Friday, April 16, 2010

Scents that sing "spring"...

So, here's the image that all of the participants in today's joint blog project were given for today's post:

Julie Andrews dancing in a field of mountain wildflowers.  An iconic moment of visceral bliss.  Puts a smile on your face, right?  Welcome. Glad you stopped by.  Take another sip of your current beverage.  And then step into my spring, and how it sings.

Here is the image I was ready to go with when the concept of "spring" came to mind:

To me, spring--as those of you who stop by on a regular basis know--is all about things rumbling in the dirt, a stirring to life, a difficult and messy and beautiful process that is all about energy bumping heads with rest and bringing color and smells back into the world.  Worms squirming around in the dirt are all about that.  They turn and aerate the soil, fertilizing it along the way.  They wriggle out of the soil when it rains, providing yet another reminder that the snow is gone and a new season has begun.  They provide a sort of endless fascination for kids and grownups, who might be entranced or repulsed but are somehow always compelled to take a look.  They move under the soil and attract the attention of the returned birds, who cock their heads sideways and give a little "knock, knock" to the ground to get the worms to come to the surface, then yank them up like some sort of stop-action spaghetti slurping.

Worms.  Dirt.  That's just the start of it.

 Things start pushing up out of the ground.  Green emerges from muck, even as the detritus of the last cycle of life continues to litter (and eventually nourish) the ground.  Fresh energy, alongside stasis.  From a bland landscape of hard frozen texture and monotonous color, rumblings begin.

I love this moment, when you can be like a forest creature and put your nose up to the air and start smelling changes in the air.  Even the breeze smells and feels different.  It could be a misty grey day, or it could be one of those suddenly brilliant sunny days when you are reminded that the sun can actually cast a warm light, and not just the sharp white light of winter.

Once you get enough of that light, changes come.

Early life pops out, and you can feel things starting to hum with potential energy.  

It is this crazy conflagration of clinging chill and insistent warmth, of final rest and yawping birth, of messy sludge and impossible blooms, that sings spring to me.  It is difficult, it is easy.  You can jump in and be part of it, or you can passively observe.  But it's gonna happen--a proposition that seems questionable in the early going, but eventually becomes undeniable.

☃  ☁ ☀ ☼ ☺
What fragrances help sing this process?  Ones that either echo the whole big mess, or that pull out elements of the orchestration.

An example of the whole orchestration:  Niki Saint Phalle.  It's all in there, the dirt, the herbal bitterness, the lift, the knowing that if you stick it through, you'll have a drydown that is "interesting" if you come in at the end, but absolutely beautiful if you went through the pain of its development.

Examples of elements of the orchestration:  The easy entry here is Diorissimo.  Lily of the Valley hasn't arrived here yet; that is a note that sings toward the end of the spring symphony.  But it is powerful, and so uniquely recognizable that its call has entranced many a wearer.  The wink-wink nod-nod entry is CBIHP Black March, because it sounds the note of dirt.  If I'm in a picky mood, I point out that in my nose it is the smell of potting soil, and not of humus rich earth dirt.  But I'm okay with that.  I like hearing this particular voice, which coincides with the gardener's activity of starting seeds and potting up outdoor plants.

Then there are the Impressionist versions of the symphony, which capture the mood, the experience, even suggestions of particular voices, without being so direct.  This year, Temps d'une Fete has been getting a lot of chatter.  And deservedly so.  When I found this last spring, I found myself wanting to twirl around like Julie Andrews up there.  Oh, green goodness that knows how to balance a sweet floral lift and a raspy sort of something that makes sure the potion isn't cloying going down.

In this spirit, I offer you a down and dirty (could there be any other?) short list of scents that sing spring.  Please share what's not here that you'd add, or how you'd change things around.  I might come back and mess with it myself.

Isolated voices/notes
Coty Muguet
Bel Respiro
AA Herba Fresca
Black March
Wild Hunt
Violets & Rainwater (Liz Zorn)
Fleur de Narcisse

Niki Saint Phalle
No. 19
Grin (Ayala Moriel)
Bois Blond  --note: this is a shorter piece, played by chamber orchestra

Le Temps d'une Fete
Green Oakmoss (Liz Zorn)
Un Matin d'Orage

Happy spring, everybody.  Thanks for spending a little of it here.

Now that you are done, you might like to set a spell with the other bloggers participating in today's project.  They are:

Katie Puckrik Smells  |  Perfume Shrine  |  The Non Blonde  |  I Smell Therefore I Am  |  Notes from the Ledge  |  Scent Hive  |  Savvy Thinker  |  Roxana's Illuminated Journal  |  Perfume in Progress  |  All I Am A Redhead  |  Ambre Gris  |  Olfactarama  |  A Rose Beyond the Thames  |  Smelly Blog 

first image a still from The Sound of Music; second image from the Input to the Garden blog; all other images the author's own


Nancy said...

Have I ever told you that I am violently worm-o-phobic? I am freaked out even my photos of them. If there is a fragrance out there called "Hysteria," that's my vote for scent of the day. As far as spring scents, I'm already reaching for the citrus scents, which usually wait for summer. Another consequence of global warming?

La Bonne Vivante said...

I love the worm pic; for me, spring scents are all about the fresh dirt factor!

Anonymous said...

I like worms too - I'm not gonna invite them in for tea 'n' cookies, but as long as they're out doing what they do in my dirt, I'm happy.

Really enjoyed the concept of individual voices vs orchestrations in the "singing of spring."

Your list and mine overlap a great deal. I'm thinking that I need to hunt up some Niki parfum, or just Try Again- Silences had to wait for the right season for some appreciation too. I'm loving that Crown Bouquet, as well, with its marigold and green leaves.

ScentScelf said...


No. You never have. I suppose vermiposting is not in your future, then? ;)

Ah, the citrus. Yup, they're a summer thing in my mind, too...was just mentioning that to Elena, who brought up the AA Nerolia on her list. As for causality...I'll see your global warming, and raise you one ash cloud over Europe.

ScentScelf said...

LBV, obviously, I agree; dirt is where it's at!

I peeked over at your blog...very nice! Thanks for stopping by here.

ScentScelf said...

Muse, I think I'll keep my worms away from the tea party, too. I like 'em, but in the proper context. (Just like some of my perfumes. ;) )

You know, I'm still working out my relationship with Crown Bouquet. So far, it's No | Yes | No | Maybe? You and I should talk.

BTW, I *loved* your Chamade/Temps d'une Fete throwdown. I still need to comment on that one...was trying to be intelligent. (Silly me...)

Abigail said...

Ahhh, love the dirt.

Spring is all about rolling soil around in your hands and gardening.
I could do without the worms but I'm not that squeamish ;-0 (now if it were snakes I wouldn't be able to read your post)

I love your categories; Isolated voices, Orchestration & Impressionist - fantastic groupings.

We have similar spring tastes so I now have to buy that bottle of AA Herba Fresca that's been on my list for YEARS.

Oh, yes, Black March & Wild Hunt. These are essence of spring in a bottle. Black March is amazing in the oil/absolute concentration btw.

Soivohle Green Oakmoss - love it!! happy to see it here.

Your images of new life and buds popping up out of the ground - make me smile. I love new growth.

I hope your garden is in full swing =) have a lovely weekend.

AnyasGardenPerfumes said...

I love the earth/worm photo. Living in the tropics, I don't get the "Earth is warming, it's Spring scent" here. Our soils and soil microorganisms are very different. I do miss the geosmin smell.

Sorry I can't comment on one of the perfumes you list, but I am not familiar with any of them.

I do love daffodils, and we can't grow them here, either. I have early memories of hanging out in a florist shop at age 6 just to inhale the daffodil scent. I went there every day for weeks while they were in season.

Thanks for the Spring lift!

Ines said...

One of the things I love about these joint bloggings is that every blogger has her own introduction and take on the subject. I loved your photo progression, exactly what spring is like (although I kind of ignore the worms part). :)

Vanessa said...

I have just caught up with the joint nature of the spring blogs - for a while there I thought I was having a serious case of Julie Andrews deja vu.

I just commented over on the KP Smells site to the effect that Apres L'Ondee is more of a "crocuses peeking through the snow" kind of a scent than the riotous cherry blossom or daffodil carpet stage, which chimes nicely with your "wink wink nod nod" thesis and general "isolated note" segmentation approach.

I think I may be worm-o-phobic too. Very glad you cannot contrive wriggle-o-vision on your blog here.

ScentScelf said...

Abigail, you did NOT say "snake," did you? {exits room for a moment...}

There's not much in the way of snakes in my particular corner of the world. Thankfully. There's a lot of critters in the yard (watched a possum rumble past the other day), and another assortment inside, but the inside rule is: Nothing Your Mother Can't Handle on Her Own Should You Have Left The Premises and Left Her Alone with WHOOPS! an Escapee. Therefore, no rats. And no snakes.

Things are gearing up. Full swing to come. All, as they say, is good. :)

ScentScelf said...

Anya, you are in Florida, right? I don't know that climate very well. I was just in the Phoenix area a few weeks ago, and caught spring desert-southwest style. I was fascinated by new smells, and smells which were strange-but-familiar...sort of scent cognates of things I know so well on my own turf.

Funny how dirt smells different, depending where in the world you are, isn't it?

I knew when I was a kid that I would have trouble giving up daffodils when I was told they didn't grow everywhere in the world...not even everywhere in my own country! On the other hand, the idea of growing oranges in your backyard...or Key limes...or leaving the jasmine out year round...intriguing. :)

Thank you for taking a moment to chat!

ScentScelf said...

I agree, Ines...I enjoy getting different "takes" on the same theme, too.

As you can see, you are not alone in your aversion to worms...

ScentScelf said...


LOL! There used to be a tradition of having an annual showing of "The Sound of Music" on one of the national television networks. Can you imagine getting caught in a time warp on that day? I think I'd be ready to deck a nun.

I like your thoughts on Apres L'Ondee...a crocus in the snow, indeed. I don't know if it does this on you, but on me, it keeps on disappearing and then re-'peeping.' As for the subtle crocus vs. riotous cherry blossoms...interesting how spring can host both things subtle and things outlandish, isn't it?

I clearly host a democratic blog. Look at all of you wonderful people who nonetheless shudder at worms! ;)

Six' said...

Oh, I loved your take on this topic! Solo voices vs orchestral... and the awakening of Nature from the, well, ground up.

I was, like, totally going to ask you a rec for a loamy scent, but you covered it already. Need to check that CB post haste.

And I'm lemming that PdN big time, now. That joint project is starting to look like a wallet-trap ;)

ScentScelf said...

Hey, Six'!

Phew! You speak English...I wish I did speak French, love that my kids are (to varying degrees)...but somehow makes me feel better to know that at least *one* of us won't be relying on Google's widget. :)

Silences is dirty, but not exactly loamy...cold dirt. Early spring. Conceptual more than the literal something you get from, say, CBIHP. The Violets & Rainwater is a bit more soft around the edges, but in that spirit. Yes, go find, and have fun!

Ha! Yup, these joint projects often serve to rile up rather than to sooth any lemmings...ah, well, time to till the soil and get ready to plant, right? Stir it up, I say! (And maybe hide some cash under the mattress before you venture out with your wallet... ;) )

Musette said...

Nothing says "Spring" like a giant backhoe!

xo A

ScentScelf said...


You know, Musette, nothing says "dig in the dirt" like the big equipment. ;)

Hey, I wore V&R today. I think the reason it was mostly violet on me the first few times was that I was timid on the sprayer. I let 'er rip...and still have scent, 8+ hours later. Not powerful, mind you, but 10+ hours is a mighty long time.

Speak softly, but carry sillage. Or a backhoe. ;)

Musette said...

LOL! I do love me a backhoe! El O just came home with ( I am NOT JOKING) a MANLIFT! Oh, wait. I already told you that, didn't I?

Well, bears repeating. Who brings home a manlift? He is so thrilled. The thing's larger than the garage! LOL!

He would kill everybody in this town for that backhoe!

V&R, applied with a determined hand, can really grip! I think it allows it to hang on, dispense with the sweetness, and get on to the greeney-black dirt I find so intriguing.


Rose said...

what lovely pictures! you are right about the worms of course- but the daffodils and bluebells are so perfect.

And I forgot Diorissimo- what is wrong with me! that is perfect- also agree about Black March and I must try this Nikki saint Phalle if it's so good

ScentScelf said...


I shall remain ever fond of that term, manlift. It transports me...perhaps not in quite the same way the actual equipment does, but nonetheless... :)

Yup, that V&R still had hints of the base the next morning. Wow.

ScentScelf said...


Glad you enjoyed the photos! I'm finding myself out and about with the camera a lot more this year, which I take as a positive something. And, of course, while I cherish the dirt and the worms, I also treasure the flowers and the plants. Just put out some sweet pea seeds, hoping that they'll take this year.

Ach, Diorissimo. That is like the elephant that everybody actually acknowledges is in the room, but still won't go away. Talk about iconic.

Do try the NSP if you get a chance. I'd be curious to hear what you think!

Katie Puckrik said...

Your list is music for my nose! I remember being fascinated by the Niki Saint Phalle bottle in the 80s (and the groovy pix of her and her art in fashion mags), but I can't remember smelling it. I am curious....

ScentScelf said...

Katie, the Niki is one of those that a lot of people wrinkle their noses at. In one of those horrible mash-up analogies, it's as if a chypre jumped in a witchy herbalist's vat. On me, it all makes nice. For other people, apparently, it's like taking cod liver oil. Honestly, I have a better time understanding the strong reactions to oudy or musky things. But I wonder if maybe plant and muck isn't as foreign or off-putting to others as medicinal oud is to me?