Notes from a Small Island:
Lavender Fields Forever
July 28, 2004

My darling Dr. Mathra insisted I spend a few quality hours at the new day spa out at the island's lavender farms. Pelindaba Lavender Farm started up a few years ago and now has two stores -- at the farm and in town -- carrying all sorts of lavender products. The store in town has a cool cedar-floored cafe that serves up lavender tea, lavender lemonade, and all sorts of lavender-infused pastries and cookies. This past June Pelindaba opened their day spa.

The lavender spa is set far back from the road -- past the working fields, away the store and the noises of cars, out of reach from the sailing lessons on the pond and loud voices of tourists and dogs -- with full views of a small shimmering pond and the Olympic range. The aroma of fresh and harvested lavender mingles with the piney sweetness wafting from the surrounding dark fringe of trees. The Northwest pine sap is a smell I've always associated with this island. I should bottle it, cap it with the tang of the salt air, and call it "Eau de Friday Harbor."

The spa's purple door invites you into a main room peacefully decorated straight out of the pages of Gaiam where cucumber-citrus water is poured and lavender iced tea is offered. I was in for a "Face Glow" followed by a sixty-minute massage. I've never had a facial of any kind and I REALLY didn't want the kind where they pop zits or squeedge blackheads because I've heard tales the havoc they can wreak on your face until your skin gets used to that sort of treatment.

The Face Glow was lovely. A frequent application of hot towels combined with a milky Neroli oil cleanser, a soft exfoliant, an aromatherapeutic toner, and a moisturizer. In addition to the ablutions to my face, Jane did a little Craniosacral stuff to my head and a bit of reflexology on my feet, which were first prepped by yet another hot towel and slatherings of lavender oil. Since I was expecting the attention to be focussed solely on my face, I really got a lot for my $40.

Between treatments, I walked out onto the deck and checked in with Dr. Mathra, who was happily reading his way through a slew of saved-up Howie Kurtz with a full view and nose of the fully-bloomed lavender fields. The staff left him alone, only coming out to bring him tea and water -- there was absolutely no pressure for him to have a massage or do anything else to earn his keep on the deck.

A glass of refreshing cucumber-citrus water later, I was back in my room to meet my massage therapist. I told her how much time I spent in front of the computer writing (ahem) and she knew just where to concentrate her attentions.

One thing I've noticed with the three massages I've had is how considerate the therapist is with letting you know where he/she is relative to your body. When they're going to do something to your face, they touch your temple. Before pulling up your arm, they touch your shoulder. When they walk around the table, they put their hands on you at various places, so you know where they are. Also, when my therapist was positioned right behind my head, standing over me and ready to put some pressure on my temples, I could tell she turned her head to the side before she asked me a question. Perhaps the idea is that the noise coming above your head might be unsettling.

Other massages had me all worked up over mastering the proper breathing technique. The more I'd concentrate on my breathing, the harder it was for me to take in full breaths. Often, I'd realize that when I was breathing out, the massage therapist would be breathing in. So then, I'd cut my exhale short and gasp in as I tried to catch up with the therapist and be in sync with my treatment. Because if I wasn't breathing right, I wasn't relaxing, right? RIGHT?! Unfortunately, I'd miss by half a breath and, well, after four minutes of that, I was relaxing myself right into an asthma attack. This time I was able to forget about my breathing, forget about my therapist's breathing, and just completely melt into the table.

After it was all over, I was so gelled out that even a minor glitch with the spa's brand new computer system (resulting in me getting double-billed) didn't penetrate my placid state. Dr. Mathra and I wandered around the fields, took photos, and talked to the two black ducks that live on the pond. We ended our visit by stopping in at the store to get some scented mementos for friends and relatives and then walked the self-guided tour around the other gardens.

I'm definitely making the Palandaba Lavender Day Spa a mandatory stop every time I visit the island. The only difficulty would be what to choose next: hot rocks massage, body polish, body mask, or scalp massage? Such tantalizing decisions.

Here are a few things you can do with lavender:

Rub lavender salt on lamb chops and broiled to desired doneness.

Make a simple pasta of lemon juice, olive oil, and Parmigiano-Reggiano and finish with a few pinches of lavender salt or a scattering of the naked (unsprayed and untreated) blossoms.

Drizzle lavender honey over summer strawberries and a big ol' dollop of mascarpone.

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