When I first starting making perfume from fallen redwoods and rescuing from wood piles, I began with the bark- possibly one of the most fragrant giving parts of the tree.
When I moved on to distilling heart and sapwood I realized what an insult to the woods it would be to call that alone a redwood smell. We are so used to looking at one thing, like a redwood, and considering it alone. Isolated. This is redwood smell. But the redwoods are a universe. Not just from trees to tree. The mosses, the berries, the dirt, the ferns and fungi are all a part of that! Even the stumps that appear dead and still are sprouting green. Science is just beginning to grasp how these trees communicate with one another, how the underground roots are entwined with so many other plants and living things. They have so much to teach us.
Have you ever smelled the redwoods in the sunlight- maybe sun peaking through the mist? The damp sweetness? It’s majestic. For over a decade now the question of what is a redwood smell (and how would I express that in perfume) has haunted me. The more my nose learns the more I smell something new on each visit to Humboldt. Even the saps keep surprising me. This bunch of fallen trees were in a yellow clay/ loam soil and so the color of the sap was a yellow I’d never seen or smelled before. It’s kind of amazing- that something most people view as one thing or sounds like one ingredient (it’s not) can surprise me still after so many years. I can connect back to being a child with my father but beyond that. It’s humbling to stand near a thousand year old tree. I guess I’ll be spending the rest of this lifetime trying to unravel the mysteries of these forests.
These photos were taken on Pomo and Yurok land- not too far from what is also called Fern Canyon in Humboldt. Check out @savetheredwoods for more info on these trees and ways we can all support the redwood forest.