Coolest place in town

I escaped from the heat on Thursday to the Acacia Branch of the Phoenix Library.   When I walked into the library at 3:30 pm it was 111 degrees outside (and 93 in my house).  The chill of the building immediately began to clear the fog in my brain.

I found a lovely sofa type chair with a swivel desk arm.  It was right in the middle of the library, just feet from the librarian’s desk and facing the door.   My usual tendency is to find a place to hide, but the chair looked very comfortable.

I sat down and began to unpack my supplies.  I had brought the empty lavender sachet shells to stuff (see yesterday’s post on lavender).  I had just finished sewing them, so the first task was to turn them inside out.  As I worked, I took some time to notice my surroundings and be present with myself.

It was a pleasant environment.  This was a neighborhood library – very small.  There were eight or nine people working (or playing) on computers and a whole bunch of younger kids at the kid’s corner.  Many of the kids had “care packages”:  clear plastic bags packed with raisins, ramen noodles and other snacky foods.  Very nice.

I settled in and completely relaxed.  Tears came to my eyes.  I was so comfortable.  The temperature was perfect.  The environment was friendly.  I just felt so blessed.  I live in a world were places like this abound. Such goodness!

I saw a child present one of the librarians with a hand-made paper hat.  I could just feel the connections and community.  Later, when I met with the branch manager, Tom Gembeling, he talked about watching the children grow over the four years he had been at the branch.  I could tell by his presence that he was in part responsible for the magic happening at the branch.  It takes compassionate leadership to allow such a safe haven to develop.

Even when there was a dispute with a patron over a damaged book, the exchange didn’t really seem to disrupt the calm and love I could feel.  After the patron had her “meeting” with the branch supervisor, the security guard held space for her to vent as if they were long time friends.  He walked with her as she left the building.

It wasn’t soon before the security guard, Amador, approached me.  I’m usually a little scared in official environments – probably an after effect of my early trauma.  I’m usually doing something different from the norm, and part of me expects to get in trouble. In this situation, I was aware of the part of me that carries that anxiety, but most of me felt secure.

Amador inquired about my project and assured me that I was free to stay and work as long as I wanted.  He was very welcoming and friendly.  As it turns out he loves the smell of lavender.

Amador gave a new meaning to the concept “security guard”.  He was clearly in charge of making everyone feel secure and comfortable.  He was guarding everybody’s well being.  He helped people log onto the computers, use the copy machine and even put displays back together the young patron’s knocked over.  He was also a keystone to the calm and joy of the Acacia Branch.

The hardest part of the visit was not giving everyone a sachet.  Sweet little girls would approach me and want to know what I was doing and if they were for sale.  Or as one darling put it, “Do you pay them?”

I so wanted to give them all a sachet, but these were intended for another group of people that I also wanted to give them to.  I have made hundreds of these sachets over my lifetime and never have a lack of recipients.  Perhaps I will have enough lavender to make another batch for the library…



Lavender is one of my favorite plants.  It is drought resistant, deer resistant, supplies lovely flowers, and grows quickly.  It also can be grown in Phoenix! -especially if given morning sun only.

Here is the one I planted last fall.  It was just a small plant (probably a four to six inch pot).  And now it is a solid four feet across.  (I gave it enough room to get 6 to 8 feet round.  I don’t like to crowd my plants.)

Today before sunrise, since it gets the first rays and I don’t like the intense Phoenix sun beating down on me, I harvested the flowers.

It is an easy process.

Just snip, snip with the scissors and drop into a paper bag for drying.

I throw the bag into my car to dry.  It makes the car smell wonderful also.

This is what my plant looked like once it was trimmed.  You’ll want to take off the extra stems as well as the flower heads.  A pile of the stems can be seen on the left side of the picture.  In California, if you harvest the flowers early enough, the plant will put out a second bloom.  It won’t be as many as the first, but always nice to get more lavender.

lavender-harvestedWhen the lavender is dried, which won’t take long here in Phoenix, you just strip the flowers off the stems and compost the stems.  I recommend waiting for a day when you are depressed, anxious, or a little out of sorts.  Nothing like the aromatherapy of stripping lavender to settle ones nerves and elevate ones mind.

The scent of lavender directly influences our limbic system.  The limbic system is a part of our brain that regulates autonomic function such as breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate.  It also regulates our hormone system and is involved in some aspects of memory as well.

Smelling lavender can reduce stress hormones levels and anxiety, improve mood and sleep, and reduce pain!  If you want to read more, here is a link to a nice scientific review of lavender use.

lavender-sachets-frontsOnce I have the dried flowers, I could make tea from them, but my favorite thing to do is to make sachets.

Here is a picture of my latest batch in progress. These are the future front panels of the sachets,


lavender-sachetsThe finished sachets.

This is the solution to “my what to give away at my book signings” problem that I talked about earlier this week in the post Temptations.

Sure beats glow sticks!

Peir Hossein Koulivand, Maryam Khaleghi Ghadiri, and Ali Gorji, “Lavender and the Nervous System,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2013, Article ID 681304, 10 pages, 2013. doi:10.1155/2013/681304