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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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


Vanessa said...

Lovely post and most apt for the time of year! I am somewhere in between you and your grandfather in terms of a tolerance for deconstruction. Mr Bonkers is very like your grandfather, marvelling at the computer graphics in Titanic. Also, when I am cowering during a bloody scene in a zombie film I have unwittingly walked in on, he will always say something very unsatisfactory like: "Silly - it's just a great make up job."

When perfumes baffle me with their quirky combos of notes, I invariably crack and google reviews before the day is out.

And LOTV and mint? That is not the most felicitous partnering I can think of.

Oh btw, you know more German than you think - you know the word for Whitsun!

Anonymous said...

As one who looks at the wood that makes up each individual tree, I can't help thinking that "Pre-SOIVOHLE." above should be "Pre-SOIVOHLE"., with the stop after the quoted phrase (since the stop stops the sentence).

I think I'd have got on well with your grandfather:-)

cheerio from Anna in Edinburgh

Anonymous said...

I love a good telescope scent: you look at it far away, and then you look close up, and it's kinda trippy to go back and forth... fun.

How To See is a difficult thing to learn. Or unlearn.

ScentScelf said...


Zombies. Now there is a case where it is convenient for me to dredge up my grandpa's approach, should I find myself being swept where I don't wish to find myself, which is of course imagining myself dangling fleshy undead.

Actually, I don't like the prospect of that minus the undead part, either.

I had forgotten Whitsun. Now I can ride der elefant to Pentecost. Der zirkus ist in town!

As for giving up the ghost and heading to Google for notes...I was foiled by a lack of information. My Promise being a one-time deal and long gone and all, I guess. Nothing like deciding okay, I'll cross over, and then learning the road (to good intentions? the place with a handbasket?) is closed. ;)

ScentScelf said...


You cross-ponders are fond of the stop after the quotation, though, right? It IS rather practical; get everything done, then stop.


The world needs people who see the insides first. I wonder if it's romanticism or myopia that lends me to furry big pictures?...

As always, nice to see you here.

ScentScelf said...


Love that. Yes, the telescope this way...then that way....

I pulled out a sample of Jalaine Vetiver last night. Same thing, in one ride. At first I was all about vetiver and patch on top of amber. I was digging it. Then I started smelling my Nana's incense cones, and was trying to attribute that to sandalwood...

...and then the world turned upside down, or rather the telescope flipped around, and suddenly I heard the Voice Of Luca saying "joss stick. Joss stick on amber." And I had to give up for the evening.

My goal is to at least be able to have a (reasonable) command of various Ways of Seeing. Slippery eel, that. :)