Sunday, July 6, 2014

Out of the cocoon

In a group on Facebook I mentioned how, a lot of years ago, Gabriel Mojay forced me out of my nice safe cocoon, and ever since I've been asked to tell the story.  Since it's too long for a Facebook message, here it is.

Most of you know that Nature's Gift started rather by accident.  I had been disabled, and used the time to study the two passions in my life...the new (to me) art of aromatherapy, and online communication. I had just discovered the world wide web and I had to learn to DO that.  And from that combination of factors, Nature's Gift was born. Accidently.  As a way to fill up my time and energy since I couldn't WORK.

I bought or borrowed every book available in the early '90s. (Not many!)  I made blends and gifted them to friends. And when the friends wanted more, I told them I needed to buy more ingredients. 

And I put my bright and shiny HTML skills together and designed a web site. At first it was hosted on   in 1995.  For several years I lost money.  But it kept me sane. and I learned.   I discovered this mailing list...hosted at a place called "IDMA" (and we never knew what that was.) But the IDMA list deserves a major place in the history of online aromatherapy.  So many experts...scholars and students, practioners, teachers... willing to share their expertise with a bunch of thirsty little sponges.  Robert Seidel, from the Essential Oil Company. Rob Pappas (back then he was with Lebermuth) James P. Kababick, Art Tucker and other chemists, Tony Burfield who went on to found CropWatch, Sylla Sheppard Hanger of the Atlantic Institute, who told me "you need my book" and let me buy it at cost, Marcia Elston from Samara Botane, Michel VanHove (he was still in Belgium then.) Mick Gahaghan "the english chamomile man", Jim Dierking, from Liberty Natural, Mary Martin from Violet Star, Jeffrey Schiller, the author, Pam Parsons of The Aromatic Thymes, JoAnn Bassett, the perfumer, Suzanne Catty, who went on to write the book about Hydrosols,  Laraine Kyle, who went on to be my assistant Christi's teacher and to be one of the founders of the Alliance, Kathy Duffy who is my teacher now... so many names. And they shared.  Mynou (who gave us online commentary from NYC on 911), Graham, who left the UK to move to the US and marry Lynda, Gary, Sharon from Poland...a long list of names. Some still active in the online aromatic community, and some long gone.

And Gabriel Mojay.  who wrote a book I couldn't wrap my brain around.   Chinese elements and essential oils?  it made my head hurt.  But he shared on the groups. Important, helpful suggestions that I saved. (I saved TONS of archives.)

Meanwhile, I was learning and studying.  And sharing.  Now, you have to realize, I was painfully shy. And totally lacking in self confidence.  Which made the online community ideal for me.  If I didn't know an answer I could look it up.  I had been active in online/computer communications since the early 80's and found a lot of safety on this side of the monitor. There was a whole wide world out there, and I could play..but stay safely behind the shield of the monitor.

In 1998 I went to my very first Aromatherapy conference and trade show... the NAHA conference in St. Louis.  I was overwhelmed.  Most of the presentations were over my head, and the presenters...the vendors booths just left me in awe.   They were so polished, and together, and organized.  I loved it.  I came back home, contacted some of the folks I met there, and Nature's Gift grew a tiny bit.  I had to hire a part time employee because I couldn't do it all any more.    Time went on. We survived the panic over the millenium. The computers kept computing.  NAHA planned a conference in Seattle.  And I sent in my registration.  I was going to my second conference.

and the following email (much abridged) arrived in my mailbox.  Dated July 1, 2000.

"...Actually, I have a serious proposal for you, regarding the Conference:

You may or may not know that I half-own an organic essential retail company called Materia Aromatica, based here in England.  It is mainly run by Isabelle, my business partner in this venture.  It is by no means my main business concern, which has since 1987 been my educational institute.

Anyway, Isabelle and I decided in January to book a $800 booth at the Conference.  Isabelle was to take charge of most of the manning of the booth, at which we intended to sell our oils as well as make available the small brochures for my seminars and a new A2-sized poster I have designed and printed.

Isabelle, however, can no longer attend the Conference, and Felicity and I are reluctant to take yet more stuff out to Seattle with us, as well as be responsible for manning the booth for 2 days.

So here is my proposal: that for $550 we allow you to effectively design and run it as a Nature's Gift booth, but 'share' it with us insofar that you will allow me sufficient space on the table to put the seminar brochures and perhaps a couple of other leaflets or prospectuses ~ plus enough space on one of the walls behind to display the poster for sale at $15.  It also means that one of us will probably spend a little time with you here and there *behind* the table!

I don't whether you feel the turmoil within NAHA has settled down at all, or whether it will effect the trade show area in any case, but please let me know what you think of my idea...  Thanks, Marge!

With warm regards from Gabriel"

 and the panic set in!

Mind you, I had been to ONE trade show.  I had no more idea how one went about putting together a booth and SELLING STUFF... Face to face, in front of live people...

But... Gabriel was... GABRIEL.   and his sharing a booth would be... validation that this nobody from middle Tennessee was a serious supplier.  I couldn't NOT do this, if I ever wanted Nature's Gift to be more than an expensive hobby... a hole the money went down.

Six hours later I replied: "so much for taking a week to decide, seems *I* may not think that I am ready for this, but the universe (in the form of two or three people in the industry whose experience and judgement I trust) think that I am.

so, yes, please and thank you.  what a VERY generous offer!

now, I can see some possible spanners in the works... Naha might not like the idea...and I was wondering if YOU could contact them and tell them that you have offered part of your booth space to Nature's Gift? See, they are quite possible of telling ME, as an individual, that no, I can't do that without paying a whole additional fee, etc. But there's no way they are going to tell YOU no.

Just spent the past 1/2 hour on the phone with Barbara Lucks getting hints, suggestions and ideas for setting up a trade show booth...where to get banners made, how to arrange samples, don't forget the coffee beans for clearing the olfactory palate, etc.  And my little assistant, Hope, is SO excited about this...(she's also my daughter in law, and a really darling)..she has never been west of the Mississippi, so this is a very big deal for both of us!


Now..there is much more to the story than that.  I'd love to say we waived a magic wand, all the pieces fell together and all went smoothly. Life is seldom that obliging.

I mentioned earlier that I was truly terrified of being in front of a crowd, didn't I?  well, I was.  And, my fear and my body decided I was not to go to Seattle in September.   Mid July I woke up one morning with what appeared to be a horrific burn on my face... red, raw skin... for no reason that I knew of. It was disfiguring enough that for almost a month I didn't leave this house.  And how could I go run an Aromatherapy vendors booth? Obviously I could not.

A friend (who is no longer in TN) was a powerful energy worker.  She knew the problem with my face, the apparent burn, and asked if she and one of her teachers could work on me.  I was skeptical, but had little to lose, so agreed.   At her house they wrapped me in a buffalo robe, and started smudging me, and packing my body with sage.  I remember shivering... feeling SO cold... and then I guess I went into the zone. I do not know what else they did.  I think I was gone for close to an hour.  When I awoke, returned, whatever... I felt light... as though I could have floated off that couch.

When I tried to describe how I was as though every molecule of my body had had an atom of lead in it, weighing me down, and the rituals they did removed the lead that was anchoring me, so I was free to float.   And they told me to go look in a mirror.   My face, which, an hour earlier, had looked like a piece of raw steak, was pale pink, and starting to peel.  It looked like a healing sunburn.

We talked for a long time.  I think they did, somehow, remove something that had been weighing me down... My being had been consumed with fear...always had been, and it was what was weighing me down.  And that is what had burned my face. What better way to avoid doing something that terrified me, than to have something happen to my face, so I could not face the public? (And, of course, I was terrified of facing the public.)

If someone else had told me this story, I'd have said "yeah, right" and not believed a word of it.   But, it's what happened.  This was, perhaps, mid August.  We scrambled, packed oils and accessories, and flew to Seattle.

Thank you, Gabriel, for forcing me to leave my comfort zone. 


Sandy said...

This leaves me with one question. Back then, how did you complete the sentence, "when I grow up, I want to be like ---"? What an amazing adventure you've had, and I am ever so thankful that you have paid it forward to so many of us in order that we learn also. As many know, when I grow up, I want to be like you.♥

Andy said...

Marge, I am more personally touched by this than I could ever feel comfortable saying, so I will just say "you rock the house!".. gearing up for a couple hours of tunes, but it will not be as motivating as your experiences... ��

Roxi H said...

Love this! I am so glad that I found Nature's Gift! You are an inspiration Marge!!