Tuesday, June 29, 2010

In support of the wandering mind

Oh, yes, I've a post coming.

I just couldn't help but share this article meantime.  In case you hadn't seen it.  Because, perhaps, your thinkings had taken you down a winding path...if they had, here's a round of encouragement.

"Discovering the Virtues of a Wandering Mind," in today's NYT Science section.

I wonder why I'm attracted to this...???

Oft him anhaga
Often the solitary one
are gebideð,
finds grace for himself
metudes miltse,
the mercy of the Lord,
þeah þe he modcearig
Although he, sorry-hearted,
geond lagulade
must for a long time
longe sceolde
move by hand 
hreran mid hondum
along the waterways,
hrimcealde sæ
(along) the ice-cold sea,
wadan wræclastas.
tread the paths of exile.
Wyrd bið ful aræd!
Events always go as they must!

image of tradescantia ("Wandering Jew") from Gardening on Cloud 9
image of wandering musician from Alex Kuehling's peripatetic blog
link to Dion courtesy YouTube
translation of "The Wanderer" from Anglo-Saxons.net

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Thank You Note to Reverie au Jardin

Since I was epistolary with Denyse, how about I give the same consideration to Andy Tauer's Reverie au Jardin?

Dear Reverie,

I was commenting on another blog the other day, and came across someone else referring to vetiver bundles being sold to "refresh" drawers, particularly in the heat.  By "drawers," I understood them to mean dresser drawers, though with that bunch, you can never be too certain.  On review, however, I feel fairly certain they were referring to a bureau and storage.  REGARDLESS, this was a new something for me, and of course immediately reminded me of the lavender wands I both make and purchase ready made for uses including closets and drawers.  (By which I mean rather small alcoves for storage and the things you pull out from a bureau.  The thought of a lavender wand in my knickers is, well, not even risque, just somewhat or rather uncomfortable.)

I think I rambled again.  Sorry.

So, with this association between vetiver and lavender established via someone else's drawers, and the context of the initial discussion (perfume, natch), my thinkings quickly went to the idea of vetiver and lavender as hot weather nicelies in perfume.  And I immediately went to you, Reverie, the perfume that doesn't hide lavender in syrup, or bury it in a stew of incense.  Your lavender is honest, true--vera indeed.  You are the lavender I find in my garden, that wafts up whenever I brush against those simultaneously soft and nubby stems; you are the lavender that snaps my senses into focus.  You know, in aromatherapy, lavender is listed as having both "calming" and a "stimulating" properties, which seems to be just, well, daft.  But it's true.  Part of it is the amount, part of it is the context.

You, Reverie, are the lavender that sharpens my senses.  But you don't make me hyper; you must somehow hide your calming side, putting it into play without ever letting me know.

These are things you already knew.  I've said them before.  But here is what is new, why I write today:

You are fabulous in the heat.

It is the sharp, somewhat herbal aspect to you that works as vetiver does.  Levelly tenacious, without asserting yourself to the point of obnoxiousness.  And you know what?  There's something easy about our familiarity.  Vetiver is still a guest--a guest that is becoming a friend, mind you--but lavender is family.  Or maybe an old friend.  The best thing is, you aren't boring...there's no way you could be, with your adamant refusal to be anything but your vegetal self.  You aren't boring, but underneath that potentially challenging exterior, you are...known.

And, you devil...you helped me through yesterday's heat and humidity, and you were STILL there, in intermittent puffs, as I worked in the garden this morning.  Clever.

I'm going to let my perfume peeps know about this hot weather trick of yours, if you don't mind.  I think everybody should spend a hot day with you, at least once.  

Yours, as always.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Shipwrecks: Doty found. Asian Carp, too.

At 291' long, the cargo ship Doty was a formidable lake vessel carrying a load of corn when it went down in a storm in October of 1898.  Waves were reported cresting at 30 feet.

That's less than half the length of the Edmund Fitzgerald, but still a lot of boat.

Seems appropriate that the announcement of its discovery yesterday was capped by ferocious storms that whipped through the area, snapping trees, knocking out power, and flooding expressways out of service.  The Doty was found in over 300' of water.

At 3' long, the asian carp is not too shabby in size as far as fish go.  Unfortunately for life forms in the Great Lakes, it isn't shipwrecked.  The fact that it was just found on Chicago's south side, in Lake Calumet, means it has moved beyond the electric barriers meant to contain it and keep it from moving into the Great Lakes.

So, it seems that 30' of waves can swallow nearly 300' of ship.  And a 3' fish is ominously approaching the source of 84% of North America's surface water supply.

Last night, the sky turned pea green, and winds topped 80 miles an hour.

This morning, it's beautiful fishing weather.

Not sure which feels more ominous at the moment.

Wonder if I could persuade Christopher Brosius to create a "Great Lakes accord"?  Wonder if it would be a momento mori?

further reading:
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article on discovering the Doty
a thorough account of the wreck at a fantastic site for shipwreck fans 
Yahoo news article on discovery of asian carp in Lake Calumet
So much for dumping poison (rotenone) in the Little Calumet River
If it were only this simple:  Eat 'em

Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Illinois DNR

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Open Letter (Vamp à NY)

Grain de Musc blogger CarmenCanada, known on the street (and as a book author) as Denyse Beaulieu, writes beautiful reviews, conducts interesting interviews, and muses quite thoughtfully, all on the subject of perfume.  Recently, she also was the conduit for a very generous give-away of many samples of the new Honoré des Près Vamp à NY.  I was one of the lucky winners of a sample.

Things you should know about the scent and the line, if you don't already:

  1. Honoré des Près scents are a "natural" line, using eco-cert organic ingredients.
  2. Olivia Giacobetti is the perfumeur.  
  3. Vamp à NY is a tuberose centered perfume.
Things you need to know about me, if you don't already:
  1. I love some naturals, and find others to be more aromatherapy-like.  I spent an important phase of my life as a fan and practitioner of aromatherapy, and still keep essential oils to make potions.  The thing is, I read perfume generally as one thing, aromatherapy blends as another.  There are things to anoint yourself for purposes of being scented that occasionally are both, but...
  2. In general, tuberose is one big honker as far as I am concerned.  As in, the blast from an air horn on an old-time automobile that warns the horses it is coming through.  There are times when I find the love, but usually, it strangle-slaps me.  I know, I know; man-candy, seduction, feminine wiles. Not for me.  

Denyse is gathering feedback and responses from the recipients.  Following the rules of her game, because I blog, I offer my thoughts in this letter.

23 June 2010
Dear Denyse,

I am still playing with Vamp.  Sometimes, Vamp plays with me.  Overall, I need to make clear my tentative relationship with tuberose, so that my focus on other aspects of the perfume are clearly coming from my respect for it, even if I am not taking to my fainting couch every time I try it.  

Because Vamp is worthy of respect.  It is an impressively "dense" perfume, which has something going on in it that suggests the perfumer is not simply relying on the gas cloud powerhouse of tuberose for effect.  It lasts.  It smells good.  It is rather intelligent for something that could rely on simply slipping you a Mickey.  Given that Ms. Giacobetti had to significantly limit her palette in the composition of this scent, this is a double achievement, no?  On the other hand, perhaps we should not focus on that too much; any artist is supposed to create within the constraints of materials, framework, and time.

It's what they do with that which determines how talented they are.

I think Ms. Giacobetti is talented.  I definitely will now seek out the other scents in the line, because I'm pretty sure there is going to be one there that does inspire me to purchase.  I might have a slight inclination in that direction, given a) the fact that an O.Giacobetti fragrance is among my few modern full price full bottle purchases, and b) I like the idea of a successful "naturals" line.  When I think of what people like Liz Zorn and Ayala Sender have already accomplished in that realm, I find it ripe for exploiting.  (I know there are other folks out there doing the same...Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, for example, is one I need to experience more of.) 

Just for yucks, here are some of my notes from my playdates with Vamp:

12 June 2010
Receive sample.  Know immediately what it is.  Open package and spritz before remembering I don’t have the luxury of experiencing this however I damn well please, but that Denyse wants feedback.  So I fire up the laptop and start jotting down notes.  Already, my brain has screamed “girl scent! girl scent!” three times.  (This is funny, given the recent exploration of gender and scent on Denyse’s blog, and my avowal that I dislike gender-izing scent.  I write that sentence, huff, and my left and right cortices are both wagging back and forth like a tsk-ing aunt.  “Girl scent,” they say.  Sheesh.)
I’ve got to go out with the girls tonight.  Seriously, this is not for them.  “Girl scent” does not mean wear it for the girls.  Which is not to say that some girly girls don’t wear girl scents for heading out with the girls.  But I have no desire to in any way present myself as man-bait.  Not tonight.  I’m gonna be yakking, eating, and maybe playing some bocce.  I don’t want to be wafting some heady sort of cloud.
OTOH, >huffs< this is reminding me a lot of Songes.  A LOT.  If I weren’t so busy writing notes like a good girl, and deciding if I’m going to scrub this before I head out, I’d go upstairs and pull out my Songes and fire it on the other arm.  Because though I’m not generally a heady white floral kinda person, Songes has been a love from early in my perfume descent, and merited a full bottle when I didn’t yet have a full concept of just how far my tastes might change/evolve.  ‘Sokay, though; I’m still more than happy to have it.  But if I spray it on the other arm, I’ll have two loaded guns, and that’s probably even more than my own sensibilities can handle.
I think I’ll be ordering a gin and tonic.  I’m going to need something of a different order on my palate.
15 June 2010
I am a sample tray again.  Vamp on one spot, vintage Miss Dior another.  Another tube somewhere else.  Run an errand with spouse.  He says “you smell good.”  Aha!  Is it the man candy?
I think I know which one he is smelling.  But I explain I am wearing more than one something.  He is used to this.  He asks where they are.  I offer them up, with no further explanation.
And I get a vote of support for continuing my marriage:  He is fond of the vintage Miss Dior.

I want to thank you, and Mr. Honoré des Près, for this opportunity to experience Vamp.  I want to thank Vamp for unintentionally strengthening my marriage vows.  I especially want to note how wonderful it is to have a sort of round-up on the experience; I've averted my gaze from the other commentaries until I was done posting, but shall now go see what others have found in Vamp.

And I'll play with it a few more times, to see if there isn't perhaps an ideal circumstance that would allow us to not only play nicely together, but to have an all out romp.


See Denyse's review, with commenters weighing in as well as links to other bloggers discussing Vamp à NY, at Grain de Musc.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Somebody hid Archimedes under a painting.
There's something of my grandmother in my grand-aunt, and of my Papa in my son.
I'm pretty sure I found Emeraude in my Ormonde Jayne Woman yesterday.

I have been fascinated by palimpsests since I was a kid.  What a combination of issues:  The need to reuse media, and therefore actually *write over* previous text (the idea of writing in, dog earing pages, or cracking the spine of a book was anathema to me until grad school, where suddenly books became giant notepads).  The idea that something lay beneath.  The literal layering of history.  Mysteries to be discovered.

I was just at a family reunion.  Happens every three years, and I see people descended from my maternal great-grandparents that I would never get to know otherwise.  My own two children, who have no cousins and started their lives with only three grandparents and one uncle find themselves suddenly in a world of large, extended family full of cousins (removed in various ways, but still related) and (grand- and great-)aunts and uncles and bodies and noise and immediately observable similarities and a ream of differences.

At these gatherings, I approach a doorway, and hear my grandmother speaking, even though she has been dead nearly ten years now.  I sit behind one of my grand-aunts, and see a gesture that was entirely grandma's from a body six inches taller.  The hauntings are very strong and frequent here.

Of course, these hauntings happen all the time.  I saw one in the face of my first born when he was two years old, when he looked at a new food and his face flashed "curious/wary/preparing to jump in" in a way I had seen on my Papa and my brother.  I see a flash of my grandfather-in-law's impish humor crinkle the eyes of my other son when he prepares to deal out a particular type of joke.  In fact, these are often the most powerful hauntings for me--the gestures, rather than the physical replications.  The cadence and timbre of speech when they echo a person the child was never able to meet.

I traveled, as usual, with an assortment of perfume samples.  The one that I came back to in the thick, humid, 94 degree heat was Ormonde Jayne Woman, which seemed at first would be too thick itself for those conditions.  I found myself using it more than once, because it had a delightful "green dust" aspect to it.  A little raspy, as I've mentioned I like, suspended in sweetened green.

It ended up being doubly appropriate, because as we were driving home, I could swear I smelled my mother's Emeraude, as I did when I quietly "visited" her darkened bedroom sometimes when she was busy elsewhere and once or twice dared to venture to the perfume and give it a sniff.

It was, of course, the Ormonde Jayne.

Today is one of my favorite days in the calendar, the summer solstice.  As opposed to the equinoxes, when day and night are in balance, this is a day that is a physical manifestation of extremes.  We here north of the equator get to enjoy the longest term of daylight in the year.  In childhood, this was exciting, as it meant rules like "be home when the streetlights come on" were stretched as far as possible.  Always, I feel it is like the moment you crest on a roller coaster; you know things are about to start tumbling away, but for this moment, this day, this dusk, this day into night, it is as full as possible.  And you get to witness it.

Cultures across the globe and throughout history have had various ways of noting this day.  Sometimes I feel that, as I glance up to the sky when day turns to night, whether I am lighting a fire or letting darkness finally fall around me, I am echoing the gestures of people whose language and culture I could not otherwise understand.  They could sit behind me, and recognize my behavior.

Looks like it might be an OJ Woman night tonight.  Or is it Emeraude?

image is the Archimedes Palimpsest, which contains three layers of content:  the painting seen on the right, 13th century prayers, and text by Archimedes.   Walters Art Museum image visible at this article from National Geographic, and this sciencewriter.com article, among others.  See the Archimedes Palimpsest Project here.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Am travelling, and rolled my way at highway speeds through Kentucky horse country yesterday.  Even with the window rolled up, at one point a familiar, yet different, smell wafted in the cabin of the car.


Of course.  The Bluegrass.  Not just the name of vegetation, the name of a place.  The smell was fabulously intense.  My first impression was newly mown grass, and then I realized how rich it was.  Full of chlorophyll and a little bit damp, the kind of saturated cut grass smell that tends to come during a certain period in spring, at least where I live.  The best part was the overtone of it drying in the sun.  Of course.  Hay.

I have always thought of the smell of grass and hay as two different beasts.  I know, intellectually, their relationship.  But for some reason, driving through this beautiful region, I felt the transition between as well as the stasis of their two different selves.  But it was because of this layering, the this and then the that linear processing in my brain.

Emotionally, as I rode through, I was happy in that heart heavy with beauty kind of way.  Emotionally/intellectually, as I started to compose this, I was struck with a little bit of awe at the trite but no less profound way experiences both overlap and help define differences in this vast country, in small human interactions, in the big picture.

As I finished writing about the effect of the progression of the smells, I was struck by something else:  I wondered if this perfume thing is starting to frame the way I think.  I was worried, actually.  I don't know why; former experience of course lends a frame to new.  I guess it was the thought of it being so reflexive. But no, now that I've voiced it, I'm pretty sure that was a genuine description of a pure experience.  I was simply struck by the parallel as I wrote.  But still...when you come at something from a different direction and then have that a-ha moment when you thought you are actually somewhere you've been before...weird.

Regardless of how pure or pre-shaped my regards, I know that the smell of the grass was intense.  It permeated my nose and for a while pre-empted any fancy thinking and filled me with just the sensation of the smell, and with a state of being.  I am not from this place, I do not have a sense of past-life connection to it, I will not necessarily be compelled to return regularly.

But I have BEEN here, and it was wonderful, and I am grateful for knowing it.

Thank you, nose.  Thank you, eyes.

Thank you, grass.

image from Rubber Punch

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Double the Thanks, Whale...

Turns out that while perfume people are grateful for what whales urp, all of us should be grateful for what comes out the other end.

According to "Whale Poop is EcoFriendly," a handy summary of a study published in PRA, those deep diving leviathans eat iron rich food in the depths, and then they return to the top, where they leave iron-rich feces that fertilize phytoplankton.  So, despite putting all that carbon dioxide out their blowholes, they have an elegant means of reducing their carbon footprint.  (Fluke-print?)

All means of bodily egress now in harmony.

See the summary in ScienceNOW.  Full article in Proceedings of the Royal Academy: Biological Sciences.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday Madness

image of "ice baseball" from brooklynballparks.com

Finally.  They've stopped playing hockey for the season.  I grew up with hockey all around me...was living at the right latitude, spent the majority of my youth in a town with the league attitude, could get broadcasts of CBC Hockey Night in Canada--which fans enjoyed with gratitude.  The chops and sheuusshs of skates on ice, the clacks of the wood sticks, the drone of the announcer in the background that was always shaped around the words "blue line," the odd way the game came into your ears.  (What IS it about the acoustics of an arena where the center portion is frozen water and the fans are quiet/loud in a way not equalled in other sports...when they are quiet, you can hear everything moving down there except for the puck.  When they are loud, it comes at you from every angle, including your gut, and each point of entry is also somehow a sounding board.)

I went to a couple of pro games at a place known as The Barn.  Where if you were up in the third tier nosebleeds, the rake was so steep I was convinced that one wrong step would put you in the seats just behind the ice, if not on the glass.  There were some seats, in fact, where I'm pretty sure you'd end up on the ice, as floppy and lifeless as the octopi that occasionally dotted it.

Seasons are so long these days.  I know, that's an old whine.  Regardless, when you grow up not being able to overlap ice hockey with baseball because if you are playing them outdoors, the required conditions for one negate the ability to play the other, the idea of co-mingling them is preposterous.  Hockey in Phoenix?  Seriously???  That's laughable.  Okay, L.A. is laughable, too...maybe more so under the old franchise name ("The Mighty Ducks," one of the worst cross-marketing ploys known to sports fans--though recent college bowl names are pretty awful, too).  I lean toward Phoenix, the hottest city in America, surrounded by desert, being the more ridiculous.  Maybe it should be L.A., also a desert, but even though they import their water from another state, there's something about it being next to an ocean that makes needing ice to play a little less heinous.

A little.

I breathe, though.  The Cup has been placed in the hands of this year's winners, the streets of a certain downtown became arteries for approximately 2 million platelets fans, appropriately dressed in red jerseys.  We're back to being bruised black and blue (black on the south side, blue on the north), with green grass dominating the area under the players' feet.

Hey, riddle me this, Batman:  What is up with terminology in these two sports?  I mean, you play hockey on ICE, right?  But cross those blue lines the wrong way, and the zebras start tweeting their whistles and you get called for icing.  But take some baseball players, put them on the FIELD, and they get praised for their good fielding.

Sports can be messed up.

Anyway, I pay a little attention to baseball.  Once upon a time, I paid a lot more.  But I still know that if you hear the sound of wood in a baseball game, it will be when it cracks against the ball, and that if that happens, even if you weren't looking, it's eyes up to see what's going on.  (In hockey, the sticks are always clacking about.  Plus, now that "old time hockey" is pretty much the norm for all modern teams, there's plenty of sounds of bodies crashing against the boards, if you want to include that sound of wood.)  There's all kinds of down time, not much in the way of sound coming from the field, but a kind of hum from the crowd.

The announcers talk to each other a lot more in baseball.  That's part of the rhythm of the game in the background, too.  They have to, given the spaces in time to fill in terms of playable "action."  Fans at the game know to look around at all sorts of things that are going on, even when "nothing is happening"--check to see if there's action in the bullpen, watch how the baserunner is behaving, observe the interaction between pitcher and catcher.  Heck, one fabulous summer, you could watch the pitcher groom the mound.  A lot.  And talk to the ball, too.

Baseball and hockey have never been in the center of my attention.  But they have at times been an important part of my peripheral landscape, whether conscious or not.  I usually think I arrange a calendar by academic year, and break it down into meteorological seasons, punctuated by holidays.  But, truth be told, I retain an awareness of the movement of the sports season.  Baseball, hockey, basketball.

I refuse to name the sport that lends the irony to the day on which I have chosen to post this musing.

If you do, I'm going to go all wide-eyed, and say my team is Cote d'Ivoire.

Contained in the embedded video within a recent post on Katie Puckrick's blog, Katie mentions that her frequent correspondent in perfume Dan Rollieri likes to wear Chinatown to the ballpark.  Uff-da.  That's a swing and a miss if I'm up to bat in that one.  (I wrote about my experience with Chinatown here.)  I've been to more minor league games than majors in the past ten years, but I spent the last third of one personally notable game at Wrigley under the grandstand, trying to recover from a bit of heatstroke.  Yeah, I know, heatstroke is serious.  Pale, clammy, woozy, nearly fainted in the stands...I know what it's about.  Seeing as Chinatown nearly put me there in the temperature-controlled quiet of my own home, I can't imagine what it would do mid-summer at the ballgame.  And I don't want to.

However...I can imagine vendors walking up and down the stands, hawking colognes and floral waters and such: "4711!! Getcher refresh here!!"  "Sage and lemongrass essence in neroli!  Straight from the 'fridge!"  Or, how about just "Ice cold water, with lemon slices, in a glass and on a cold compress, just for you!!!"

It don't ring like "red hots," do it, now?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What form of art is perfume?

One of the things that has fascinated me about perfume since I first fell down the rabbit hole is the notion of an associated language.  Most art forms have an attendant vocabulary -- what is this "fade out" (unique to vision + time art), this "ellipsis of time" (shared between motion picture and text, presented differently mechanically, yet leading to the same assumption), this "gesture" (a term heard relating to acting and to visual arts, but which can diverge quite a bit from their overlapping meaning).  When I started paying attention to perfume, and to people who wrote about it, you could almost see the reaching for ways to communicate the olfactory experience.  There was the concrete ("notes,"), the experiential metaphor (the makes me feel like path, which can lead you to some purple prose), the parallel metaphor (trying to equate a perfume with a piece of music, for example).  The parallel metaphor seemed to swim in the same pool of exploration as the attempts to explain what the experience of perfume is.

In 2-D visual art, you have lines and relationships and color and "gesture" and such to communicate a representation.

In prose, you have vocabulary and turn of phrase and arrangement of plot and information you choose to leave in or out, assembled in linear time, to communicate an experience.

In music, you have tonal quality and a choice of pitch scaffolds (scales of various sorts) to hang notes presented in linear time, and a choice of one note or many at any given moment on that line, and a choice of voices (generated by humans, or instruments, or what have you) singly or in combination at any given moment on that line, which can be arranged into motifs which are repeated and varied or abandoned or not.

In film, a visual frame (which can present the {illusion of} motion, or a static image) and a soundtrack are assembled in linear time, and make use of how objects are placed in the frame, gesture, movement, dialogue, ambient sound, color, ellipses, etc.  Or not.

In dance, you have a three dimensional frame, the movement through which, as well as the gestures of the dancers themselves, is presented in linear time, usually along with a soundtrack.  Styles of gesture are recognized ("ballet," "tango," "jazz"), punctuation of time is integral.  As it is with music and film and textual narrative, natch.  But here, the punctuation is not disconnected from the body creating the expression.  The body is the punctuation.  Perhaps that's why I missed saying it before?

In theater, you have a three dimensional frame in which you place objects and people through which you move characters and sound and other elements over linear time.

In perfume, what do you have?

First of all, you have sensory input to a receptor that is not employed in any other of the traditional "fine arts."  Your nose, natch.  Forms and mechanics of reception are important.  Entire schools of criticism have developed around reception being The Thing that is important in understanding, particularly when it comes to art.

But since the ragged assembly of art forms and how they are expressed I offered focuses on what is presented, let's attempt to speak to that.

In perfume, you have the presentation of different notes (the smell of x), in different voices, arranged singly or in multiples, over the course of linear time.

It seems so simple.  But really, should those notes be expressed by their cognate in reality?  I.e., should we say cinnamon, or the word for the molecule that when bound in a given fashion, is the thing which lands in your nose and makes you think "cinnamon"?  What if it smells like a cognate, but is lab created?  I.e., peach or Persicol?

Can we tease out the difference between a "chord" and an "accord"?  As in, is there a difference in simply assembling given notes because a perfumer likes the effect of them sharing the same space in the same time from a perfumer assembling notes and creating a resulting effect that is uniquely identifiable and more than simply the sum of its parts?  When we here a C minor 7th, do we hear the individual notes, or the mood?  Does it depend on where the root is located?  Will the language here get confusing?

Anyway, I think like this.  I haven't yet wrapped my head around it all in a way that I am comfortable with.  And I think that is partly because the community is still very much in the process of locating a definition, and a language.  All languages, of course, are always being shaped to one extent or another.  But this one is kinda being birthed as a golem:  fully present, but still in need of shaping.

Andy Tauer offers a lovely vision of what he sees the art of perfume.  He refers to perfume as an "immersive sculpture."  Apparently, this phrase is now part of the Tauer text...on PR materials, his new packaging, and will appear soon on the website and blog.  He offered a brief post two days ago about it, framing the concept within an interviewer's request to explain "what is immersive sculpture?"

He uses the immersive sculpture idea to suggest mutable three-dimensionality, and the idea that it is a form the wearer/receiver inhabits.

Andy's found a way to weave reception right into the concept, a way which won't let you ignore it.

I'm intrigued.

I'm still plugging away with my cognates, of course (I lean toward music and film), but the empty areas are kind of cocking an eyebrow over there and saying "you have to pay attention."

I am.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Dreamy Morpher : Lieu de Reves

Bless thee, Bottom, bless thee; thou art translated
                                          A Midsummer Night's Dream  (III-i)

Hijinks made an ass out of Bottom.  Well, out of his top.  Bottom's head was transformed into that of a donkey.

Bottom was a morpher, you could say.  So is Lieu de Reves.

It's late at night now, and for the past few hours, Lieu de Reves has been a comfortable skin scent, a gently sweet amber that lays very close to the skin.  In the afternoon, it went on like L'Heure Bleu gently impregnated with a mixed floral bouquet.

I've worn it a few times now, and I can say this about Lieu de Reves: I did not have to learn a new note, decide if I enjoyed being slapped, or pay attention through a dazzling technical riff.  I just liked it.  And that, my friends, is a happy place.  I appreciate that it is there, and that I can visit.  And I will.

Midsummer approaches.  I love this time of year, and feel a kinship with the summer solstice in many ways.  I'll always remember "finding" Lieu de Reves at this time of year.  But I can see this as a perfect scent any time of year for two purposes:

  • One, just to smell good.  In a mildly floral/wafts of PlayDo/morphs into an easy amber kind of way.
  • Two, to use as an alternate to L'Heure Bleu, one of the very few perfumes I can wear to bed--something I don't do very often, FYI.  In fact, LHB has always been The One for calming at night.  Lieu de Reves would work in that capacity not only because of the reminiscence to L'Heure Bleu, but because when it gets to the Bottom (as it were), I'm going to like it there.  The drydown not only wouldn't disturb my sleep, it would support pleasant dreams.

Come to think of it, I could wear it during the day for pleasant daydreams.

Lasting power is right on the Michigan mitten, between Lakes Huron and Superior.  At 5-6 hours, closer to the sunrise side.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Warp and Weft (and a little w00t for Wasser)

Both “warp” and “weft” derive from the Old English word wefan, “to weave.”  The weft is drawn through the warp in order to create the final weave, the fabric.

How tightly the weaver, the artist, decides to run the weft determines both the appearance and the density of the end product.  
You can create a simple weave, a smooth weave, a patterned weave. You can weave by hand, you can weave with a loom; the range of options for production goes from a human alone to a machine alone.
For some reason, one of the places I am most aware of the warp and weft of the fabric I wear is on my scarf, an item of clothing frequently part of my ensemble.  Perhaps this is connected to the fact that I am a bit sensitive when it comes to necklines...put a mock turtle on my neck, and I am fine; ask me to wear a traditional funnel neck turtleneck, and I spend the day feeling like a pair of hands is clasped about my trachea, to greater or lesser pressure, but always reminding me they could, that they have the power to tighten.
So, here am I, with my neck and my scarves.  Tightly woven cotton squares for protecting my skin and catching sweat while gardening; big bulky cotton or soft flat cashmere for keeping me warm in the cold; and any number of large, small, narrow, pashmina, or other sizes in a wide array of weaves, materials, and colors.
For every one, a choice in warp and weft.  Warp and woof.  Weave.
How well you lay down the warp will absolutely affect the quality of the final product.  The warp seems simple...just a bunch of threads, parallel to each other.  But how tautly they are held, how much their underlying structure is respected and followed, can make or break the end product.  Weaving in the weft.  Tricky business.
Thierry Wasser has been asked to bring his talent and weave on the warp of Guerlain.  Over 180 years of family tradition have laid down a clear pattern for the company’s “fabrics”; perfume fans are fond of pointing out how you can identify a “Guerlinade,” a particular base, that appears in so many of their perfumes.  A standard warp established by history of use.  An accomplishment that perhaps sometimes gets diminished in its regularity...which, one could say, is the unsung strength of a good warp.
Along comes Wasser.  And from interviews, and PR statements from the company, it is clear that all parties expect tradition to be respected, even as all parties recognize that a new artist is going to bring something else to the weave.
On my left wrist, Cologne du Parfumeur.  On my right, 180 Ans du Creation.  In my mind, Attrape Coeur and the Guerlinade.  In my heart, an individual, creating something new, which is somehow going to have to also demonstrate using the touchstone of tradition.
Doubling the challenge?  Operating within the conventions of a particular paradigm, in this case, cologne.  So, Wasser will begin, knowing what the warp of the company has been, and what the heft of the “yarn” (given the tradition of cologne) has been.  And he will create something which adds to the vocabulary, even as it speaks the same language.
Does he shock us with his innovation, uncover some heretofore unheard of fiber, reveal some inconceivable weave?  No.
Does he create a lovely fabric, one both familiar and not like anything we’ve been able to use before, one which will easily slide into our wardrobe?  Yes.
To me, Cologne du Parfumeur is “another cologne, but.”  It is another cologne in that you will recognize a certain bracing opening (ah, thank you, migraine healing burst of Eau Imperiale), which typically settles down and nearly out at a rapid pace...even as a few little sensors at the back of the radar screen are saying “hey, wait a minute...there’s something over here.”  You go back, you huff, you say, cologne...but...hovering about 1/5 of the way up in space, a layer that isn’t there.  Well, obviously, it’s there, but shouldn’t be there.  It’s...what is it?
It’s a sheer where there always had been gauze.
It is a haunting.
Somebody slipped a little simple syrup into my green tea.  Just a bit.  
It is...Attrape Coeur.  No, it’s the Guerlinade.  No, it’s not either...psych!  Made you think of it, though.
Most people are acting rather “meh” about this one.  I dunno.  Serge gets attention because he turns left instead of right--hello, L'Eau--which is an old teenage trick of rebellion, and a not difficult one at that.  To rebel by being the other.  Thierry gets dangled at a safe distance because he did what he was supposed to, even though what he supposed to do was both be old and new.
That’s a tougher trick.
The extent to which you like what came out of it might vary.  But it’s good.  The only thing wrong with it is that is not colossal; neither a sea change, nor a shattering failure.
The art of weaving is deceiving.  It is simple in concept, tricky in execution, trickier to do well, and downright tough to do with innovation.
I’m going to give a w00t to Wasser as artist.  And I’m going to enjoy my (purchased) share of a 500ml bottle.  
Okay, I don’t know yet if I’ll buy more.  But let’s give Wasser a few more props, s'il vous plait?
There is a lovely interview with Jean-Paul Guerlain and Thierry Wasser in Wallpaper magazine (you can jump to the online version here).  Watch for Jean-Paul’s summary of old age, and a short but memorable account of the end of his grandfather’s life.  

A review of Cologne du Parfumeur at Grain de Musc; you'll see that the bergamot does not hit Denyse quite as hard on the opening as it did me this morning.  Her description lines up more with my first test run; that'll teach me to go around the track three times before speaking up.

First image is from the article "Handloom Construction."  

Friday, June 4, 2010

Peonies, aka flowers that morph in the garden (plus one that morphs out of the bottle)

The past few days, the house has been redolent of floral soap, aka peonies.

I don't mind one bit.

The yard is full of blooms.  I am breathing a sigh of relief.  After a few years of nursing divisions of still not quite established plants from the old school, which had been transplanted from the old house, plants which had been either dug up by my grandfather from his yard, or by me from an about to be razed yard across the alley, their journey seems to have found a resting point.  With thanks probably due to an unusually drawn out spring--this week, we once again find ourselves with rain and cool temps, after a couple of rounds of very hot and humid--peonies are blooming in succession in various spots in the yard.  Shade and different varieties have meant that this is the third week with buds opening into blooms.

Stretching out the experience is a gardener's sleight of hand.  In succession gardening, you choose and arrange plants according to their known bloom times, so that there is always a flush of color somewhere. You can make this happen in one bed, or move the openings across space.  (In my yard, I have planted bulbs and perennials so that the first open farther away from the house, and then move closer, but as the growing season closes, that last hurrah bulbs are again moving away.)  You can also play with the boundaries of where a plant will survive, as with the peonies.  Peonies will tolerate a range of sun and shade as it is, so they are a natural for placing here and there to extend bloom time.

The fact that mine have a personal history helps motivate the desire to keep them around, in the yard and as cuttings in the house, as long as possible.  The fact that I care enough about them to want them survive no matter what means that there are homes throughout the greater metro area that now have these plants growing in their own yards.  I let go of a little piece of me in both transitions...but there have been rewards in that difficult process.  Such as knowing that even if I mess up, my grandfather's peonies have a greater chance of surviving in the world.

When peonies buds first start swelling, you get a hint of what they are going to look like, color-wise.  But there could be surprises inside...flames of other color, or splotches, or outright shares, or central stamens that contrast.  Plus, the flower could be one of those double filled ones, or a single cup, or "standard."  Getting to this stage takes 2-3 years from the time of division/planting a young specimen.

Getting a plant full of them takes another year or two.

I have to admit that I have a preference for the stipey buds, the ones that echo the flame tulip.  Yup, the flame tulip that cause such a stir back in the 16th century that people did the equivalent of taking out a mortgage in order to buy a few bulbs. Bulbs which were so highly valued because of the unusual striping on the petals.  Markings, aka "color breakings," which, it turns out, were caused by a virus.

Remember...development happens.  What you see here might not clearly indicate what happens next.

No flames on the open flowers, but contrasting yellow stamens.

Waiting, nurturing without obvious result, letting go in order to secure survival...difficult.  But such rewarding potential outcome...

This is but part of the reason why the smell of a peony in bloom will always be a striation of simplicity and history.  Sure, it's a soapy floral.

But what it took to get there...and the various forms it can take in delivery vehicle...


There are perfumes, of course, which morph as much as that red & white striped peony bud.

And which smell as simply soapy floral as the blossom.

When it comes to perfume, I'd rather wear the morpher.  I still can't get No. 5, my uber-soapy floral, to a "brings happiness" place.  I have my sensors up, waiting for an opportunity to try Patou 1000, which has brought happiness to Abigail, whose opinion I like to pay attention to. But I fear that my generation might sentence me to forever getting "soap" out of aldehydic florals...and something perhaps related to the fact I am uncomfortable wearing turtlenecks leading to me getting "smothering" out of an outright floral without lift.

So, I tend to search among the morphers and the unusually juxtaposed to get my floral happy place.  Andy Tauer's Une Rose Chypree, for example, which puckers your nose ever so slightly in the opening by letting the vegetal greenness of geranium and the sparkle of a hint of citrus go through a little sparring demo and then you start to realize the whole thing was choreographed, and the choreographer steps and a lo and behold it's rose, but the show is of course not focused on the choreographer.  Later, on me, the whole thing becomes and ambery wonder, to the point where I have forgotten what I sprayed that turned into that.  So maybe that's cheating, because the "floral" idea suggested by having a flower in the name never really turns out to be a straight up floral...but I did warn you that I'm not a fan of the straight up flower when it comes to perfume.

But wait, you say...what of the peony?  Can you stick to your thought train a little more closely and discuss not just the idea of flowers, or a flower which is not a peony, but maybe an actual peony scent?

And the honest answer is, not really.  I haven't tried much perfume which features peony.  Not the Stella in Two, not the Angel flanker, not any of Yardley or Crabtree and Evelyn or such.  Okay, I probably sniffed something in my dark ages before perfume, and that buried memory could well be contributing to why I am not inclined to do so today.  Maybe some day, the interest of scholarship.  If I did, I would start with the Yves Rocher Pivoine, because YR has provided some pleasant perfume surprises, and has that amber which I think is a fab bargain in terms of quality for price, plus I keep on seeing positive comments in comments on the interwebs.

BTW, I tend to get chided for touting the Voile d'Ambre, because I'm revealing some sort of secret, but hey, that's in production.  It's not like I'm directing you to an auction for a d/c scent that I'm in the midst of bidding on.  Plus, it's summer, and you'll think, oh, yeah, I should try that, but later, when it gets colder...and then you'll forget...and then it will still be a scent they mass produce for me, just me...  ;)

Have a great weekend.  Walk a garden.  Bring some blooms inside.  Maybe put one on.


Andy Tauer's own words on Une Rose Chypree, from his blog (which is, incidentally, an interesting read if you have by some odd chance not been there yet; he discusses his process as he goes about creating scents, as well as business, and other odds and ends as it suits him):
“Une rose chyprée” is an oriental rose on a chypre base. It is an elegant perfume built around two natural extracts from rosa damascena, absolute and the steam distilled essential oil.
Its heart is lifted by spices (Bay and cinnamon) and a fresh accord built around bergamot, lemon and clementine. Green Bourbon geranium oil lets the rose petals shine and contrasts with the dark resinous accord in the base, built around labdanum, oakmoss, patchouli, vetiver and vanilla.

all images are mine

the Une Rose Chypree juice I respond to comes from a Tauer-bottled sample, won via a blog contest, and I hope to replace it with more soon

all opinions expressed herein are solely those of the nom de plumed writer known as ScentScelf, which should be patently apparent given that not only is this a blog authored by ScentScelf, but these opinions are often imperfectly expressed and kind of twisted, so who would I take them from?  for that matter, who'd want 'em?   I'm feeling silly today, and am noting it here, for your amusement as well as mine if you've bothered to read this much fine print

speaking of fine print, agate is a stone, not just a type size, and you can find them in Lake Superior, along with, of course, the Edmund Fitzgerald.  now, if you've read THIS far, type "Gordon Lightfoot" in the comments, and you can get a sample of one of two florals I do enjoy:  Bulgari Rose Essentiale, DK Gold, or one I don't, Guerlain Mahora.  phew!  let's see if anybody's paying attention...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Shipwrecks and Wood (and some Bois Naufrage)

I come from a land where you are never more than 6 miles from freshwater, where coastline is never more than two hours away, where it takes more than a day to drive the coast of just one peninsula.

Sandy beaches and shipwrecks abound, and yes, Virginia, the lakes are really that large.  I mean, think about it; the Edmund Fitzgerald was 729 feet long, and weighed 13, 632 tons.  That, as we were taught in school, is a foot short of two (American) football fields.  Not very shy of two soccer pitches.  You can get to center field in a MLB park and add a Little League park besides.  In terms of weight, that's 4,993 Cadillac Escalades (5467lb=2.73US short tons).  Five thousand Escalades, lost; two football fields, consumed.

The Edmund Fitzgerald is but one of close to 5,000 documented shipwrecks in the Great Lakes.  In fact, the United States maintains an underwater sanctuary in Thunder Bay, just off Alpena, Michigan in Lake Huron.  NOAA maintains fourteen of these sanctuaries in the U.S. and its territories; the Thunder Bay site is entirely underwater, protects over 200 shipwrecks, and is the only sanctuary to be found between the coasts.  You can bring your scuba gear and check it out.

Yes, Virginia, the lakes are that big.


I bring this up today because Parfumerie Generale's Bois Naufrage is reported to be inspired by a Lucien Clergue photograph, "The Nude on Flotsam."  B&W, emphasis on graphic lines, texture, you know the drill.  It's the naked skin on driftwood that is supposed to be the thing.

Bare skin?  Driftwood?  Water?  Sun?  Um, yup, this I know something about.

If you do, too, you can skip the rest if you hear me say "a surprisingly dry day at the beach, and somebody in the vicinity is testing coconut on their s'mores."

No?  Okay, here's where Bois Naufrage situates itself for me.

First, it goes on dry.  This wood has been in the sun a long time, but has not yet warmed up much today. I might be inclined to say it opens dry-alde-figgy, hint o' sugar.  The aldehyde-like-ness comes from being high up in the nose and rather airy, but no bubbles.  Something holds it aloft.  It then pretty quickly goes through its paces--the dry dries off (oooh, now THAT's a drydown!), passes through a kind of recognizable semi-sweet PG skin scentness.  Which is where I am both happy and disappointed, because I can't help but be pleased by that cozy thing Guillame does so well, yet I'd rather be played with and taken to a stage three, given the odd but interesting opening.  But nothing for me.  Lee over at the Perfume Posse got something sea salty right around this point, which intellectually sounds like a good thing to happen.  By then, my skin seems to have eaten it.  I'm afraid to spray too much in an effort to get there, because that opening threatens to trigger an alde-style induced headache if I'm not careful.

Retention for this Bois Naufrage?  Lake Huron, in the shallows. Develops, abandons ship.  I almost put it in Lake Ontario, but a generous spritzing keeps it around for almost two hours.

go ahead, imagine your Hawaiian Tropic oiled body was here...or spray on that Bois Naufrage...
this is driftwood somewhere on Lake Huron's shore

More on the Edmund Fitzgerald and other Great Lakes Shipwrecks:
Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society
The Great Lakes Shipwreck File: 1679-1998
Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Or, try these books:
Great Lakes Shipwrecks and Survivals
The Living Great Lakes

Image available from and available for purchase at istockphoto.

Whoops...perfume disclosure...I have a small decant from a perfume fiend, er, friend's bottle.  

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Centuries of June

Inside a moment / centuries of June
                                                  Emily Dickinson

I sat in a crowded windowless room, set with folding tables full of photocopied programs, teachers and a podium on a small stage, coffee and juice with assorted pastries on a table at the apron.  Dads joking about the lack of air conditioning, students looking various degrees of proud, uncomfortable, in search of a friend.  One family looking at the fruit, which was nearly minced, and then commenting in Russian.  Greetings back and forth between grown ups who had not seen each other since...had it been before the winter holidays?

Me, sitting with my own child, watching how he responded to the situation out of the corner of my eye, while taking in the assortment of teachers grouped in various spots around the room.  Remembering being one of those teachers.  Remembering being one of those students.  Remembering my mother in the basement multi-purpose room of one of the many elementary schools I attended as a child.  Remembering my grandfather's retirement party in yet another similar room.

Me, having just come in from a foggy wet morning, which seemed like a perfect cap to a generally glorious holiday weekend, which capped the end of a particularly furious bout of May gardening.  (Because it was not only the season in general, but because this year's weather was unusually conducive to tilling and turning and dividing and seeding.)  Having looked around, and thought about things I have planted in other locations...trees to honor dead relatives, plants in tribute to local geography, plants that were pass alongs from grandparents or rescued from construction or just something I thought I might like.  Plants my children chose and were responsible for.  Having had deep thoughts about shallow roots.

Me, listening to a mother say "I hope they feel this is important.  I mean, I know we do, but do they?"  

Me, watching my child not be able to eat his food.

June enters this year as it always does.  On the 1st.  Following the 31st of May.  30 days hath September, April, June, and November...  With weather that has been unusual and/or capricious but is starting to settle into the summer pattern, whatever that pattern will be this year.  With a school year finally winding down, and now winding down so rapidly that you almost want to put on the brakes and freeze time.  For just a moment.  So that you can watch, really watch, watch while seeing all the layers.  Because you were too frazzled, too worried about getting it all done, too many times thinking just push through and this [insert momentary difficulty] will be over.  And now it is.  It is all over, spring with its deathlife cycle so painfully visible and things so densely packed at the end of the school calendar and the need to get everything done NOW because it needs to get started so it can grow in its season.

It is over.  Summer has begun.  Again.  And I feel the layers, before and to come.  In a moment, centuries of June.

Nothing profound to wear for such a time.  It was get the shower done, make the lunches, pick something you can wear and feel good about but is appropriately casual for early morning breakfast and won't embarrass the child and won't be too hot when it has been so hot and sticky but maybe there'll be air conditioning inside, pick a scent that is equally not too much for early morning but helps you face the day and smell good all at once. 

Easy peasy.  Infusion d'iris.  There are other scents that would be more thoughtful, more edgy, more exclusive.  But this one, slightly cooling, smells good, considerate to others...yet stands up to scrutiny if the observer knows what they are about...is probably a very good choice.

I am writing outside.  Overhead, a small plane flies in a northeasterly direction.  Going somewhere.  My older child wants a pilot's license.  Is waiting for a driver's license.  Wants to be gone.  I need to let him, but can I freeze this moment?  Just for a short time, so that I can breathe, and feel the years, before he goes off and constructs his own?  Without him knowing, so that he knows I trust him to go and do what he needs to do, to build his own centuries of Junes...but still, cheating, and grabbing just a little more before he is gone?

So painfully beautiful, the opening to my birth month.  In this growing climate, it has always been the marker you held your breath until.  Never fully safe until now, the plants...or, at least, never as safe as it is going to get until now.  Never okay to start getting excited about summer until now.  Never reasonable to start to look for signs of summer, until now.  

Now is here.  

I am trying to breathe, deeply, which is as close as I'll ever get to slowing down time.

It is beautiful.  And I am glad to be able to see it happen.  Again.

Centuries of June.