Monday, September 26, 2011

Pretty Reminder....

Good news!  The japanese beetles seem to have withdrawn after the aggressive and insistent counter-strikes of a few weeks ago.  Look at that healthy dahlia.  ::smile::

More good news!!  There are still 24 hours to go to the DSH Pandora review and register a comment for a chance to win a sample.

photo, author's own
Pandora review and sample draw here

Friday, September 23, 2011

Assembled / Disassembled, or, Another Equinox

Not a post about IKEA or RTA furniture.

A post half about perfume, half about perspective.

All on a day of balance.  Happy Equinox.

*|*   *|*   *|*   *|*   *|*   
I purchased this bottle of Liz Zorn's "My Promise" a few years ago.  As I recall, the purchase was "P.S.", which is to say "Pre-SOIVOHLE." *  Don't go looking for it.  It was a one-off, created as a tribute/benefit to/for a young person with a form of cancer, again, if I recall correctly.  Liz offered the perfume for sale at a benefit, then continued to offer bottles through her website (with profits going to the cause) until they were gone.

Yes, I fell prey to a cause.  I didn't even know what the notes were, and if I based my decision to purchase on how it would fit me according to the copy offered at the time -- something about light, fresh, young? -- I would have passed.

But I was all new to perfume, had "discovered" Liz and was all about exploring her creations, and thought a flyer for a good cause was nothing I would regret.  I could always gift it to someone.

So, for three, four, however many years, this bottle has lived in a cool, dry, dark closet, inside its packaging.  Two to three times a year, I would take it out, spritz once, and ponder.  The ruminations always led to the same conclusion.

I don't not like it.  I don't do like it.  
There is something in there that should bother me that doesn't.
There is some kind of odd pairing in there.
This is pretty but not.
Gee, this is a peculiar something.

And then I would carefully wrap it back up, and put it away, never able to answer the question of "should it stay or should it go?," because I never knew if just around the corner laid the answer.  The answers, actually.

Decisions in the balance.

It could be this, it could be that.  At the moment, it is both and all of it all at once.


*|*   *|*   *|*   *|*   *|*   
This week, apropos of nothing, I took the purple box out of the closet.  Time for another dance.

And I had one of those sensory equivalents of having the right word, the answer, right on the tip of my tongue.  "HEY, that's...that's...augh!"  And I neither lost it, nor pulled it into full light where it could be recognized and named.  I caved.  I tried an internet search.

And lo and behold, that one night, not repeatable as I compose this entry, a hit.  A website in German, either offering or having once offered this for sale.  (I do not speak German, though I've a pretty good short list of the German names for exotic animals in my head thanks to an orange hardcover book I got at a garage sale as a kid, Dis Ist Der Zoo.)  A notes pyramid.  A very simple notes pyramid, maybe six or seven listed on all three levels.  But two loomed into my eyes like the classic zoom in/blur out all other detail shot in a movie when the detective sees the name in the hotel register that puts all the pieces in place.

Lily of the valley.

Tumble tumble tumble tumble tumble.

Lily of the valley was both the white flower that didn't overwhelm me that was slightly spikey, and the something that should be bothering me.  
Mint answered spoke to both the something peculiar and the odd pairing, being up against LOTV and all.


And now I saw it from the inside out.  Like walking up to a Van Gogh or a Monet, and seeing those brush strokes, individually, with texture and hair paths in them.  The pieces of them.

I thought about the pieces on and off the rest of the night.  Intellectually, of course, in terms of "hey, forget that Geranium Pour Monsieur, that new Byredo, look at what Liz was doing a few years back," and "hey, do you think Erin/the folks at Now Smell This would notice if I went back and added a comment to that post about mint in perfume a while back?"  But especially just in terms of the elements themselves.  What it felt like to smell it now with names, how it suddenly so easily fractured into individual pieces every time I sniffed it.  Whether or not I would take it in whole cloth again.

*|*   *|*   *|*   *|*   *|*   
My mother used to complain about going to see movies with her father.  My grandfather, you see, was a carpenter.  When he looked at a house, where you would see "cottage" or "saltbox," or maybe "dormer" or "eyehole window," he would see coping and joinery and ash or maple.  

Combine that with his healthy skepticism, and it was impossible to sit through a scene with a ship going down without him pointing out where they had used a model, or see King Kong crashing through the jungle without him indicating the stop motion.  

My mother, of course, was indignant about somebody snapping her willful suspension of disbelief in two.

Suddenly, in retrospect, I felt sorry for my grandfather, caught in the fractures, in the details, unable to take his eye off the hair mark in the brush stroke and see the sunlight on the hay.

*|*   *|*   *|*   *|*   *|*
I'm still in the midst of figuring out if I'll again see this My Promise in gestalt, in full assembly, in big picture, in concept.  With a little distance in time, perhaps, I'll regain distance in viewing length.

This is not something I worry about.  I've of course stepped close and been able to step back again with other perfumes, other somethings.  And I am fascinated by how clear, how instructive, how simple this particular walking through the steps was.  I think it helps that this is a simple perfume.  Citrus-y mint for a perky nearly bracing open, which makes an interesting framework for then receiving the LOTV.  Something innocuous and gently cozy at the bottom to couch it on the other side.  A gentle musk?  I seem to remember "wood" being in that German pyramid, on the bottom.

Ah, well.  Not all came into sharp focus.

Alles gut, of course.  To be honest, in the end, I prefer seeing the sunlight on the hay.  I dig having the brushstrokes revealed, but my pleasure comes from wrapping it back into my overall image.  

I don't enjoy pointing out the model rods, as my grandfather did.  I only want to see them, in fact, only want to look for them, in my own time.

*|*   *|*   *|*   *|*   *|*
Happy day of equipoise.  Whether your daylight is about to lengthen or darken, may this turn be smooth.

And maybe offer a few surprises.

*yes, I was inconsistent with the quotation mark enclosures there.  I didn't like the way it looked on "P.S."  I mean, check it out:  "P.S.," -- kinda makes it look like the comma is part of the abbreviation, no?  Which bothered me.  So I am instituting the first vagary in the NFTL Stylebook:  do not encase the comma within the quote when indicating specific names that end with a punctuation mark, for that confuses thine editor.

photo by author

Monday, September 19, 2011

Say what?

Avast ye, mateys, and hoist yer scurvy selves to a benign bit o' bloggery.

'Tis International Talk Like a Pirate Day.


(Thanks to pirate bits like that, th' tongue can be shared across th' Seven Seas...what ye lads and lassies yell te be "intarnashn'l.")

Shiver me timbers, 'tis Anne Bonny!


(That thar be a bucko emoticon, if yer fixin' to savvy.)

(chooppy seas)

Also today, perhaps and perhaps not, the anniversary of the creation of the emoticon.  Wired is running a "This Day in Tech" bit about the purported perpetrator of perplexing symbolage, Scott Fahlman.  However, the story of the attempt to concoct symbolry to clarify text communications gets immediately murky, for as Wired points out, typesetters have been pressing (HA!) type-based non-verbal communication upon us for many moons before that.

Oddly, I myself had a bit of an emotical dust-up with the OAITH (Other Adult in the House), when he perceived that a virtual missive I sent came with barbed tongue, rather than gentle greeting.  Why?


That's right, a smiley face.

Apparently, geeks have used this archly, to convey, well, an edgyness, rather than the placid contentment I was trying to convey.

The scallywag was ready to hop aboard the Man-O-War and make sharkbait o' me.

Fortunately, all was cleared up before he blew the messenger down.  But Blimey! who knew I had stepped into a bilge-sucking morass of hempen halter code.

So, I've been thinking on these two things today, Local Talk Like a Pirate But Watch Yer Emoticons Day.

And then of course, fixed it upon myself to link it all to perfume.


What perfumes have the potential to flub the message between perfume-lubbers?  Or even perfume lovers, for that matter?

I for one hold Chanel No. 19 aloft.  You know, Luca Turin's wire-hanger mother?  The one folks refer to as "cold" and "distance keeping"?  I mean, okay, the galbanum is bracing, but people, there is green flower in there.  I don't wear it as a "buzz off" kind of fragrance; I wear it in the same manner I might pick a pair of Italian shoe boots for the day.  They are both beautiful, have clean lines, and support me when I need to attend to business, but don't quite cross over into bee-yotch territory.

Not to me, at least.

Here, here's another one:  Serge Lutens Musc Kublai Khan.  You know what that says to me?  It says "me and my men have just been out riding on horses and camels for a few days with no shower in sight and we might have rolled in something along the way and we're just going to plonk down next to you here and if you don't like it you better run FAST because we're already enveloping you and if you don't faint you might retch."  You know what I've heard someone else say about it?  "MMMMmmmm, cozy."

Is what we have here a failure to communicate?  In this case, I don't think so; I think here it is simply different languages.  Like, say, German and Chinese.  Phonemes and graphemes.  You say potato, I say rubber stamp.  Because I think we are not even experiencing the same thing, let alone deciding what that something means.  So let me take this moment to clarify what I am trying to find in terms of examples of perfume mis-communication:  We both agree it is a smiley face.  I mean, say, a lily of the valley.  But what does lily of the valley signify?

Speaking of lily of the valley, let's hop to that gem of a note for the moment.  Have you noticed folks waxing nostalgic about, say, Diorissimo?  It is a lovely creation.  I can acknowledge that a) it smells like lily of the valley, and b) it is pretty.  But from there, you and I might diverge.  Because, truth be told (here I go into a Very Quiet Voice, so as not to offend), it is this|close to being, well...simpering.  Blow me down if one of my fiercest friends, she who dons Mitsouko like a cutlass and Femme like a come hither va-voom dress, says it makes her feel pretty.  Me?  I feel like...oh, I don't know, Nellie Olsen, stripped of sass, left with nothing but banana curls and a very clean pinafore.

Hey, speaking of Femme...let's talk cumin for a moment.  There's a note that I frequently find myself nodding along with the crowd when we determine whether or not it is present.  But then...what does it mean, to have it there?  To me, it's generally B.O. or panties, which trust me, in my world does not mean "come hither."  It means hither was reached 3-5 hours ago.  But wait, that's not how I *receive* a message, that's how I interpret what is sent.  Hmmm.

Here.  How about Big Flower Bombs, and/or Big White Florals.  Like...let's go classic here...Fracas.  What does that say to you?  Sexy bombshell coming through?  Or Tennessee Williams character who is slightly unaware of being past prime?  Undulating vixen?  Or flat footed floozy with floy, floy?

It's a problem that has been posed before:  for whom is our message in the bottle?  Sender, or receiver?  Directly connected of course to the question "do you wear perfume for yourself, or for others"?

All I know is, there are times when folks have described what message a particular scent conveys, and my head tilts to the side.  ("Are you talkin' to ME?")  But I know that unless they ARE talking to me, there's room for different translations.

However, if we are trying to talk to each other, it would probably be best if we made sure our lingua franca was all simpatico.


image of Anne Bonny taken from Hanging Cup Pictures,
also found at the delightful Geography All The Way
engraving apparently by the peripatetic "anonymous"

oil painting of a message in a bottle by  Nancy Poucher at Daily Painting

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

When memory is a seeing eye: DSH Pandora

The first time I sprayed, I smelled dust.  Book dust.  No, something that had been pressed between the pages of a favorite volume that was older than me.

As it evolved, it bloomed into something more alive, as the dust faded, and one of those just above skin auric clouds appeared, a blended floral, with a something that drew me in -- that something having the same allure as some of my vintage chypres, but not being just that.

I was enchanted, and I didn't even know by what.  Whatever it was, if this was Trouble, I had Hope for a long and happy future with it.

The tradition of pressing leaves into a book to preserve them is relatively familiar.  The idea being that you can preserve at least a portion of that which is destined to become past, to be history.  But are you familiar with "Bible leaf," a.k.a. costmary?  Costmary used to be a basic kitchen garden plant, and its longish, somewhat wide leaves were pressed between the pages of bibles to help church goers stay awake during an all-day service.  In other words, what was pressed between the pages, an intentionally gathered waft, was placed not for rememberance, but for bringing one into the moment.  A moment which, of course, you were supposed to pay attention to so you could remember it later.

not costmary, from the project described at Create by Maria Apostolou

I, and others, have discussed the idea of scents that seem to hover just above your skin before.  In my ruminations, I put their place in space somewhere between "sillage" and "skin scent."  They appear not in someone's wake, and not by burying your nose in and snorfling.  They are in some ways my favorite presence, one which does not announce itself in advance, but one which still manages to exist off of skin.

Pandora pulls the nifty trick of maintaining that aura, and having a skin snorfle, too.  I love this.  This is my favorite way of thinking of people, with the immediately registered, the something you learn when you gain closer access, and the limited glimpses of something deep and private.  Open the book, find the pressed leaf, catch a first whiff memory impression, scratch the surface and it comes to life.

Costmary is a perennial that should be renewed by division every few years, since the old plant becomes bare at the center. Dig up small plants that pop up in the garden, or this plant could become a weedy pest.

Gardeners know that most perennials need division in order to be rejuvenated.  A classic sign of a perennial that is in need of attention is that the clump dies out in the middle, the newer shoots/roots taking on life even as the original section lets go of it.

In a way, I feel that what Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has managed to do with Pandora is to take a division from an existing plant and bring it back to life in a new setting, and that in doing so, the the plant takes on a new character.

When I go in for the snorfle, as I pass the opening whiff of dry opening the book, enter the floral cloud above my skin, and extract a hit of the depths beneath, I do NOT smell my beloved vintage chypres.  Not Coty, not Millot, not any particular one.  Not even that something, exactly.  But, I *do* find that the style of attraction that pulls me in is just the same -- the happiness of the Coty, the greenness of the Millot.  Pandora is, however, its own something.

And it is lovely.

What is this Pandora?  Plucked from the past, plonked into the present, for me it is a journey that starts with memory and puts me very much in this moment, with all the palimpsest layers of reading backward through a written and virtual herbal, and then again being woken up and finding yourself here, now, not in the midst of a sermon, but a moderately rich floral bouquet that needs to not be too loud so that you can appreciate the background -- plant based, leafywoodyslightlyhumusy, not exactly chypre not exactly amber.

If you haven't guessed, I like it.  

costmary, image from Women Who Run With Delphiniums
Do you want to play with Pandora?  DSH Perfumes has offered to share a 3ml sample to a reader.  Comment here to register your interest.  Drawing will held on Tuesday, September 27, at noon U.S. central time.  

Because how often do you see THAT as the time and or time zone???  Plus, it's a new moon.

  (moonset over the westernmost Great Lakes region, that is)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Things seen (and an apology for that)

The kind of post that usually gets titled "under construction."

sometimes i think the real reason for the soap is that the layers of bubbles form a veil over the results of what is essentially a murder spree
regardless, if one is to save the flowers, the japanese beetles must be attended to
(not in the spirit of a lady-in-waiting)

I am going through a learning curve with Blogger's new interface, and you will see some layout changes here over the next week or two.  Have not yet entirely figured out how to land at "done" without you seeing some of the interim.

If only I could shake and stir some bubbles over it all...

My apologies.

image author's own

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Things come down

Ten years ago, sometime around 7:30 in the morning in the U.S. central time zone, I was standing in front of three cubic yards of smoldering, smelly, beautiful mulch.  Partially decomposed compost.  I was crumbling it between my fingers, admiring its texture, taking in the aroma, looking inside my gate and making plans.
About ten minutes before the hour, a figure emerged from my house, interrupting my reverie. A plane had crashed into the tallest building in Manhattan's skyline.  Being trained in the realms of context, skepticism, and history, I deflated the messenger.  "It's happened before," I said.  "Empire State building.  A plane crashed into it.  It's still there.  Let's see what we learn as the day goes on."
I took a not entirely pleasant but entirely pleasing sniff of the semi-rotted matter, and resumed making plans.  
Once again, just after the hour, a figure appeared coming from the house.  Another plane, another tower.  Skeptical head gave way to a two headed hydra of "oh, this is a story" and "oh, sh#t." 
Plans gave way to planes.  Which kept coming.  The Pentagon.  A Pennsylvania field.  
Late in the afternoon, it seemed that perhaps it was the end of the planes.  I walked back to my compost.  An eerie silence.  For I lived under an O'Hare flight path.  The sound of airplanes, though distant, was constantly woven into the ambient noise of our yard.  Suddenly, nothing but birds.
For days, nothing but birds, and the heart thumping occasional sound of a fighter jet.
Eventually, planes came back to the air.  
And plans came back to my conscious.

Ten years later
I went walking through the park last night.  The moon was almost full, so there was some light.  That odd creeping light, that somehow combines the effect of turning on a focused highlight beam with the diffused light of a gentle flood, a peculiar light that is generally visible but most evident when it lands upon vertical objects.

So while you know where expanses of nothing are in a way you can't during a new moon, what really stands out are the edges of things that are there.


You do it, but differently, navigating in the dark.  With even a minimal amount of light, you still try to lead with what your eyes discern, but other senses are heightened.  When applied in familiar landscapes, internal blueprints get accessed.  Whether it is your kitchen...a closet you organized...memories of your grandparents' house...a frequently traveled park...if you know it, both mental maps and tactile memories fill missing spaces in the visual data.

When you enter familiar terrain, you make assumptions.

When you round a familiar bend in the path, in the dark, you expect things.  On a moonlit night in September of 2011, you expect the unmistakable silhouettes of two impossibly large willow trees.  Your mind starts to put them into place, even as your eyes send the true but impossible message "One.  Just one, on your right."

You are aware of the moments of cognitive processing as the brain adjusts, realigning expectations and current data inputs.  You can almost anticipate the gasp you utter, the search to understand, the understanding.  

A behemoth is gone.


I had made a plan to document these trees.  Willows have been part of the fabric of my life for as long as I could remember. I swung both on and from a willow in my grandparents' yard.  A willow is the first tree silhouette I learned to identify.  Willows signified the presence water, always something I liked knowing I was near.  These two willows, the most recent in my life, were preposterously large.  Willow trees only lived this long in prehistory and Harry Potter.  I grew to feel their presence on my walks and cross-country ski runs as nearly sentient.  The one on the right had taken some severe blows over the years I've lived here, and it occurred to me last fall that it probably wasn't long for this world.  I wanted to do something.  In a way, these two trees were what prompted me to finally re-integrate photo habits into my life.


Coming out of the slight curve in the path, taking it all in during one of those time slows down moments, hearing course through my head the sound of chain saws that I had filtered out, away, because that always sounds like trauma and tragedy to me and I know I can overreact to things tree so I try to just look away, turn away...with those sounds, and knowing the outcome even as I had to watch my brain process the data, my first instinct was to pull out my camera.  A fitting memoriam.  But I didn't have it.  I did have my camera phone.  It registered this:

Which was apt.

I came back the next morning, with a camera.  And set about attempting to document the aftermath, full of sorrow for not being there when the humans and the machines were in the process of taking it down.

Thus began a whole lot of "fail."  But I kept at it, knowing that going through the motions was, just as were my repeated picture "takings" the night before, more a ritual for me, and a chance to murmur "sorry" over and over in my head.

This picture was one of the attempts to reflect the "missing mate."  It failed.  You can't see/feel the mass or girth of that trunk.  I am between 5'6" and 5'7" -- prone, the height of that trunk is well up my chest, nearly to my shoulder.

Here is that piece from the side.  With my travel mug for scale.  Better, and yet, when I go in that close, the enormity is somehow lost.  Yet again, if I pull back...

 loses drama.  And reverence.

So I keep going at it.  It doesn't matter so much that I know I will fail at my assignment.  Though, to be sure, that stings.  I keep going at it, because the ritual helps me, and because I think there is a chance, that I might get it.  And even if not, maybe the attempt will make me better.  Eventually.

The more I try, the more I fail.  But I take the time to mark, nonetheless.

Surrounding the site of absence, other images, somehow easier to take.

September 11, 2011

all images the author's own