems of blackberries and russet beech leaves. Of the herbs, mint savory, hyssop and sage retain their fragrance well into autumn. Lemon verbena also flowers at this time of year, while a simple circle of marigold heads can look very effective. Try to include some trailing stems to give a look of flowing abundance. Stems with dried fruit, berries or even seed heads can also be striking.
The Autumn Fragrance Palette
The mellow light of the autumn sun seems to encourage a mood of reflection or reverie. But if you follow nature's pattern, you will find this is a time for harvesting the fruits of your own living over the recent year - the lessons learnt, the challenges met and the greater experience, awareness and insight that you have gained.
Essential oils can be chosen to reflect and support this reflective theme. Use the following oils, either alone or in a blend, to uniquely echo your own experience of this season of life.
- Clary sage helps to release fixations and gives a perspective on life
- Cypress reaffirms inner strength, releasing fear and giving a sense of inner peace
- Jasmine releases fear and guilt and enhances joy and creativity
- Juniper berry is cleansing and purifying, bringing clarity to mind and spirit
- Neroli is soothing, while instilling the energy of renewal
- Patchouli helps release negativity and promotes a sense of contentment
- Sandalwood gives a gently, soothing sense of peacefulness and acceptance
- Vetivert frequently described as the smell of autumn bonfires, is a grounding, reassuring fragrance, helping you to reconnect with the inner self
- Ylang ylang creates a sense of abundance and contentment
Using your autumn oils
Once you have made up an autumn blend that suits your experience of this mellow season, there are a number of ways you can use it in daily life.
You may want to surround yourself with this fragrance by scenting your own candles. Alternatively, you could make a 'quick' potpourri. Start by collecting attractive leaves, nuts, dried flowers and perhaps spices, and making an arrangement in a shallow bowl. Then soak a cotton wool pad in your autumn blend and leave to dry. Once dry, tuck out of sight in the bottom of the bowl.
Little Oasis of Reminiscence
At the end of a particularly enjoyable summer you may like to preserve your happy memories in a very special way. Gather together the photos, leaflets, postcards and little bits and pieces you have picked up, pebbles, shells, theatre tickets, menus, or a ribbon from a gift. As you sift through your treasures, make a note of all the smells you associate with that happy time. Perhaps cypress trees, lavender, sage, basil. You may also remember the delicious smell of really ripe tomatoes, melons, peppers, some Italian wine, a really fresh pizza or barbecued meat. Whatever the aromatic memories, just quickly note them down before you forget.
Think of the colours you associate with that time and try to interpret the experience through texture as well, using leaves and textures from autumn. Was there a particular book you read, a piece of poetry or some music that meant a lot? Try to gather something together to represent each sensory aspect of your summer so that the pleasurable memories are as vivid and evocative as possible.
Once you have gathered everything together you can decide on the form of your sensory collage. Perhaps a page in a scrap book to which you can add a new page for each changing phase of your life.
Or perhaps, nicest of all, a presentation which you can frame and hang on a wall to remind yourself often of a very happy season. Take your time and have fun trimming and grouping the items. If the presentation is going to be in a scrap book or in an 'open' display, then of course you can express some of your fragrance memories through individual or blended oils sprinkled on pieces of blotting paper or fabric.
For those aromas which can't be accurately reproduced, just choose a pen with ink in the appropriate colour and write the words on the page as part of the design. You may be surprised to find that even when you can only use words, association with all the other mementos will trigger your brain into remembering the exact aroma.
Creating this kind of collage not only increases the pleasure of the memories but will improve your sensory awareness and confidence with blending. Repeat the process frequently and you will be amazed at your increasing perception and how much more you can enjoy using your sense of smell.