Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Over the lilies there that wave and weep above a nameless grave!

Esscentual Alchemy Moon Valley

Dear reader:

Happy All Hallow's Eve! Today is the day that all things spooky, scary, eerie, unsettling, and otherworldly come out and have a heyday. And while we're celebrating the unexplained mysteries of the world, let's talk some more about about primordial scents, particularly those that celebrate the mystery of the unseen, shall we?

Today we reach Day Four of Six in our exploration of the Primordial Scent Project: Air Scents. As befits our holiday, I bring you a dark and lovely perfume for this, the Day of the Dead. Esscentual Alchemy Moon Valley, created by Amanda Feeley, is a natural perfume that...
...opens with a hint of the dew that falls at night. Following with a fresh heirloom muskmelon scent, and exotic herbs. Mouthwateringly enticing. Next comes the smell of well-travelled luggage, that has seen alluring, glamourous, and out of the way ports of call, and has stood the test of time, and the rigors of the journey. Ends with a spicy dry down 
Perfume Ingredients: Vetiver, Antique Oakmoss, Hyrax, Orris, Jasmine Grandiflorum, Lilac, Tuberose, Carnation, Peach Accord, Virginia Cedar, Heliotrope Accord
The first time I tried Moon Valley, it reminded me of standing on my front porch on the first real night of winter, wisps of cold night air bringing me the mixed scents of fireplace and woodstove fires inside homes all over the neighborhood, people burning up the night to warm themselves. The smoke snap freezes in tiny crystals that float, unseen, toward me, each one a tiny orb carrying a view into the lives of others, like the floating bubbles of dreams in Jim Henson's '80s classic Labyrinth. FN1.  That smell is one of my favorite winter smells, and it is always best the first night of every season.

The second time I tried Moon Valley, I thought of death. Specifically, I thought of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Valley of Unrest."

Now each visitor shall confess
The sad valley’s restlessness.
Nothing there is motionless—
Nothing save the airs that brood
Over the magic solitude.

The third and final try before I ran out of perfume because I liked it so much, what I thought of constantly was the smell of cracking a fresh package of bleached white lined paper, taking out a sheet, and writing on it in a rich, thick, black blue ink with a fountain pen. Heavy words flow from that pen, words of sorrow or ending or resolution.

Overall, this scent is air meets darkness. It is a kind of liquid night, dry and bitter. Is it wrong to say this is, for me, the perfect perfume for a winter funeral? It is. It is rich and lovely and foreboding. I'd recommend it for Halloween, but this scent lacks the candied fun of children trick or treating. This is the real stuff of spirits, mean and serious, not in the modern torture-porn horror way, but in the way the classic Mexican surrealist film The Exterminating Angel is deeply unsettling without any of the gore that seems to be required today. FN1.

Musically speaking? I can think of no better music than this:

The scent reminds me most closely of INeKE's Evening Edged in Gold, but less fruity or sweet. This is darker, earthier, and more, well, primordial. Less pretty, more...guttural. It comes from a place somewhere in the core of the self. Fundamental. The Quintessence, if you will.

Moon Valley is available direct from the perfumer. You can buy samples for $5, 5ml EdP for $22, and the perfume in 1oz spray for $115, 1/3oz gift presentation for $150.

You can buy the entire Primordial Scent Project: Air Set for $28.00 here.

For more reviews of the Primordial Scent Project: Air Scents, try: Perfume-Smellin' Things; The Perfume Critic; John Reasinger, writing for Perfume Pharmer; Indieperfumes; Donna Hathaway, writing for Perfumer Pharmer.

FN1. The film is available for watch for free on Hulu and I recommend it highly to any of my readers who like art films.  Directed by Luis Buñue, it is considered one of the top twenty films in all of Mexican cinema. Without going too much away, I think is a deeply interesting exploration of group psychology and human beings ability to create hell here on earth that likely exceeds anything we'd have to fear is a traditional hell.

FN2.  P.S. How GREAT is this cover of "As The World Falls Down"? Allow me to answer for you. Really f-ing great.

All photos taken by me, copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Of cloudless climes and starry skies...

Neil Morris Fragrances Spirit of Air

Once upon a time I had an enormous crush on a woman because she always smelled good.

Don't get me wrong. She was a generally lovely woman. Attractive, funny, good-hearted, bright minded, sweet. There was a lot to like about her. But at the time, what I liked about her was that she smelled so good.

The best thing about it was she didn't smell good because of a particular shampoo or perfume or body wash. She wasn't really into fragrance. She didn't consistently use particular hair and body products. She just smelled good. It wasn't her clothes of soap or hair spray.  It was her. The essence of her. She carried this loveliness around her like an aura, floating in the air around her, a cloud of beauty. Like the famous Lord Byron poem, she walked in beauty.

I never could properly describe her scent, but I still remember her loveliness. Though we were never more than friends, I will always remember her and the way her scent made her that much more beautiful.

And speaking of the air of beauty, let's talk about our third Primordial Scent Project: Air Set offering, shall we?

Neil Morris Fragrances Spirit Of Air is described as
part of a quartet of perfumes honoring the 4 elements. This scent is the second in Morris' series, after Spirit of Water. Spirit Of Air has notes of "Lemon Verbena, Linden Blossom, Plum Blossom, Lily of the Valley, Sunflower, Light Musk, White Amber, Ozone Notes.
This is a lovely, gently sweet floral. In a world of artful takes on air, this is very wearable, which is quite an accomplishment. Sometimes scent is art and sometimes scent is accent and occasionally, very occasionally, you find a scent that works as both. If Spirit of Air is an essence of air, it is the essence of air captured in the hair of your beloved, the way it smells when you bury your face against their head or at the nape of the neck.

This air is the air of romance.  It reminds me of that lovely woman, whom I assume is still out there, somewhere.  I have no doubt that where she walks, she takes that inherent beauty with her, not unlike this scent.

To purchase, go directly to the Neil Morris Fragrances site, choose any of the Vault fragrances and then request Spirit of Air at checkout. And if you're interested, don't delay. Until November 5, Neil Morris Fragrances are available at 10% off and free shopping for orders over $70.00.

You can buy the entire Primordial Scent Project: Air Set for $28.00 here.

For more reviews of the Primordial Scent Project: Air Scents, try: Perfume-Smellin' Things; The Perfume Critic; John Reasinger, writing for Perfume Pharmer; Indieperfumes; Donna Hathaway, writing for Perfumer Pharmer.

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

~ "She Walks in Beauty," Lord Byron

Photo of perfume taken by me.  Photo of woman walking courtesy of the Library of Congress, all rights reserved.

Monday, October 29, 2012

It flutters like soft wings in flight...

Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery Honey

Dear reader:

Despite my obsessive fantasies of travel, I have only been out of the country one time. It was less than a year ago. My friend LillieMae and I went to Victoria, B.C.

While we were there, we had some plans: we were going to go see a castle (turned out to be a big mansion, but hey, it was still historic and cool), have high tea (delicious!), and go to the Butterfly Gardens. FN1. Though it took a long, bumpy (and in Lillie's case moderate car-sickness-inducing) bus ride to get there, the gardens were worth the trip. In fact, they were pretty amazing. FN2.

There were so many beautiful winged beasties, both minuscule and enormous, and the air scent was a mixture of the cool, wet mist pumped through the space to keep the leaves of all the tropical plants green and flowering and the sweetness of the copious sugar water feeders hanging everywhere to keep the butterflies fat and happ. After the long ride in the massive heat, it was a great respite in an active day. Despite the summer crowd, it felt kind of magical to wander in the dewy air under hanging vines, among huge fronds, and  twisting around trees with fat leaves, supple and heavy with life, while all around you tiny iridescent creatures in more hues than the rainbow has colors swooped and dove through the air.

When I smell Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery Honey by perfumer Laurie Stern, I think of that place. Honey is described as follows:
Notes: All hail to the queen bee! This regal, opulent composition of French orange blossom, and Moroccan and Bulgarian roses sits on a throne of deep vetiver, Madagascar vanilla, honey, beeswax from the Purrfumery’s bees and my bee guru’s propolis. It is crowned with rare antique clove, pomegranate and pink grapefruit. This royal blend is set in a rich base of sandalwood and vanilla infused alcohol.
Honied and sweet, this scent is the Air of Spring. It has clarity and openness like light glinting on water, like the brush of butterfly wings against skin. I get quite a bit of beeswax, and the floral, fruit, and vanilla sweetnesses blend smoothly, like the warmth flow of poured honey.  As a lover of honey scents, I tend to like these scents, and this one is unique in that it seems less foodie in its honey essence and more the idea of being surrounded by pure honey atomized into the air.

Honey, as the name implies, is a rather sweet scent, but it is truly lovely. Though the opening is quite strong, about 45 minutes in it lightens considerably, so if you like sweet scents on the lighter side, this might be a good scent for you if you can give it a bit. It's an intense experience at first, much like the deep darker wings of butterflies hiding in shadows;  the lingering effect, however, is the image of pale-winged Lepidoptera Papilionoidea soaring through a bright sun overhead, light gleaming through their iridescent skin.

As Laurie Stern states, "honey liquid perfume makes a royal gift, bottled in an elegant Brosse crystal stopper bottle and tucked into an enchanting dupioni silk purse with its own Victorian scent card." It is available direct from the perfumer in three sizes: 8 ml for $185; 15 ml for $325; 1 oz for $550.

Editor's note: Honey is also available in an EdP at 6ml for $75.00 and a solid crème perfume at 10ml for $225.00. Thanks to Monica for the note.

You can buy the entire Primordial Scent Project: Air Set for $28.00 here.

For more reviews of the Primordial Scent Project: Air Scents, try: Perfume-Smellin' Things; The Perfume Critic; John Reasinger, writing for Perfume PharmerIndieperfumes; Donna Hathaway, writing for Perfumer Pharmer.

I feel it when you're with me,
It happens when you kiss me,
that rare and gentle feeling that I feel inside.
Your touch is soft and gentle.
Your kiss is warm and tender.
Whenever I am with you I think of butterflies.

~ "Love is Like a Butterfly," Dolly Parton


FN1. We decided to pass on Butchart Gardens for a number of reasons: expense, time, my allergy to bees, etc.

FN2. Next time, Lil, we will either take the car or rent one. I promise. While the public transit system in Victoria is very easy to use and all the bus drivers were really nice, it was really not worth the additional illness, especially given...the ferry.

Perfume photos taken by me. Awesome butterfly photos taken by LillieMae Stone, 2011. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

When Your Circumstance is Movie-Sized: The Smell of Air

Six Days with the Primordial Scent Project: Air Set

When I was fourteen, I fell in love with a song by Liz Phair called "Stratford-on-Guy." I discovered it on a late night alternative rock show on MTV called 120 Minutes. I was sitting in my dad's room, watching videos while I waited for him to leave for work, and this video came on. I immediately set about trying to find the album, which back then was a lot harder as it required you to have the artist's name and the name of the song (though album was better), then make a physical pilgrimage to a record store or, in my case, music store full of cassette tapes in the local mall, to try to track it down. I had Exile in Guyville pretty much right as it came out thanks to this single, and I played the cassette over and over.

The song isn't particularly profound. It's about the experience of being on a plane. Not like, "here I am separated from my love or going to war and this plane is a metaphor for my loss," but about the visceral experience of being on an actual plane: the stillness of the people, the way the world looks from above, the loud quietness of the space itself, the sense of being connected and disconnected, or moving and not moving, of doing something menial (sitting and reading a magazine, drinking a coke and eating peanuts) and simultaneously extraordinary (flying). The description of the experience got to the heart of me in some deep and fundamental way, like a poem I keep returning to and finding new colors in the words.

At that point in my life, it would be another two years before I flew on a plane for the first time. When I finally did it, I was terrified. I was entranced. It still seems impossible that you don't fall right out of the sky. Impossible that you become surrounded by clouds so that every window in all directions is filled with nothing but whiteness. Above you, below you, left and right, whiteness. It's as if you've entered a strange kind of otherworld, where childhood images of heaven, or the unknown great hereafter, is nothing but pearly clouds and angelic figures.

Even today, every time I fly, there comes a moment when the earth disappears and space disappears and there is only a small room surrounded by whiteness, all manner of whiteness, and the thrum of the engines is barely noticeable on your skin and in your ears and the space has a strange kind of stale coolness. In that moment, I wonder if this is what those first few moments after dying will be like for me. It won't be a tunnel of light or a large foreboding gate or a set of scales with my soul on one side and a blackbird's feather on the other. It will be me, going somewhere unseen and unknown at an impossible speed, not alone but still profoundly singular in the experience, not quite here or there yet, in progress.

After all, isn't that the space we all really live in? Hurtling toward the future at an impossible speed, yet not quite free of the past behind us? If you died there, in that space, would you even know it? Or would you just ask for more peanuts?

That's a lot to get out of a 120 Minutes video. Twenty years later, and I still listen to the album a couple of times a year. When "Stratford-on-Guy" comes on, I feel that profound sense of being outside and yet somehow in the moment, every time.

The thing that makes me tell you about this experience, dear reader, is that we have reached another week of the Primordial Scent Project. For the next six days our focus is the primordial element of Air. I knew I was getting the Air set before it arrived, and the concept intrigued me. Water? Fire? Those are scents I feel like I have a relationship with. Whenever I thought about how to capture Air as an element in scent, I kept thinking of "Stratford-on-Guy" and the liminal experience of air travel.

It took an hour, maybe a day,
but when I really listened, the noise just went away.

What does it mean to make a fragrance that captures the essence of air? Is it a sort of nothing, an almost absence of scent? Is it a particular scent, a moment captured on the wind? Is it a mishmash of all the things one loves best, a kind of everything scent? Or is it somewhere in between?

That's the question we're going to explore this week with the Primordial Scent Project.

Our first Air scent is Michael Storer's Djin. The Posh Peasant describes the scent as follows:
A powerful djin is what Aladdin brought forth when he rubbed his famous lamp.A spectral and prismatic interplay of olfactory sensations is what you’ll set free with just a few sprays of Djin parfum. Djin’s notes range through all the chakras from the base of the spine with very male Aldrone, leathery castoreum, civet, musk, tonka bean and teakwood, to a middle of sweeter woods tempering the bitterness of grapefruit oil, blackcurrant absolute, clary sage, just a hint of vanilla and iris. This all carries on through the upper spine right to the forehead with an aura of ozonic and marine notes, rose and topped with mind-opening spices including cardamom seed and floral aldehydes. This is all we will reveal. You’ll just have to rub the magic lamp yourself to experience all the full-bodied power of Djin.
The immediate opening is green, sweet, and woody, a fresh light scent that would be easily interpreted as either masculine or feminine. The middle section of Djin is a lovely ozone and marine mixture that reminds of me the prettiest aspects of the smell of the kind of recycled air on a plane, but without the stale unpleasant points. It reminds me what my grandmother used to call "store bought air," with a hefty emphasis on a kind of green dewiness.

I tried Djin a couple of times, and there was always something about the scent I couldn't quite put my finger on. When I couldn't place it easily, couldn't find the right words, I kept going back to that concept of liminal space. An in-between scent for the not quite here or there moment, both in travel and in life. It lives in the quiet beyond the busy-ness of our daily lives, that place where we are forced to sit and wait for our external selves to begin again. In that moment of not-quite-here-or-there-ness, we find a strange kind of peace.

Now what could be more magical than that?

Djin is a light, pretty scent lingers over the skin for hours. The sillage is low but the longevity is good, lasting on me about eight hours.

You can buy Djin for $75 from the Posh Peasant. You can also buy by contacting the perfumer directly.

You can buy the entire Primordial Scent Project: Air Set for $28.00 here.

For more reviews of the Primordial Scent Project: Air Scents, try:  Perfume-Smellin' ThingsThe Perfume Critic;  John Reasinger, writing for Perfume PharmerIndieperfumesDonna Hathaway, writing for Perfumer Pharmer.

The earth looked like it was lit from within
like a poorly assembled electrical ball.
As we moved out of the farmlands into the grid
the plan of a city was all that you saw.
And all of these people sitting totally still
as the ground raced beneath them, thirty-thousand feet down...

~ "Stratford-On-Guy," Liz Phair

Photo of scents taken by me; other photos from Creative Commons: Airplane in sky and Clouds from airplane. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Down by the water, I took her hand.

Sea Scape by Anu Prestonia of Anu Essentials

And here we reach the fifth and final day of the Primordial Scent Project: Water scents. This week we're having our first true rain of Fall, and Anu Essentials Sea Scape is described as follows:
Bring the ocean closer to you with this unique combination of seaweed, violet leaf, Bulgarian rose, Tunisian neroli, ambergris and two kinds of jasmine to start the lapping of the waves smoothly rolling in on your consciousness, relaxing your mind and stirring your soul.
You know what this scent made me think of first? Tide pools. When you hike along the Oregon and Washington coasts, you will find yourself in long pants and hiking boots, scrambling over rocky outcroppings to star down at beautiful tide pools. These little swirling worlds team with life -- crabs and star fish, sand dollars and kelp, moss and algae.

When you stand over them, peering into their worlds, a smell will rose toward you. That smell is green and wet and, well, primordial. It is the scent that reminds me that we once came from the water, and that we may eventually return.

Sea Scape rides very close to the skin for such a potent scent. It manages to be a strong perfume, without a radius that would knock your neighbor down. If your water scent tastes run toward the green and life-giving end of the spectrum, this might be the water option for you.

Samples are available from the perfumer for $5, and a full bottle is $85.00 direct from the perfumer.

If you'd like to try the entire Primordial Scent Project: Water set, it's available here for $25.00.

By far the best/worst part of this for me is that there is no clear winner among the water scents.  They were all really terrific, and every time I tried to pick one I liked 'best' or even that I thought was the most accurate or clearest representation of "water," I couldn't. They all seem to represent slightly different but very real encounters of water in the world to me, and are all a kind of bliss-inducing experience. I feel very lucky to have been part of the project, and I still have the Fire and Air scents to tell you about. So if water scents aren't your cup of tea, stay tuned!

For more reviews of the primordial water scents, try: EauMG; The Perfume Critic; Fragrantica.

Little fish, big fish,
swimming in the water.
Come back here, man,
give my daughter.

~ "Down By The Water," PJ Harvey

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mitt Romney and the Myth of Women's Work

Thanks Binders Full
of Women tumblr!
Last night, while driving back from dinner, David and I pulled up to a light.
D: "Oh no! Mitt Romney has been here!"
Me: "How do you know?"
D: "Look!" *points to papers and broken binder scattered on ground in middle of road* "Binder remains!"
Me: "But where are all the women?"
D: "This is the Pacific Northwest. They knew they could flee for safety here."
Me: "Run, women! Run for your lives!"
. . . . 

Okay, all binder hilarity aside (and there is some good stuff out there, my favorite being the customer reviews on Avery 1" binders for sale on Amazon -- Thanks to Carli R. for the link), there was something former Governor Romney said in the debates, something inaccurate and truly sexist, and it didn't have anything to do with binders full of women, or even a flexible work schedule being required such that working women can get home in time it make dinner. FN1. The moment that I keep returning to with fire in my belly got buried between those two more obviously tone-deaf moments, and because I can't let it go, dear reader, I'm going to talk to you about it.

Okay, here's the critical snippet of transcript, reader. Let's play a rousing round of "Spot the Sexist!"
Romney: "Now, one of the reasons I was able to get so many good women to be part of that team was because of our recruiting effort, but number two, because I recognized that if you're going to have women in the workforce, that sometimes they need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said, I can't be here until 7:00 or 8:00 at night. I need to be able to get home at 5:00 so I can be there for -- making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said, fine, let's have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you."
Did you catch it? It's probably all those logic puzzles I had to do in preparation for the LSAT, but ever since then, if/then statements really jump out at me. "If" implies a condition, something that may or may not happen. It's only a precedent possibility. It isn't a foregone conclusion. It's something that isn't necessary or inevitable.

"I recognized that if you're going to have women in the workforce, that sometimes they need to be more flexible."



This is the torn in my paw, the splinter in my skin, the pea under my mattress, dear reader. And I'll tell you why this bothers me so much.

First, it offends me as a feminist because it implies the work a person - male or female - does at home (keeping a home, raising a family, cooking meals, shuttling kids around, etc.) isn't real work, that they aren't part of the 'workforce.' This argument is, of course, completely nonsensical, as we all know that housekeepers don't work for free, daycare isn't provided gratis, personal chefs don't volunteer their services. These are jobs that have market value. We've determined, even under the most mercenary capitalist calculations, that these services have a value.

This is an assumed benefit, you see. Like a hidden cost, it rides for free in the market place, never being thought of for its true value. However, if every person doing home care shifted one home to the left or right, did their neighbor's work, and submitted a bill to said neighbor who in turn paid them, these individuals would no longer be 'invisible' members of the "workforce." The idea that society requires this sort of task shifting in order to fully acknowledge the monetary value to this benefit is, in a word, stupid.

BUT, even if I set this feminist objection aside, the historian in me is appalled by the sheer willful ignorance of this statement. This historian, with her very expensive education in American women's history, is the yelling voice in my head, and her secondary objection actually gets to the far more problematic part of Mr. Romney's privileged point of view.

As far back as this country has existed, women have worked. Puritans like John Cotton and John Rogers remarked as they settled in Plymouth, Providence, and Massachusetts Bay on the work performed by women of the native peoples. Be they Pequot, Narragansett, or Mohegan, these women completed all agricultural work except the growing of tobacco. All the food stuffs planted and reaped and prepared in those times, you know the ones that kept the settlers from starving in those first rough winters? Women created those goods for gift, trade, or purchase.  These same Puritan men set about building a City on a Hill; meanwhile, their Puritan wives canned goods, wove cloth, dried meats, and preserved and created other goods to be traded, sold, and purchased between the colonies and with the natives.

During the American industrial age, women worked in factories and manufacturing from its beginnings in the mid-1700s all the way to its end in the 1900s. Women worked during both world wars. Poor women, immigrant women, and women of color have worked in domestic positions for white families for pay in this country virtually forever. FN3.

Women have always worked. They have always been part of the workforce, even when you limit the definition of "workforce" to work done outside one's own home. They have been paid teachers, nurses, factory workers, craftswomen, midwives, trade persons. Even during the Victorian period, wealthy white women worked as novelists and writers and educators.

National Women's Law Center's report
on pay inequity is available here.
This notion that there was a magical historical past where women did nothing but kept house and raised their children is a myth. If it has ever existed, it was only for the very, very wealthy white women of the Victorian era and for a handful of years to a select group of middle-class white women living in the suburbs in post-WWII America, a lot of whom had been forced out of jobs they enjoyed when the war ended and they  'went home,' giving their positions to returning veterans. And let's not forget, as documented in detail by writers like Betty Friedan, these women were deeply miserable, to the point that they inspired the second wave of the feminism movement and its efforts to obtain equal access to the sphere of public work and employment opportunities for women. FN4.

There is no "if." This fabled "if" has never existed. Women are an integral part of "the workforce," both in the public and private spheres. The work they have done and continue to do remains underpaid, under appreciated, and often unnoticed, but make no mistake: it is WORK. We are part of the workforce. We have always been part of the workforce. We will always be part of the workforce.

That former Governor Romney believes that this fact is at present -  or has ever been - conditional demonstrates how completely out of touch he is with the reality of the vast majority of women's lives. He also seems crazily uninformed about American history for someone who seeks our highest office.

And that, my friends, is what makes me most afraid. How can we expect someone to govern our country with our best interests in mind when he truly does not even see half of us? He is blind to the lives of all but the most privileged women, and he presumes that the work they do is both inherently less valuable and should come second to their familial obligations, as though men do not have to and should not have to share these same responsibilities. He is fundamentally blind to women and to his own male privilege, in the same way he is blind to poor people and his corresponding wealth, to working class people and his corresponding family purchased opportunities, to people of color and his own whiteness.

No wonder then-Governor Romney and his male cohorts 'could not find' any qualified women to join his cabinet. He never saw them in the first place. FN5. And in his own words, as recently as just this last week on prime time national television, Mr. Romney has revealed that he still doesn't.

"Through their own words
they will be exposed. 
They've got a severe case of 
the emperor's new clothes."
~ "The Emperor's New Clothes," Sinead O'Connor

FN1. Though don't mistake me, all of that was some heinously sexist b.s.

FN2. Yes, a historian, professional feminist, and attorney all sit around, yelling different arguments at me /the world in my head, while the 'fumie just sits in a corner, sniffing at her wrists and muttering, "pretty!" Doesn't everyone's head work like that?

FN3. Well, you know, after we stopped enslaving them.

FN4. Again, it is worth noting here that this 'workplace struggle' was largely lost on their impoverished sisters in arms as well as women of color and immigrant women, all of whom never had the luxurious option of staying home and remaining outside the public sphere of work in the first place.

FN5. And in case this whole binder business wasn't offensive enough, it turned out to contain an incredible amount of spin. The real story involves being approached by a women's group in Massachusetts with a request to include more women in government, not a concerted effort on Mr. Romney's part to find women for his cabinet.

Let the only sound be the overflow.

Ane Walsh's Essaouira EDP

Dear reader:

Here's another weird, formative experience water story.  I met my second boyfriend, with whom I had a whopping total of one date in our whole six-ish months of "we go to different high schools and only talk on the phone" dating, at a water park. FN1. Jim, last name now long lost to the annual of time, I remember only four things clearly about: he was cute; he was a football player (only one I ever dated); he had thick southern accent; and he chose me out of a passel of girls I would have bet good money at the time were all prettier, more interesting, nicer, and better with boys than I was.

This last fact might be the most remarkable, dear reader, because that was the summer that I turned, seemingly overnight, from a pauper to a princess. Seriously. I don’t think a single boy had ever so much as glanced in my direction before that summer. FN2. Then, all the sudden, it was like someone had done a makeover montage set to music, waved a fairy wand over my head, and Bam! Instant acknowledgement.

This was a strange experience, especially for a girl whose mom had decided to take a powder two years earlier, right when I was actually starting to need a mom to explain things to me.  I had no idea what to do.  It took me totally by surprise. I mean, I was the little girl who would give her fourth grade crush a valentine at school only to find it torn up and left on my desk in a clear sign of the boy’s rejection and utter disgust. And if I will remember Jim after all these intervening years, that trip to the now defunct Six Flags: Waterworld will always stand out in my mind as a time I discovered, to no one's greater surprise than my own, that I was...pretty.  Desirable. For that, and for the extreme wedgies those really steep water slides gave me, I'll always remember, and be (at least for the slide part) grateful.

Day four of water world, scent edition, over here.  Today, I am thrilled to bring you a scent from Ane Walsh, Essaouira. The notes include "sweet orange, grapefruit, lemon, lavender, blue chamomile, saffron, coconut, Khao Yao oud, and Atlas cedar."

This is the one who smells the most like a drink of water straight from the glass to me. It is dry, which you might think is a strange descriptor for a water scent, but hey, we use the same word to describe wines all the time, and it is perfectly apt here. Dry, lovely, and really impressively realistic.

It smells almost like dried grasses or wheat, which for me means the saffron and cedar are the strongest notes, with hints of coconut and oud sweetening and deepening the scent. The sweetest notes are truly in the top here, citrus burning off within the first twenty to thirty minutes, until all that is left is the taste of really cold water dancing in my nose.

It feels so fundamental to me, it's hard to imagine wearing Essaouira for a special occasion, but I could easily imagine reaching for it over and over again during the nine months of cool, dark, wet that blesses each Pacific Northwestern winter here. Sillage is low to moderate, but the longevity is good.

If you'd like to try the entire Primordial Scent Project Water set, it's available here for $25.00.

For more reviews of the primordial water scents, try: EauMG; The Perfume Critic; Fragrantica.

Time it took us
to where the water was.
That's what the water gave me.
And time goes quicker
between the two of us.
Oh, my love, don't forsake me.
Take what the water gave me.

~ "What the Water Gave Me," Florence + the Machine
FN1. We were both too young to drive.

FN2. Okay,  I think there was one little boy in first grade, but that’s another story for another day.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Take me to the river. Drop me in the water.

Lylli Bleu EdP from Justine Crane of The Scented Djinn

Here is another water story for you, dear reader.  When I was young, I had two grandparents I worshiped  FN1.  They had a beach house out on the Gulf. It was out on Bolivar peninsula, a ferry ride past Galveston.  When I think of my childhood, that house is probably the one place I remember being consistently and uniformly happy.

My grandfather, my Papa, he had a massive stroke when I was only five.  Still, I have a handful of memories of him before it happened.  I remember him mowing the front lawn while I saw on the stoop with something sticky on my hands.  I can remember him driving me to the beach in an old blue station wagon.  I know he's driving because I can see the back of his head and his shoulder, clad in this hideous polyester white and dark blue paisley shirt, above the edge of the seat. FN2. And I remember, very clearly, that he used to take me out, way out into the water, all the way to the second sandbar, in an old inner tube that smelled strongly of rubber.

In the clearest of these inner tube memories, I am screaming, caterwauling, because he is dragging me out and, for some reason, I want to go in.  Strong-willed even at age three, I am yelling, "Let me go! Let me go!" I can hear him say, "Okay," with a heavy sigh, and he let's the tube go.  I float with the flow of water away from him slightly as the tide gathers itself a little.

Then the wave comes.

Over I go, flung out of the inner tube and down into the water.  My eyes are open because I don't have the sense to close them. The water is a brownish grey from the heavy silt in the area and murky, clouding my vision. I see seaweed churning in the wave's wake.  I'm flailing, but the water is stronger than my uncoordinated limbs, and I twist and thrash. I think, though I don't know if this is then or now in retrospect, that I am drowning, and it scares me.

Then hands find me and pull me out.  My eyes sting.  I cough and choke as the salty, bitter water clears my lungs.  He's carrying me back to shore now, holding me to his warm skin easily with one arm while he drags the inner tube behind us with the other hand.

"You let me go.  You promised you wouldn't let me go." I scream, crying. "Why did you let me go?"

Laughing, he says, "Because you asked me to."

I think of this memory at least one hundred times every year.

"Why did you let me go?"

"Because you asked me to."

He would have given me anything, I think.  Even if he knew it wasn't a good idea, he'd have given it to me because I asked for it.

I don't know what to do with that kind of love, even as a hazy memory.

When I think of those times, I smell salt and silt and rubber, hot sand and seaweed and jellyfish and picked over corpses of sea creatures rotting in the hot sun. Does that sound disgusting?  It isn't. It's a visercal kind of beautiful. There's a lot of life and death and life again in those warm waters.  The smell of it still haunts my dreams.

Which brings us to Day Three! We have reached day three of the Primordial Scent Project: Water. Okay, who knew it was possible to do so many different realistic well-done aspects of water? Not me, trust me. I've been disappointed by enough 'water' scents to have been a littler nervous when I agreed to review the water-centered scents.

Lylli Bleu EdP's notes include "blue lotus, mitti, sandalwood, and neroli," and it is a sweet, dirty, wet scent that reminds me of the smell of water my backyard for the first time a few weeks ago. I have fruit trees, you see, and when I watered, the smell of tart apples, over ripe pears, and rotting plums all rose up from the grass along with the smell of wet dirt and grass and moss. This is similar in spirit, thought not as sweet or hot as the immediate scent of the rotting fruit flesh under the hot summer sun.

It is stunning, how water can revive scents, bring them out in things that seem spent, or wasted, or dead. When we search the universe for signs of life, we always search for water. When I have moments like this, I understand why. There is something, well, primordial about the scent of water, and for day three in a row, here is another scent that demonstrates that smells is beautiful and wearable. Moderate to low sillage, lasting between six and eight hours on me.

If you'd like to try the entire Primordial Scent Project: Water set, it's available here for $25.00.

For more reviews of the primordial water scents, try: EauMG; The Perfume Critic; Fragrantica.

Hold me; squeeze me.
Love me; tease me
'til I can,'til I can't,
'til I can't tell....

~ "Take Me to the River," Talking Heads


FN1. I still worship them. They're just not here anymore. But I still miss them and think of them every day.

FN2. This must have been 1981 or 1982, so back off the bad fashion, haters. In my mind's eye it is what we historian's call "period appropriate."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Here comes the rain again...

Aftelier Perfumes Rain Perfumed Bath Oil

Today is Day Two of Primordial Scents Project: Water here at Feminine Things. And what fortuitous timing, as the first good rain has come to the PNW this week, and it has made everything cool and wet and beautiful.  And speaking of our lovely rain, have I got a scent for you today.

Mandy Aftel is a terrific indie perfumer, and her contribution to the Primordial Scent Project is Aftelier Perfumes Rain Perfumed Bath Oil. The scent is described as:
Fresh, uplifting with apple notes featuring ravensara and a special chamomile from South Africa along with other essential oils. Our bath oils are made of pure essential oils, with no carrier.
Do you ever try to smell water, like breathe deeply into a long sip of water, and smell an almost earthy scent, like a mixture of bark, earth, and rubber? Something deep and rooty, slightly sweet and salty. This bath oil is that aspect of rain. Rain splattering against dirt and matted, fallen leaves, bouncing off warm concrete, steaming off a hot car hood, spun through rubber tires on the highway, sliding down wood shingled roofs, dripping into rivulets that become rivers that flow into the ocean. It's somehow both brackish and clean, as clear as the kinds of mountain streams they show in television commercials  and as dark and dirty as the Mississippi-fed Gulf waters I grew up in.

A little bit goes a long way with this bath oil, which is strong enough to scent you and your bathroom both beautifully with only a few drops. It might seem strange, taking a bath scented like the rain, but there is something so beautiful, so soothing, about being able to take the scent of the water with you, gently clinging to your skin for hours after you leave your soak. Me? I found it terrific right before bed. I'd wake up with the vague memory of rain-scented dreams.

Rain Perfumed Bath Oil is a luxurious experience, and as we head toward the holidays, may I recommend this as a terrific stocking stuffer for the water lover in your life? Trust me. They'll be thrilled. Moderate sillage, but incredibly long lasting, traces lingered on my skin for up to twelve hours.

Rain Bath Oil is available for $45 for a .5 oz from the perfumer. You can also get a 2ml sample for $4.

If you'd like to try the entire Primordial Scent Project: Water set, it's available here for $25.00.

For more reviews of the primordial water scents, try: EauMG; The Perfume Critic; Fragrantica.

...falling on my head like a memory,
falling on my head like a new emotion.
I want to walk in the open wind.
I want to talk like lovers do.
I want to dive into your ocean.
Is it raining with you?"

~ "Here Comes the Rain Again," Eurythmics

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

For the love of water.

A Study in Water by Shelley Waddington of EnVoyage Perfumes

Dear reader:

I love water.

Seriously. And not in the "I'm athletic and water is the drink of life" kind of way. I mean in the "though I'm not into astrology, I am supposed to be a water sign and I do entirely freak out if I live too far from the ocean or go too many days without rain" kind of way. Seriously. My one year of residence in the high deserts of Santa Fe were miserable, and my loathing for Riverside was disproportionate because of the relentless sun. I even preferred Houston over Austin in part because Austin is too far from the ocean and the Lake is not prominent enough in the geography of the town to satisfy my tastes. FN1.

I am one of those people who literally prays for rain, and not because I am a dust bowl farmer or cattleman with a desperate herd. When I was young and they sent me to Girl Scout camp, while the other little girls were making lanyards and God's Eyes out of yarn and popsicle sticks, I sat in the corner, imagining I was a water witch, and trying to summon storms. The last year I went, I simultaneously 'became a woman' (FN2) and managed to bring a huge tropical storm down on us that washed out the road to the camp and closed it down for two weeks. Coincidence? Probably. But try telling that to an eleven-year-old.

So when I was approached to be part of the Primordial Scents Project a while ago, I immediately said yes. What's not to love? Elemental-themed perfumes for the water witch in my heart? Sign me up. While normally I despise aquatics, which is about what passes for 'water' in mainstream perfumery, I was deeply hopeful based on the amazing talents I saw involved in the project. I love a disproportionately large amount of beach/coast scents -- from Annick Goutal Songes to slumberhouse Sana to CB At the Beach 1966 to even a small bottle of Coty Sand & Sable -- but these are 'beach' scents or 'coast' scents, and what I wanted was the smell of water. I wanted the smell of rain, the smell of the ocean, of a lake, a river, a stream. You know those ridiculous face cleanser commercials where women splash water on themselves and half the bathroom as though that ever removed the smallest hint of make-up or soap?

I wanted that, but in a scent. And, as usual, the amazing men and women who traffic in the alchemic magic of perfumery did not disappoint.

First up: A Study in Water by Shelley Waddington of EnVoyage Perfumes
Study in Water was inspired by the element of fresh water. My goal in making this incredibly sheer, wet, and innocent fragrance was to retain the elegance, longevity and sillage of the most excellent of classic perfumes. ~Shelley Waddington

Top notes: muguet, lime, green apple, bergamot, dew
Heart notes: rose water, jasmine, green leaves, neroli, muguet
Base notes: sandalwood, guaiac wood, cabreuva, watery notes, musk
A Study in Water is ahhh-mazing. Do you hear me, reader? Amazing. Like I've almost used my entire sample in less than three weeks and I've already set aside money to buy a bottle before the end of October. That amazing. The first time I put it on, it was that startling slap of instant love for me. I thought, "I should hate this," but while my head said, "Aquatic - bleck!," my heart was like, "Shut it, foo! I WANT MORE!" It's gotten under my skin in the best way.

I'm not going to tell you it smells like a glass of water. In fact, I just sniffed a cup in front of me to make sure. And yet, it does smell like water. Like water dripping from the skin of an apple, from the tip of a flower petal, running down grooves in polished wood. It's water that has taken on the essence of the flowers, fruit and wood listed in the notes, until it seems like an infusion of dew along so those items. Of the five scents in the set, I found A Study in Water to have the highest sillage and duration on my skin.

I really can't say enough good things about this scent. If you like the smell of rain, of the first morning dew, or something that isn't quite, but somehow is the closest I've ever smelled to real water, this is for you. Truly masterful.

You can by A Study in Water for $55.00 for .5 oz, or $80.00 for 1 oz. direct from the perfumer. While I'm on the subject of EnVoyage Perfumes, this is my third or fourth scent of Shelley's, and she never disappoints. If you're newish to perfume or new to indie perfume or merely looking to branch out beyond your local Ulta/Sephora/Nordstrom offerings and into the web based wilds, I encourage you to consider sampling her line. She continues to hit it out of the park for me.

If you'd like to try the entire Primordials Water Set, it's available here for $25.00.

For more reviews of the primordial water scents, try: EauMG; The Perfume Critic; Fragrantica.

The water is wide, I cannot get o'er,
neither have I wings to fly.
Give me a boat that can carry two
and both shall row, my love and I...

~ "The Water is Wide," Traditional Irish Folk Song

FN1. This is partly why I thought I could handle life in Madison. The city is surrounded by water, it actually rains there, and the great lakes, while a lesser substitute (sorry, Hilary S., but it's true), were at least within a few hours driving distance.

FN2. ...which by the way was the worst, especially since this was a swimming camp, I was eleven, and the camp counselors -- all 16-18 y.o. teenage girls -- did not understand why I was terrified of the tampons they kept shoving in my general direction so I could just get back in the water...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Moment of Inspiration: Privilege of Being

Dear reader:

If you come here often, you know me pretty well now, after a fashion. Certainly you know many of my passions. After all, this has largely become the place for my passion: this cool white imagined room in my head, where I keep the things I treasure: bits of conversations; snatches of music floating by; the impressionist fiction arising unbidden from a particular scent; a really important memory. You know, if you come here, that I love, in no particular order: road trips, rain, perfume, music, books. BUt there are others I don't talk about often or at all: boxes of nail polishes that shimmer in a multitude of hues; the ways leaves change color in fall so that I take hundreds of pictures that are never as good as the ones in my mind; the ocean, always and often foremost, the ocean.

Here's another: poetry. I love poetry. I have so many books of poetry, so many favorite poems I've read again and again. I particularly like modern American poetry. I have a few books of modern poetry, mostly anthologies, that I've purchased several times, when I couldn't find the original copy or was worried the original was out of print and I wouldn't even find another. And because I like you, dear reader, and because I only very recently moved into a place where I could open ten years of boxes and look at all my books and I'm excited to have ready access to all those books at once, I have a little gift for you. I'm going to begin sharing a few of my favorites with you, along with some random things I string together with them...songs and memories and...things, just things. Things that create the full experience of the poem for me.

I hope you like it.

.  .  .  .  . 

Privilege of Being by Robert Hass

Many are making love. Up above, the angels

in the unshaken ether and crystal
of human longing
are braiding one another’s hair, which is
strawberry blond
and the texture of cold rivers. They glance
down from time to time at the awkward ecstasy—
it must look to them like featherless birds
splashing in the spring puddle of a bed—
and then one woman, she is about to come,
peels back the man’s shut eyelids and says,
look at me, and he does. Or is it the man
tugging the curtain rope in that dark theater?
Anyway, they do, they look at each other;
two beings with evolved eyes, rapacious,
startled, connected at the belly
in an unbelievably sweet
lubricious glue, stare at each other,
and the angels are desolate. They hate it. They
shudder pathetically
like lithographs of Victorian beggars
with perfect features and alabaster
skin hawking rags
in the lewd alleys of the novel.
All of creation is offended by this distress.
It is like the keening sound
the moon makes sometimes,
rising. The lovers especially cannot bear it,
it fills them with unspeakable sadness, so that
they close their eyes again and hold
each other, each
feeling the mortal singularity of the body
they have enchanted out of death
for an hour or so,
and one day, running at sunset, the woman
says to the man,
I woke up feeling so sad this morning
because I realized
that you could not, as much as I love you,
dear heart, cure my loneliness,
wherewith she touched his cheek to reassure him
that she did not mean to hurt him with this truth.
And the man is not hurt exactly,
he understands that life has limits, that people
die young, fail at love,
fail of their ambitions. He runs beside
her, he thinks
of the sadness they have gasped and crooned
their way out of
coming, clutching each other with old, invented
forms of grace and clumsy gratitude, ready
to be alone again, or dissatisfied, or merely
companionable like the couples
on the summer beach
reading magazine articles about intimacy
between the sexes
to themselves, and to each other,
and to the immense, illiterate, consoling angels.

from Human Wishes, 1989 

From left to right, top to bottom: By Kilian A Taste of HeavenWeeping Angel, Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum;  Golden Eagle Feathers; Atelier Cologne Grand NeroliGrey Goose FeathersHolding Hands; Oregon Coast; Ineke Floral Curiosities Perfume Angels TrumpetSteller's Sea Eagle Head Feathers.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Winner, winner, get your winner here!

Congrats to LaFleur and LawGoddess on their respective wins!  I have quite a few of the Jo Malone scents, so I feel like it is kismet that ya'll will get to try the line thanks to me and my little ole drawing.  Send your addresses to feminine(dot)things(dot)gmail(dot)com and I will send you a little fall time music and scent to celebrate the change of seasons!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Blackberry winter in a little white church...

Jo Malone Blackberry & Bay

You know what I love, dear reader?

A fancy 'do. I don't mean a fancy hairdo (though those are nice, too), I mean a fancy schmancy party. Doubly nice? Perfume release parties. Seriously. They are the height of indulgence. Nice food and drinks, nice smells, nice people -- the best of all.

Now I know that a lot of people have middling feelings about Jo Malone scents, particularly among the those who are run perfume blogs. I personally find their scent line to have a lot of scents that hit a pleasing note that isn't aggressive or hard to deal with, just pretty and fun and easy in a thoughtless way, which frankly, has been kind of nice given my stress levels of late. I have quite a few of their scents and I know my local reps at the downtown Nordstrom by name, so when they have events, I tend to get invited. I finally managed to make it to the release party for their newest fragrance, Jo Malone Blackberry & Bay. Say what you will about the fine people of Jo Malone, but know this: they do throw a pretty lovely perfume release party.

The event started with the group of attendees being provided blackberry lemonade for sipping and personal blackberry tarts in to-go boxes  and little jars of blackberry jam for us to enjoy at our leisure. We sat in a small group, talking about early remembrances of scent and our experience of the line under the coordinated prompting of the regional training specialist. We were given different scents in the line to try along with a brief description of Jo Malone's history as a company. When they finally came around to producing the scent we were there to meet, they started by passing out fresh blackberries to the crowd along with fresh bay leaves. We were asked to crush the berries on our tongue and describe the way the fruit tasted, then to tear the bay leaf, and after a few sniffs, do the same.

Then out came Jo Malone Blackberry & Bay, which Jo Malone describes the scent as follows:
Vibrant. Verdant. New Blackberry & Bay. Inspired by childhood memories of blackberry picking. A burst of deep, tart blackberry juice, blending with the freshness of just-gathered bay and brambly woods. A scent of innocence. An irresistible collection to savour.
The immediate opening of Blackberry & Bay is more bay leaf than blackberry. The immediate berry aspects coming through is the tart aspects of the berry crushed immediately on the tongue. This part of the scent is interesting. it's fresh without being too light or overly fruity like so many more mainstream scent takes would be on a similar perfume effort. Unfortunately, it doesn't stay in this tart, fresh place as long as I'd like it to. Like the real fruit, it bursts into sweet fruit, and while still slightly tart and green thanks to the bay leaf note, those aspects become side players in the scent, the kind of character actors you wish would come back to steal the story from the supposed stars.

Now don't let me undersell you on the fruity part, because it is very nice. I just wish the tart and green bits were stronger. My biggest beef with the middle to end of the scent is the musky base. It is a little distracting, like the sound of a low radio from another room. Which is too bad, because the fruit part is lovely. As fruity scents go, I can attest that it is surprisingly realistic. The scent is realistic, robust, dare I even say, supple? Go back a moment to the experiment from the experiment from the scent release event -- berry crushed on tongue while torn bay leaves waves under the nose. Honestly? Thanks to the immediate fruit-in-mouth to scent-on-arm comparison, I can tell you they did a pretty good job.

On the whole? I really like Blackberry & Bay. But more than that, I needed it. Fall is late coming here in Oregon. It's been hot, dry, and sunny for far too long for my tastes. I was out watering the lawn today, trying to keep my plants alive, and could not believe it was already October. October! It is the time of leaf peeping and corn mazes and caramel apples and carving pumpkins. It should not feel like summer as the leaves begin to change, but it does. The last golden light of summer. And while I crave a scent that says "Fall," it needs to be a whisper. It needs to evoke Fall without invoking cashmere sweaters or very hot drinks or crackling fireplaces. I needed something that said Fall in the same way that Dar Williams "End of Summer" is about both endings and transitions into something new.

So if you, like me dear reader, think the best time of year for rebirth is the season of 'death,' the moment that gold goes down to grey, then I submit Blackberry & Bay as a terrific scent for this liminal moment of transition. Me? I bought a bottle.

My frequently mentioned partner in crime, the Kate, decided on a whim to come with me to the event, and it was nice to have someone there who wasn't a 'perfume' person because it provided me some additional perspective on these events. I asked Kate to give me a little feedback on how she found the event as someone largely unfamiliar with perfume and with Jo Malone as a line. Her general response?
OMG. I'm eating a pastry that I smell like. I may not be a perfumista, but I endorse this lifestyle.
And as for you, dear reader, I have not forgotten you. I did not tell you this story of fancy food and drink and perfume to show you all I have that you cannot. Nope. I believe that good things should be shared. And while I can't make the delicious lemonade and berry tart appear at your home, I can provide a sample of Blackberry & Bay and a CD for you to enjoy.

She remembers the nights he’d come calling,
his yellow silk tie.
In love, she saw him falling for her in the fire of July.
Then one day as the nights grew longer,
blackberry winter in a little white church
stood a young pretty bride...

~ "Forever Changed," Carrie Underwood

So! Leave a comment to enter, any comment at all, and I will pick TWO WINNERS! That's right, two winners. Twice as nice.

Winners will receive a copy of my Fall 2012 Mix CD and a sample of Jo Malone Blackberry & Bay (and probably a couple of other scents). Comment by Monday, October 8, 2011, 11:59 PM PST! Open to U.S. and International readers.