Tuesday, November 8, 2011

You've never been to the riverside.

Scents for a Day on the Winter Beach

"Down by the river, by the boat
where everybody goes to be alone, 

where you won't see any rising sun.
Down by the river we will run."

There are no Beach Boys songs for winter beaches. They are not "fun, fun, fun." They are not "where the boys are." People do not play "beach blanket bingo" on beaches strewn with the detritus of winter storms.

And yet, I love winter beaches in all their stark beauty. Cold and clear or overcast and rainy, they always strike me as dramatic and moody, better settings for stories of weight than the sun soaked beaches of summer I now associate with serial rapists trolling for girls gone wild. FN1.

I went to the beach last weekend when I was supposed to be working on a number of projects because, frankly, someone asked me. When someone offers to drive you two hours to the beach and two hours back and not even ask for gas money, my rule is to always say yes if at all possible. FN2. While I was there, I got to thinking about the appropriate beach scents for the blustery winter day of sun and sand, and I was curious about your thoughts on the subject, dear reader.

For me, scents like Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess, which I recently tried and loved, don't work for the winter beach. It was a lovely warm mix of coconut and white flowers, and everything about it said warm bare skin and bronze bodies. It's a great scent, but didn't go with wellies, jeans, flannels, and a long wool coat. The same goes for CB I Hate Perfume At the Beach 1966. There's too much "little cartoon dog baring little cartoon girl's tan line" in it for me to think it was meant for stormy November weather. I have the same problem with the beautifully floral beach scents like Annick Goutal Songes. There are no flowers on the harsh and windswept winter beaches, only bare limbs of deciduous trees stripped of their leaves that line the cliff edges like a crowd of freezing-legged, stockingless girls mixed in among the evergreens.

While I like Demeter Fragrance Library's Salt Air for coastal wanderings, it didn't seem to have the right amount of coldness for me. It had a harshness, it smelled...warm.  Or at least, not cold.  I don't know how to put it, other than it is the smell I think of when I'm driving with the windows down and smell the ocean before I can see it, and the winter is too cold for driving with windows down. FN3.

After digging around in the tin of samples I never leave home without, though, I found one that completely fit the bill.  The Difference Company Sel de Vetiver was exactly what I wanted in a winter beach scent. There is something about the combination of citrus and leather and salt that smells like a concentrated blast of air straight off the Pacific in winter. I had my friend sniff at my Sel de Vetiver laden wrists and she concurred; it smelled a lot like the air smelled, but deeper and richer. It's almost briny, and the vetiver on me smells like my hands after I've spent a long time sitting on a large piece of slightly wet driftwood.

Now that I've found the scent, I'm like an addict.  All week long I've been sneaking off to the bathroom to put some on. I have a small 2.5ml sample that I keep parceling out in tiny not-quite-sprays, careful to use only enough to transport me out of my stuffy office and back to the beach for a moment.  The sun was shining, the birds were flocking in a great crowd, everyone on the beach was in hoodies and jeans and there was a disproportionately high ratio of dog-people to regular people and it just seemed so...easy.  The whole day seemed easy, and so few days have been like that lately.   

Sel de Vetiver, which would make a great scent on a man or a woman, takes me back there, at least momentarily.  It makes the price tag seem almost reasonable ($135/50ml).  "It's practically a steal given the happy moment you derive from it," says a reasonable sounding voice in my head.  This is the silky voice of temptation, the one that has a nasty habit of equating consumerism with sensory experience. I'm trying to resist that voice a little more; I really have more of everything than I possibly need, and the idea of moving in a few months after a decade of pack-ratting stuff into this apartment is starting to scare me. And yet...and yet...

I wantes it, the precioussssss.

Ah, well.  Maybe someone will get me a decent sized decant from The Perfumed Court for Christmas. FN4. FN5.

What about you, faithful reader? What are your winter beach scents?

"Oh my God,
I see how everything is torn
in the river deep,
but I don't know why
I go away
down by the riverside."

~ "Riverside," Agnes Obel FN6.

FN1. As an advocate for sexual assault survivors at a college, can I just say -- I hate spring break. Not the taking of seasonal time off from school, but the "WOOOOOOOHSPRINGBREEEEEEEEEEAK" of popular culture that leads otherwise sensible people to engage in dangerous levels of stupidity on an annual schedule. It's like creating a version of "The Deadliest Game: Pervs Edition" complete with binge drinking, public near nudity, the idea that sex with strangers is daring and not moronic, and the things at risk are your soul, confidence, trust, sanity, and, possibly, your life. I'm not into victim-blaming EVER, but also think there are cultural moments where our collective idiocy pools and in American culture, Spring Break has got to be one of them.
FN2. Not being much of a "yes to stereotypical fun" kind of girl (see FN1 for example), this is one area of normalcy where I make myself say yes.
FN3. It's funny how "cold" is a smell that I didn't really understand before became a perfumista.
FN4. I know. I'm shameless. Seriously, we might as well subtitle every post beginning with my bitterness post where I fished for a bottle of Night Queen until the holidays are over "stuff Diana wants but cannot afford."
FN5. Seriously, though? I'd also take a decant of TDC Sublime Balkiss. Or any of the things on my Amazon wishlist.  See what I mean -- shameless!
FN6. Okay, yes, I realize the song doesn't really fit because it's technically about a river and not the ocean but (1) it's still water and (2) its got the proper mood and (3) it's really beautiful (see video below) and (4) its been haunting me for like two weeks.


Undina said...

If you ever travel to San Francisco area I promise to drive (strike that) make my vSO to drive us to one of really great beaches in our area and will not even mention gas money ;)

I started thinking about the perfume I'd wear... I'm not sure how beach-appropriate it would be but for some reason I thought about SSS's Winter Woods.

Diana said...


You have made me a n offer I could hardly refuse, and you didn't even need to use a horse head in the bed. :) I've been to the SFO area a couple of times, but it's been years and I never went to the beach.

I like the idea of Winter Woods being a beach scent. When I first moved here, I found the wooded beaches strange and and disconcerting after a life along the Gulf, where wooded beaches are not nice beaches, but mean "swamp that ends at the ocean, full of things that can kill/eat you." Now I really like the want the tree line falls almost all the way into the sea.

Undina said...

Then it's a deal. And I promise that no animal will suffer :)