Saturday, November 12, 2011

You know I've never been to heaven, but I've been to Oklahoma.

JoAnne Bassett Perfumes Collette parfum

It's possible that if I favorably mention JoAnne Bassett's Night Queen one more time within a single month, people will think I am on the take. Take heart, dear reader: unlike our elected representatives, Feminine Things remains, at date, bribery free. FN1.

So I'm not going to talk about Night Queen. In fact, we're not going to talk about Night Queen at all. We're going to keep her out of this.

Instead I'm going to talk about another offering from JoAnne Bassett Perfumes Collette parfum. According to the card that came with my sample, the notes are as follows: Cepes and Whit Cognac from France, various citrus essences, and others.

According to JoAnne, the scent concept has its roots in France, motherland of perfumery. FN2. I have never been to France (or Spain or England or anywhere but all over the US and a bit of Canada, really). So let's see how my little nose meets the challenge, shall we?

Collette opens citrus but immediately turns toward this slightly green open-air dirt smell on me, one that I seem to mentally associate with the smell of standing over a freshly dug grave before anything is put in it. It isn't the foremost experience of the scent, but it hangs around like soil clinging to exposed root. I think that must be the mushroom "used to ground and reveal secrets of Mother Earth," as the scent description provides. I have a friend who is a budding mycologist; I'll have to ask her what she thinks.

As the song says, I've never been to heaven, but I've been to Oklahoma...and Wyoming and South Dakota and New Mexico. I can't tell you why this scent makes me think of the Badlands or the year I lived in Santa Fe or a few days I spent once in Wyoming or long drives across portions of Oklahoma, but there is something about a scent that aims to capture the beauty of earth that makes me think of the stilling grandeur of such places.

These are not places full of obvious life. They are not like the lush greenery where my heart and soul find succor and internal sustainability. FN3. And yet, they are no less alive. Stand in the places in the world that appear barren for more than a few minutes, and what you'll find is that the impression of isolation from modernity may fit, but isolation from life itself is not. In the supposed emptiness of the desert or the tundra teem a million lives that ignore us, not the other way around. Our view of our environment is myopic and self-centered, which is a reflection of our limited bodily knowing of the world. But if you close your eyes, and you listen and you feel, not with your hands as we typically choose to define the world, but with your whole body, you will realize that the world is a thousand fragile things in every moment, most of them missed by us all the time.

We worry about the dishes and the laundry and being late to movies and who will feed the cats and if our jobs will last and if we will be happy and who will win the last football game of the season and if the writers of Vampire Diaries will ever just get on with it already and give Damon and Elena the hook-up they deserve and stop torturing us, and we miss...

...everything. So many everythings. The birth a bird in the tree by our window, the death of the worm its mother feeds it. The way our loved ones are slowly changing in front of us, the way our lives pass away in massive floods or slow forming drops.

 Some people will send you to an island if you want to slow down, or a forest if you want to reconnect with nature, and I understand that. But if you want to remember yourself, I say go to the desert for a few days. Force yourself to look past the initial sense of nothing and see the world, in you and outside of you. Notice how the earth and the land meet in the far horizon in an unbroken line that seems impossibly long, how the wind feels against your bare arms, how the sounds grow sharper as you notice them, as if hearing them for the first time. Lay on the ground, look up at the sky, and realize you are clinging to the earth as you float through an infinite space of impossible magnitude with a kind of magic that we call science because we like to think we are in control. Your life is everything to you, and nothing to the universe. You are infinitesimally small and extraordinarily large in every moment, even in your death.

Close your eyes and inhale. The dry night air is alive with mysteries, intimate and unknowable. Mysteries that smell like this.

FN4. FN5.
FN1. Though I am not above taking free perfume for consideration, review, drawing, etc. as long as it's on my terms  Perfumers, see the solicitations policy up top. <g>
FN2. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, Mutherland! (Sorry, I'm a little punchy today.)
FN3. For lo, I have lived in ugly, uninspiring places, and in the immortal words of Fleetwood Mac, "Ooooh, never going back again."
FN4. If you got the Twin Peaks reference buried in this post, you are either a. someone I could be friends with IRL b. one of a very specific group of fumie tweeps I heart; c.someone forced annually to spend your Thanksgiving weekend watching Twin Peaks with me, d. all of the above.
FN5. Also, my apologies about the Vampire Diaries-related angst but no new episodes until January 2012? Really!?! *Dies*

Scent provided by perfumer.


JoAnne Bassett said...

Thank you Diana for the 4 nods..what a great surprise to read this today! You made my day..looking at the places you listed in your article..I have been to all of them..yes the earth all of them..wherever they are..

The white cognac in the perfume adds a little twist.

Diana said...

No thank you JoAnne. Your work really inspires me; I appreciate having the opportunity to try it! :)

Undina said...

I enjoyed reading your post but it's sooo not me. I would never want to travel to any of those places you mentioned. I despise the idea of spending time in a desert - either real or proverbial. I do not need to reconnect, slow down or all that other new age stuff. I think that worrying about who will feed the cats and getting in time to see the movie is not less (if not more) important than all birds and worms in the ecosystem.

Having said that, I'd love to try this perfume and I will try it one day.

Diana said...


If you knew me IRL, you would realize how much I am not into new agey things or the desert. I did not enjoy living in Santa Fe or Riverside. if you go back to my blog when I lived in the places where the sun shines relentlessly, you will see that I think of it as living in a hell on earth. No really. I said it, and I meant it. (FIRE IS NOT A SEASON!)

But that's why I occasionally force myself out of my soggy, pop culture, control-obsessive comfort zone. I think resetting your perspective can be useful, or at least help shake lose the cobwebs that tend to gather in the routine of life. And I think scent is a good embodiment of that spirit.

Cynthia said...

Beautiful writing! Cruised your way via a post on JoAnne Bassett facebook page.

Undina said...

"Fire is not a season" - love it!
Sorry, I was too grumpy last time. It is a very nice writing/review.