Flowers & Butterflies in the Land of Crude

We are driving down a narrow road. The lushest rainforest you have ever seen towers up on either side of us. The leaves and grasses and palm fronds forms a living wall. A bright blue sky, dotted with billowing white clouds forms a ceiling. It is hot. Very hot. My husband and I are deep in the heart of the Niger Delta in Nigeria.

As a peer out of the rolled down window of our Toyota hatchback, I get an excited rush. It feels like we are the only ones to have discovered this green wilderness. Sweat trickles down my cheeks and I inhale deeply. The humid air is so heavy and strangely thick here. I realize I am smelling petroleum. The earthy smell of crude oil settles deeper into my lungs with every breath. We drive slowly over a short bridge to cross one of many creeks. As we cross, I remark that the bridge is in surprisingly good condition. My husband replies that it was built by one of the oil companies so that they could reach their pumping stations.

It is a happy day. We hold hands and keep driving. Just then I catch a whiff of the sweetest perfume. “Emmm! Did you smell that? What was that” I ask. I tell him to pull over.

We get out of the car and stretch our legs. I keep taking breaths hoping to smell the fragrance again. Was it jasmine? Ylang ylang? We walk a bit and a small breeze finally brings the scent to me. It smells gorgeous; floral and sweet and powdery, especially since juxtaposed against the dirty background of crude oil.

I look up into the trees as we walk down the road. I’m certain that if I just look hard enough I will spot a blossoming vine or a yellow flower. But the source of the mysterious aroma eludes me.

We spot a bushman’s trail leading into the forest. We go in, treading along the mucky trail in our jogging shoes. The trees are so thick they block out most of the sun. We walk for 3 minutes and reach a small pond. I stand in amazement. Butterflies and dragonflies by the hundreds float, flutter and dip all around us. White ones, yellow ones, bluish ones. It is magical. It is like a lovely dream.

Our surreal moment is broken by a friendly shout coming from across the pond. My eyes focus and I see a young man. In our enchanted moment, neither of us had noticed him sitting there. He waves and walks toward us. We exchange greetings and we ask what he was doing there. The young man proudly holds up a giant frog. He says he just finished school, and was hungry, so he came to catch a snack.

Fast forward ten years. I still love revisiting the memory of that afternoon.

I love remembering the sweet scent of the fresh, living flower contrasting against the grimy smell of the crude oil. Plants are beautiful and our bodies innately seek their healing. Petro-chemicals are dead and have no place in the care of our bodies. This memory reminds me that aromatherapy is my true calling.

I love thinking about the irony of the young man in the forest. As he demonstrated, living life should not be complicated. Nature offers everything needed to be healthy, nourished and satisfied. His existence was humble and happy. Yet, labyrinths of oil pipes run through his ancient life-giving forests, so that the “modern” world can have sophisticated things. I believe if we live lightly and live botanically, we will live happier and healthier.

Lastly, I love re-living the emotions and excitement I felt on that botanical journey. Feelings of self-discovery and empowerment. Of being close to nature, yet forever being in awe of nature. This passion is what I strive to instill in each Botanical Me creation. When you use Botanical Me products, I hope you feel the same excitement and synergistic body-plant connection that I felt that day, and each day forward.