Scents can make or break an experience, especially when settled into an area for a while. My daughters still associate several scents to their childhood because of how I cleaned or cooked. They and many of my friends often comment on how good my home smells, which I find humorous because I use a variety of melts or candles. But I instantly notice when a smell is off, especially when I get into my car or walk into my office.
When I take my annual writing retreat, I pack candles. It’s what makes my space a home for a week. Despite having our own rooms, all of us who attend are mindful of the scents we take. No strong flowery or perfumey smells. I stay away from the food-scented candles, at the retreat and at home. I don’t want my bedroom to smell like cinnamon roll or blueberry bread. I’d rather bake from scratch and smell the real deal. My preference is clean or citrus scents.
One of the first years of the retreat, the candle I packed didn’t last long. When I made a trip to the store, I picked up a two-pack. A retreat friend needed one also, and we both liked the one I picked well enough to buy them again other years. This year, I noticed she brought one. Also, when I took a friend shopping for some things for her new apartment and told her the story as she looked for candles, she chose the same scent. One of the common scents in my house is the same because of that early retreat candle. Now I always pack two candles. I know one will likely burn out. Plus, I like the option of two scents.
For Christmas, I received several candles. One of the favorites would be too strong for my room. It would be better wafting through my house. But one was a clean, subtle scent. I thought it would be perfect. I didn’t think it would last long, so the second one I packed had a little stronger scent but was still a good retreat room smell. And it was beautiful. I was excited to try it.
My retreat was nine days. To my surprise, the first candle lasted seven and a half days. (Some might ask why I wouldn’t trade the candles every other day. The explanation is simple. I pack minimally. It doesn’t make sense to take two candles and bring them both home if I can reduce while I’m there!) The second candle was just wanted I needed as a push-through-to-the-end motivation, especially since it was gifted to me by a best friend.
By the end of the retreat, I was ready to re-enter my everyday life, but I would also miss the retreat—not because it was an escape but because it was grounding. It was like home—good people, good focus, and good scents.