The number of places Michelle Anderson called home during her 27-year career in the corporate world is tenfold. The number of places that held her heart throughout all those years is one: Spokane.
When Anderson retired from her job as vice president of Western Division for Pacific Life Insurance, she and her husband moved home to where she grew up, but she wasn't sure what her life would look like.
"My husband and I said we had to reinvent ourselves. I thought, 'What should I be,' not 'What should I do?' I knew I wasn't going to be sitting around, so I began to think, 'Can I do something creative? Can I create something gorgeous?'"
Not to spoil the story, but the answer to both questions is yes.
"My whole family was artistic, except me," she says. "As I was preparing to retire, my boss told me his wife thought that I should make perfume because I always had such a great nose for selecting perfume for others. But I knew nothing about perfume."
A former naval officer and corporate executive, Anderson didn't shy away from the unknown. Rather, she launched herself into learning about perfume production. She took her nose for scent and launched Rare Ayre, her Spokane-based luxury perfume company that is now celebrating its second year.
After connecting with perfumer Cécile Hua on a trip to France, Anderson flew her out to Spokane, to show her the area, the terrain and the people. "I wanted to make perfume that felt like this place," she says of Spokane and the Inland Northwest, adding that scent is more about the emotion it evokes than what it smells like.
"Perfume is an art, not a science," she says. Though chemistry is the backbone, Anderson wanted to find the emotion of life in the Inland Northwest and capture it in a bottle. She and her perfumer created four perfumes, one named for each of the Northwest's four seasons.
"In the winter we rest, so it is called Quiescence," she says. The other names are Insurrection (Spring), Abundance (Summer) and Enlightenment (Fall). This library of fragrances tells the story of life in the Inland Northwest.
Anderson answered her own question of what she should be by becoming a storyteller; a storyteller of scent.