Friday, April 16, 2010

Scents That Sing Spring - A Group Blog


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. 
Other participating blogs are:
Thanks to Alaya Moriel for getting this project together, Elena for providing the image, and Katie and Elena for coming up with the title.

16 comments:

ScentScelf said...

Oh...oh. Yes. Wrenching, but yes. Persephone. Joyful and poignant. Spring, much more than fall, makes a loud mash-up of the processes of entering and exiting the world. I think that perhaps this is why I could never be comfortable in a zone that doesn't have a reasonable spring...I need enough time to process and transition, to embrace and adjust.

So sorry about your friends.

Vanilla, eh? That's interesting. I wouldn't have gone there, but I can see doing so: it bridges the warm, cozy comfort of baking with the sweet comfort of later in the season scented flowers. (Early spring flowers are either too muted, too greenish in scent, or too fluorescent to speak vanilla's language.) You can use your skin to transition from the kitchen to the garden. Hmmm.

Eau de Ciel! You are right. I found that one a sweet stew the first time I wore it, so that keeps on being my primary impression. But I think you are right; at least, this northerner can see how to a southerner's sensibilities, Eau de Ciel is tempered.

You get a yellow haze; nothern Europe gets volcanic ash. Spring...and masks. Who knew?

Abigail said...

I'm so sorry about your friend's passing and your other friend at the brink. So sorry.

Eau de Ciel is perfect.

Have you tried AG Vanille Exquise? It's a wonderful vanilla.

Ines said...

I have goose bumps all over - a great post.
I've also considered vanilla this spring and I can imagine wearing Vanilia by L'Artisan - it seems like a good vanilla for all seasons to me (I really like it).
So sorry to hear about your friends.

flittersniffer said...

Beautiful and poignant post - sorry to hear about your friends. The weather seems all wrong for such sad events.

I love Tuberose Gardenia and agree that it is perhaps a little early for it yet - late May or June would be perfect. Eau de Ciel was a little soapy on me, unfortunately, but would have had that springy, sherbety, Chamade-y quality otherwise.

I know what you mean about vanilla - I am a huge fan of the note and recently discovered the wonderful Rykiel Woman (floral/vanilla/leather/amber). Otherwise, Vanille Galante is a good one for spring, and Vanille & Anise.

Oh - I have entered the US a number of times via Atlanta (as you do!) and in 2006 I actually got out of the airport and saw a little of the city. As a souvenir of my visit, I have a floaty pen with an aircraft in it, taxi-ing into a Georgia peach!

Six' said...

Hello fellow participant!

That was a beautiful piece. There's something both soothing and heartbreaking about seeing Nature spring back to life when someone you love is fading away... I truly sympathize.

Also, you mentioned my beloved Nuits Indiennes. My desert island scent. Wasn't it a wonder?
What concentration do you have it in, if I may ask? I only have the edt and edp, but never tried the extrait, which must have been glorious...

(and Eau du Ciel? From your description, I need to get it, stat. I had heard it had lots of linden, though?)

Zusie said...

I am a fellow Atlantan and am new to the wonderful world of perfume. Could you recommend a retailer to visit that has a nice selection in town?
Thanks!

Olfacta said...

Hi S -- Still exploring the vanillas. I got a FB of "Organza" off fleabay and I like the vanilla in that one too -- and wish Eau de Ciel lasted even half as long...all the light scents, the greens and teas, vanish so quickly.

And thanks for the condolences, too.

Olfacta said...

Hi A -- I have tried Vanille Exquise and found that it is, well, exquisite! So many things on my want list right now. And thanks for your thoughts.

Olfacta said...

Hi I -- That's the greatest compliment any writer could ever have. I didn't intend to write about my friends, it just happened, so I let it stay. I appreciate your sentiments. Thanks!

Olfacta said...

Hi F -- I'm on the fence about ordering a FB of the Tuberose Gardenia and have been for a week now. (It just kills me to pay full price but there isn't much choice with this one. Right now I'm tending toward "oh go ahead, life is short.") We shall see.

I have a decant of the Rykiel around here somewhere, too, and remember really liking it.

Hmmm, the Atlanta airport...well, I've been in more hellish ones! (Not many though.) There is a saying here, "Whether you're going to heaven or hell, you'll have to change planes in Atlanta."

Olfacta said...

Hi Six -- Thanks. I only have a decant of Nuits Indiennes, and I think it's edp. I've been looking for a bottle on the online discounters but have only just started looking, so we'll see.

I guess the Eau de Ciel does have linden, which I'm not too knowledgeable about. To me, it smells more like Weeping Willow, when, as kids, we'd tear off branches to make switches. Of course this memory didn't occur to me until a couple of days after I'd written the post.

Olfacta said...

Hi Zusie -- Welcome! I wish I could tell you of a great perfume store in Atlanta. Unfortunately, there isn't one...strange but true. People go sniffing at Neiman-Marcus, Lenox Square, or at Nordstrom's in Phipps Plaza. I hear the Nordstrom's out at Perimeter Mall is more generous with samples, but I, a certified intowner, don't get out there much. The Sephoras here, even at Lenox, are not good. Scents & Suds at Ansley Mall is good for oils and bath products you can make up yourself. I end up ordering samples and decants online, for the most part.

Olfacta said...

Hi Zusie -- Welcome! I wish I could tell you of a great perfume store in Atlanta. Unfortunately, there isn't one...strange but true. People go sniffing at Neiman-Marcus, Lenox Square, or at Nordstrom's in Phipps Plaza. I hear the Nordstrom's out at Perimeter Mall is more generous with samples, but I, a certified intowner, don't get out there much. The Sephoras here, even at Lenox, are not good. Scents & Suds at Ansley Mall is good for oils and bath products you can make up yourself. I end up ordering samples and decants online, for the most part.

brian said...

Sorry to hear about your forced perspective, Olfacta. Many people seem to consider cycles, the coming and going of seasons, ebb and flow of the tide, hopeful. Spring comes and it's happy time. I find these things more bittersweet as I get older. I miss people and the season brings memories back--minus the figures who inspired them. Good writing is such an optimistic thing. It has the potential to reach out and relate and gives some softness to the relentlessness of seasonal changes. I love checking in on your blog because no matter what your subject is, it puts me in touch with something a little deeper than I bring to it in my scattershot rush around online.

Anonymous said...

Are you Olfacta on MUA? If so, you have a pm from me with an offer to sell or swap my nearly-full bottle of EL Tuberose Gardenia. I love it, yet seldom turn to it; it doesn't suit my climate as well as it seems to suit yours. Check your inbox for a message from--
ggperfume

Olfacta said...

Hi Brian --

Thank you. I wasn't planning to write about this; I just started typing. The friend that's passing is an old family friend, half of a sixty-two year marriage. What the other partner must be going through is beyond comprehension. These, though, are things worth writing about.

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