I used to live in Los Angeles. We had spring, but if you blinked, you missed it.
Now I’m back home in Atlanta, where the spring….aaaah…..excuse me….(reaches for delicately scented hankie, holds to mouth and nose) aaaahhh….(loud sneezing sound) Now, where was I? (Puts hankie away) Oh. Right. Spring.
Here in our forested city, pollen hangs in the air like yellow haze. People go around, perfectly nice, normal people, wearing little gas masks. In my last post, I wrote about using honey as a homeopathic. Works for me, hence no gas mask, but still.
Spring is usually when I put away all the heavy stuff, the wool shirts and socks, the boots and scarves, and take out the T-shirts and shorts. And it is usually the time when I’ll move the musks and woods and oriental scents to the back of the cabinet, but I’m fascinated with vanilla right now. The comfort scents: Vanille Exquise, Tobacco Vanilla. Organza. Nuits de Indiennes. Because, in this season of rebirth, a good friend has just died, and another is passing, as we say here. Each day, I wait for the news I know is coming.
As I wait, I notice everything. The beautiful greens, pastel or tinted yellow, to be replaced by blue greens as we move into summer. The pale and dark pink azaleas and the yellow Carolina jessamine vines. I think about the Greek myth of Persephone and Demeter, of the mother who made the deal with Hades for her daughter, six months each year, alternately grieving and rejoicing. I think about that myth each Georgia spring, when the daffodils burst out of the ground and the birds sing with joy: they’ve survived another winter.
We’ve all been writing about the scents of spring: Ninfeo Mio’s green fig, Silences’ bitter galbanum green underlaid with florals. We sing praises of orange blossom perfumes -- some decadent, some delicate, representations of the flower that has no concept of the decent interval, blooming madly with last year’s fruit still hanging on the branches. We sing about the tuberoses, especially the one that’s coming from L’Artisan, Duchafour’s take on that most seductive of all flowers. I’ve been wearing ELPC’s Tuberose Gardenia, a lot, and it’s occurring to me as I write that perhaps this, too, is a comfort scent for me. Gardenia is something I know so well. There’s no fragrance more beautiful than that of a blooming gardenia, but its time is not here yet.
For me, though, the most beautiful spring perfume at the moment is Annick Goutal’s Eau de Ciel. It’s the pale green of spring without the bitterness, without the traces of exhaust from rusty lawn mowers each Saturday. Our springs smell of that, and slightly acrid new-mown grass, and the reality of floral profusion: lots of flowers that don’t smell good to the human nose (but are irresistible to bees. That’s the business of plant reproduction). Scents like burning plastic or rubber, or flat and metallic. And then there are our ornamental pear trees, whose gorgeous blooms smell just like fish.
Because, it would seem, the more flowers and blooming trees and vines you have, the more likely it is that you’ll need to hold your breath as you walk by. For me, this is a reminder: nature does not exist for our entertainment.
So a scent like Eau de Ciel is what we really love: the idealized Spring. The spring of grasses that smell sweet, and wild violets that one looks at with reverence, not rips out of the ground as a noxious weed. It’s a spring full of irises that actually have a scent when, in reality, most don’t. Another “note” is rosewood; does rosewood even have a scent? I guess it must.
The imagined Spring is the season of resurrection, of immortality. That underlies all our mythologies surrounding it. So we sing, and nature does its work with or without us. We sing, like the birds, because we have to.
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Thanks to Alaya Moriel for getting this project together, Elena for providing the image, and Katie and Elena for coming up with the title.