Thank you for all your lovely comments–and two cocktail recipes! The winners of the draw, chosen by the ever efficient Random.org, are:
- Carol Anne
Send me an email with your address when you see this and I’ll pop them in the mail.
In the fall I crave the scent of roses. I want them dark and full blown, like the true red roses in the heart of Teo Cabanel’s Oha, or roughed up by oud and patchouli like the wonderful/unbearable Black Oud by Montale. When fall turns into winter, I like them jeweled, with a touch of frosty pink pepper, like Ormonde Jayne’s regal Ta’if, or swimming in mulled wine and figs like Parfums DelRae’s delicious, jammy Bois de Paradis, or solemn and rich like Caron’s Parfum Sacre, where the wine and spice comes along with plenty of incense.
Earlier this week I was in New York finally visiting the Art of Scent exhibit at the Museum of Art and Design. On Tuesday I flew home to Austin, slept for six hours, and then got on a plane to Boise, Idaho where I am now, visiting my parents. This past Friday I was the featured speaker at a fundraiser for the amazing Learning Lab, a nonprofit dedicated to helping children and adults achieve literacy. I can’t imagine my life without reading–my mother tells me that as a toddler I chewed on cloth books instead of playing with dolls–so I was honored to participate. It was quite an event (840 guests! Including my third grade teacher!). I’m eager to tell you about it and to write up my thoughts on the Art of Scent exhibit and my recap of the Elements perfume trade show (oh I smelled some lovely things!), but I also want to take advantage of my time here to be with my family, so it may be a few days yet.
In the meantime, here are a couple of interviews I did for Idaho Public Television’s Dialogue, with very smart host, Marcia Franklin, the last time I was here. The first is about half and hour and includes lots of general conversation about perfume, feminism, reading and writing. The second is a shorter “web extra” in which I attempt to share some perfume (Eau d’Italie’s Paestum Rose, Ginestet’s Botrytis, and a vintage version of Balmain’s Jolie Madame) with Marcia on the air. After the interviews were over the whole studio staff hung out with me for awhile, sniffing and trying things on. It was great fun.
If you’ve seen these before–they aired over the holidays and were posted on Facebook and Now Smell This but never made it on to the blog–it is well worth checking out the Dialogue site for other author interviews. Ms. Franklin has spoken to quite a range of people, most of them far more interesting than me.
Image: The opening image for Paul Searle’s charming short video “Grown in Idaho,” Grand Prize Winner of the Idaho Potato Festival.
Tomorrow I’ll be at the Elements Showcase, a perfume trade show specializing in independent and artisan perfumes. The show runs both 1/28-1/29 and is free and open to the public–you just have to register first–so if you are curious about perfume and somewhere near New York City, I highly recommend stopping by. In addition to sniffing my way through the offerings I”m hoping to run into lots of internet friends I haven’t met in real life, and some older ones I have. I’ll be reporting what I see and smell on Twitter. If you are attending the show and would like to say hello feel free to try tweeting at me. I’m not sure of my hours, but I’d love to see some readers there.
On Monday evening, Elements will be hosting the 2013 Fifi Indie Awards. The Fifi’s are the perfume industry’s version of the Oscars, and are organized by the industry’s non-profit arm, the Fragrance Foundation.
I’ve been under the weather for the past week with one of those awful colds that are going around (please everyone, rest up, wash your hands a lot and take your Vitamin C) so I haven’t been doing a lot of writing or smelling, but I’ve been doing plenty of reading. I first read Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion nearly ten years ago. I was dazzled, seduced–then disaffected. I wanted my literature to have a firm grip on the world’s pain and Winterson’s beautiful surfaces and playfulness struck me as cheating, somehow. Or maybe I just felt foolish for liking them so much…
I returned to The Passion this week because I’ve been thinking a lot about fairy tales–why and how we tell them, and what our modern versions look like. I feel differently about dazzle now, and this time around The Passion‘s gorgeous magic struck me as a poignant, necessary counterpart to the equally unbelievable extremes of war.
This time last year I was just beginning to send out advance review copies of Coming to My Senses to friends and family–to the people, that is, who were in the book or intimately connected to the world of perfume bloggers and collectors that meant so much to me.
I was nervous about it. Very nervous. For example, I brought a couple of copies home for my parents over Christmas. (Two! So they wouldn’t have to share!) My chicken-out plan had been to leave them behind to find after I was gone. But that seemed silly once I was there, so I bucked up and put them under the tree. Three hours later I became violently ill with the stomach flu and spent the rest of the vacation throwing up or asleep. Coincidence? (True, half the town had the same illness, but still.)
I spent so much time worrying that I was truly unprepared for the wave of help, goodwill, generosity and understanding that washed over me as the book began to circulate. I was completely undone by gratitude. A year later, I still am. Of all the things that happened in 2012 I think that’s the thing that will have changed me the most, the thing I’ll remember best as I go forward into the open field of this year with all its uncertainty and promise.
I wish all of you a Happy New Year. May all your fresh starts come to fruition, and may you find the luck, love, courage and beauty you need–and a little extra to give away.
P.S. In the background of the photo you can see the scrubby little plant that is my Osmanthus (Sweet Olive) tree/shrub. We’ve had freezing temps lately so I brought it inside. It has rewarded me by perfuming the living room with the most incredible waves of sweet apricot and fine leather scent. Half the time when I smell it I think it’s my perfume and then I remember…
I’m here in Austin for Christmas this year. So far my holiday smells of black tea, sleeping cats, jewel-bright Satsuma tangerine peels, star anise, the pine branches I gathered up at the Christmas tree stand (we don’t have a tree, but I have to have that scent in the house), the sweet-smoky burnt brown sugar of the Scotch I drank with a friend last night (it was aged in rum casks), the rich floral citrus of candied citron–first, bubbling on the stove and then, surprisingly, in the air when I cut up the candied strips into the amber triangles above–the apricot-and-soft-leather scent of my tiny osmanthus tree, staying inside until the night temperatures rise above freezing, and, unfortunately, a huge overdose of piñon smoke, because the cats, in a more active moment, managed to close the broken flue vent and then forgot to tell us.
First published in 1977, architect Christopher Alexander’s A Pattern Language is an odd, ambitious, humorous, deeply humane project rooted in a late 1960′s sense of possibility–the kind of thing it’s hard to imagine anyone attempting now. Alexander and his team spent years researching and observing the ways people most love to live and shelter themselves–the spaces and paths we bend toward even when we’re thwarted along the way. Then they tried to offer these up as replicable pieces or “patterns.” The book moves from macro to micro: a pattern can be large and fairly abstract (“Magic of the City,” “Identifiable Neighborhood,” “Old People Everywhere,”) or very small and specific (“Windows Which Open Wide,” “Seat Spots,” “Pools of Light”). The result is a book that is part manifesto, part practical handbook, part lyric meditation. It is both a dream of a better world and directions on how to build one, a single piece at a time.
I love all of Elizabeth’s posts, but my favorites are her Nosy Interviews. The concept is simple but powerful. Drawing from a pool of people that includes writers, artists, teachers, social workers and more, Elizabeth asks two questions: What do you smell like? What do you like to smell? The answers are sensuous, funny, poignant and often startlingly intimate. I always learn something. Browsing through the archives today, I discovered the heads of babies smell like potato chips, what it’s like to discover one has synaesthesia, and (with some trepidation) what the pleasures of an “extra, extra scent-free” space are for someone with severe allergies. This summer, when Nosy Girl interviewed Arielle Weinberg (who makes me laugh every single time she posts over on The Scents of Self) I learned about the scent of man rays. As if all that weren’t enough, Elizabeth asks her interviewees to submit a photo of themselves, preferably in profile (she wants to see your nose, people) so she can put them up in the stars.
I’m very excited to report that today it’s my turn. I’m up in the Cygnus Clouds with my favorite raspberry lipstick on, talking about the scent of scrumptiousness, midnight shadows, ferry boats and the beautiful cacophony of smells on a New York street, among other things. I hope you’ll drop by, tell me what you think, and take a look at Elizabeth’s archives while you’re there.
Image: Photo of me, by me. Collage created by Elizabeth Ames Staudt. Full credit for photo of star clouds on Elizabeth’s blog and at the Cygnus Clouds link.
I sort of fell off a cliff after that last post. Or, more truthfully, I began pacing back and forth at the edge of a cliff, taking measurements, biting my nails and making guesses about what will happen if I jump, trying to decide if I need more courage or more common sense–all the usual push-pull that happens when I’m thinking about a new project but not quite committed yet. It’s an absorbing, nerve-wracking process. I forget things. I lose time. I lost a whole day this week. It was only when my husband showed no signs of leaving for work that I realized, to my dismay, that it was Saturday, not Friday. And since I’m thinking all the time about something I can’t talk about yet, I have a tendency to get quiet.
But I can say this: among the many, many things that no one told me about writing is that every time you stretch toward a new beginning you have to change a little–sometimes a lot. You have to become the person who can do the work. You write the story, but it writes you, too. If that sounds spooky and a little magical, well, it is. But it’s an everyday kind of magic, like planting a garden, cooking a meal, or collecting stones and shells from a beach.