June 7, 2018

Perfume and Scent Routines

Details, part I; Claude Paradin: Devises Héroïques, 1551.

Since perfume became important to me, I've become far more aware of all the smells around me, from pleasing to gorgeous to not so much. People themselves, in their own clean skin, each have an infinitely interesting scent, some far stronger than others, some much more to my liking than others. I have become much more conscious of the scents of the seasonal changes, even within urban Brooklyn.

We have the explosion of linden blossoms in the street trees every year, pouring forth their sweetness in the humid air at night in spring. We have the leaves crumbling dryly underfoot in the streets and in the parks, over the mulched and sandy areas where the grass has been trampled down to nubs in the powdered dirt.

The earth and the pavement release a beautiful pale grey metallic steam when wet by rain, and the snow has its own slightly metallic odor when it first lands. We have the scents of age from all the old brownstones and other buildings from the nineteenth century,  the storms that pass through, coolly refreshing the air (ozone is a scent color). The fragrance of the daily weather conditions affect the intimate scents on coming indoors. The vibration of the light in over-lit spaces, how dark and light affect the perception of scents. Wool, cotton and leather clothing emanating their mild material scents have become more noticeable, or I have become more attentive, to notice them.

Many stories and books, films and music and periods of history, I now associate with certain scents.

I read Clairmonde by Theophile Gautier in the linden season so now I think of that scent as a background to his descriptions of the double life of the country priest by day as the handsome and sensual courtier by night with his indescribably beautiful lady enlivened by his own essence.

Recalling Jane Campion’s biopic of John Keats in love (Bright Star) I note the bluebells in the spring sun, the walks in the woods. I think of the old English apothecary shops (as Keats studied to be an apothecary himself) and the lavender scents cleaning and preserving their woolen cloaks and hats. The colognes based on herbs and soliflores, the damp earth scent from the frequent rain that so many modern natural perfumers have referenced in beautiful ways. The gardens of old roses and peonies and hyacinths.

My favorite part of the morning which has so many personal routines is the coffee or tea scent, the cinnamon in oatmeal, cut fruit, at one time the scent of clean dog, the slippery coppery hot water heating up a high ceilinged bathroom, the cotton towel absorbing the scent of water. The choices of soaps and lotions, each scented, some intentionally strong, some subtle. The mint washing through a mouth, the fresh air in the closet, the serious leather scent lying in the shoe boxes, the wool or cotton. Some of the scarves or outerwear holding traces of perfume at the wrists and neck. The scent of lipstick, the scent of the particular perfume as chosen to be worn that morning. 

The light brighter outside than any lamp refreshing the air into an ozone/aldehyde, the sharp sooty smell of the car exhaust pointing out the brightness of fresh air. Paper, book or tissue or bits of trash, blowing around in the streets, the movement of air around the rushing crowds, then standing still on the corners, waiting for the next chance to cross, you get that olfactory sense of expectation as to well, what next? Getting the sense of those standing near you, what they are wearing, the scents coming toward you one after the other. Here is where I say once again, there is no such thing as scentless, everything has a smell. (That which is labeled unscented has been treated with a chemical to block your ability to smell it.)

 Claude Paradin: Devises heroïques Tolle voluptatum stimulos

The weekends might permit a wider range of smells, and more time to fool around with scented lotions and hair and trying different scents on through the day. That is if you are like me, and look for that chance to incorporate more fragrance experiences into the day. It becomes such an enhancement and an excitement; it’s like eating chocolate or smoking cigarettes but without the calories or the exhaustion. An addictive quest even, for more special and different forms of olfactory beauty.

There is the occasional thought through choice to be made of a perfume to fall asleep in. Sometimes reaching for an extension of the day's experience, sometimes looking for a mood change.
Now that I've amassed something of a perfume library, based entirely on personal preferences, I  have more scope to indulge my olfactory cravings and moods. Some days and weeks going through a phase of craving for roses, for musk, for powders, for incense, and phases for where I look for perfumes that are strong and others where I want quiet and subtle ones only. Times I take a break from perfume and then come back to it, recalibrating my nose and awareness. 

Engagement in the pleasure of perfume has enhanced my scent awareness beyond what I ever could have anticipated. For example, it often increases the dimensional experience of the daily walks I take, what I encounter in the streets, or passing under the trees in the open air, or how the texture of the air scents change indoors. The experiences of daily life reference back and forth to what I find within perfumes and what perfumes then throw back to daily life. 

Indie and niche perfumes especially those that reach beyond the traditional forms let me access a personal aura that marks and enhances the present moment.  Creates associations into a sense- memory that references everything it matches going foward and backward across time and life.

Perfume was a choice I made and now it's starting to reveal how much it's changed me.


La Guirlande de Julie - c.1601-1700 - via Gallica

Copyright 2018, Lucy Raubertas, All Rights Reserved. 

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