August 26, 2007

Balmy Days and Sundays

The mild breeze of warm, pleasantly sweet and clear air is called balmy. The very word balmy calls forth pleasant associations. The concept of balm is identified with particular sweet smelling plants and resins, and soft air that seems to have a caressing, softening effect on the mood.

I have been wearing Balmy Days and Sundays by Ineke frequently these late summer days. I find it lifts the oppressive humidity of late summer in the city into a lighter quality of soft sweetness, like: "lying face up to the sky, dappled light flickering through the pale green of overhead branches" as it says on the very flacon...

Truth in advertising for once, I do attest. The notes are freesia, leafy greens, grass (I love grass anyway, can't breathe in enough of it in the summer) honeysuckle (the faintest touch) rose, mimosa, chypre accent, and musk (very mild but compositionally essential here to provide some grounding to keep the whole concoction from floating away immaterially and immediately). The ensemble of these notes creates an experience of gentle pleasure but is at the same time minimalist, modern and literal, while still capable of triggering nostalgia about breathing the free air of a childhood summer.

I find it does indeed share with the very concept of the word balm, the soothing of the internal mood and the experience of bathing in an essentially pleasant, soft air.

I have written before about Ineke fragrances as you can see here; I had brought her sample collection of four fragrances to a group that meets to share personal pleasures in the creative goings on of the moment.

The word balm itself is short for balsam, a sweet smelling oil. The balm that is felt by tradition to be the most soothing is melissa officinalis, or lemonbalm, whose nectar's sweetness attracts bees in droves for the production of a very fragrant honey. Balm has legendary properties of calming and strengthening the body and mind. It was often added to wine, or used as an herbal tea, or as a fragrance in the form of "carmelite water":
The London Dispensary (1696) says: 'An essence of Balm, given in Canary wine, every morning will renew youth, strengthen the brain, and a relieve languishing nature' John Evelyn wrote: 'Balm is sovereign for the brain, strengthening the memory and powerfully chasing away melancholy.' Balm steeped in wine we are told again, 'comforts the heart and driveth away melancholy and sadness.'
The essential oil has a lemony honey scent with a woody note, and can be added to carrier oils for massage and skin care and to scent pillows to induce restful sleep. It is very strong and must be used in dilution on the skin if tried for its antiviral qualities. I have used Liberty Natural's Melissa Lemonbalm in this way and found it to be very effective . I intend to get hold of some fresh and dried lemonbalm and try some of the very old recipes. I like what I have read about Carmelite Water, and I think making some fresh myself will be an appropriate way to experience this traditional general use fragrance and tonic.

6 comments:

greeneyes said...

This sounds lovely...right up my alley. I only wish I'd heard about it earlier in the summer! I'll put it on my list to try, even though I am oh so ready for fall.

helg said...

Thank you for this account and good luck on the Carmelite recipe. It's been a pleasure reading you.

Lucy said...

Hi Greeneyes -- yes, we will be snowed under by the new releases, but it will stay pretty hot around here for a month and maybe more -- so it's not really all too late. Also sometimes I like to use a summer fragrance in the winter to remind me...
Have you tried the Stephanie Barron Jane Austen mystery-pastiches? I find them very entertaining...


Helg, I love your site -- I will be writing about my results with the Waters on Now Smell This later this month, now to hunt down some fresh lemon balm (ironically I used to grow it in my window box and had no idea what I could have done with it, just liked the smell of the leaves...)

Good Holiday weekend to all!

chayaruchama said...

Carmelite water is interesting...it's been years since I've tried it.
Let me know what you think.

Ineke does a beautiful job with her presentation; I find that I like these more conceptually, than in reality.

I'm crazy for grass, too- but somehow, pretty as this is, it doesn't work for me.

I hope you and the Furman have a lovely w/e-

Lucy said...

Hi Chaya -- have been working on getting some fresh lemonbalm and artemisa, no so easy in Brooklyn. I may have to make do with dried.

Hope everyone is having a good and relaxing holiday weekend before the fray of the new season starts...

pavithra said...

that was an informative website.
http://www.hosurlive.com