Category Archives: Smell

What is art?

Why do we sacrifice so much energy to our art?

Not in order to teach others but to learn with them what our existence, our organism, our personal and unrepeatable experience have to give us;

to learn to break down the barriers which surround us… and to free ourselves from the breaks which hold us back, from the lies about ourselves which we manufacture daily for ourselves and for others;

to destroy the limitations caused by our ignorance and lack of courage;

in short, to fill the emptiness in us: to fulfill ourselves.

Art is neither a state of the soul (in the sense of some extraordinary, unpredictable moment of inspiration) nor a state of man (in the sense of a profession or social function).

Art is a ripening, an evolution, an uplifting which enables us to emerge from darkness into a blaze of light.

– Grotowski

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Today

I want…

Peace, stillness, water, smiles, freedom, happiness, music, dance, coffee, cleanliness, clarity, organization, looseness, breath, deep breaths, buzzing, tipping, highness, driving, rolling, floating, swimming, cuddling, wiggling, tapping, swaying, relaxing, hope, inspiration, blushing, flushing, openness, heart, will, passion, a thrill, then rest, sleep, talking, laughing, singing, greens, blues, golds, sparkles, softness, lightness, fuzziness, something genuine, powder, flowers, power. over. my. thoughts., a reprieve …

I have…


I do…

… believe it’s about time for a change.

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Base notes

I adore perfume. And given my passion for aromatherapy, sometimes I think I was a perfumer in a past life.

I’ve written before about how difficult it is for me to find one scent and stick to it. I just can’t. I love shopping for them. I love the process of researching my next purchase, which includes reading reviews and descriptions of a perfume’s top, middle, and base notes. I find these descriptions beautiful and poetic, and can lose hours reading about different ones.

Take this, for example, which describes something I bought last weekend.

On first application, I smell aldehydes, rose, carnation and powder. The aldehydes are mild, and have the effect of brightening the composition. The rose is dry and boozy at the same time. It is like a rose bouquet–some roses smell dusty, but sweet and powdery. Others smell like a fine rose liquor, complete with raisiny, spicy, sweet and tart qualities. The carnation is fresh and spicy, like a mixture of garden pinks which smell like cloves, and florists’ carnations which have a sort of frosted rose petal effect.

As the aldehydes burn off, the rose and carnation come forward even more, and the sweet base of amber and vanilla start to deepen the impression of these two floral notes. The rose and carnation seem dark and mysterious. The boozy, preserved fruit quality of the rose is very penetrating, and taking deep inhalations, it feels like it goes straight into my heart.  As the rose begins to fade, the sweet base seamlessly absorbs the rose and becomes more prominent. It is amazing that the spicy carnation keeps going strong through this phase, and is instrumental in the transition from top to middle to base.

The powder comes out again in the drydown, along with the spicy carnation, the dried fruit aspect of the rose, amber and resins. The vanilla and tonka are not dominant, but typically notes like this are very important in amber, and the amber accord is what I smell more than anything.  The overall effect in the drydown is floral spice with sweet, powder and delicately resinous amber. I find it to be gorgeous at every stage–even the drydown is amazing in its beauty.

Or this one, which I’ve owned for quite a few years. Just reading this makes me want to go home and spritz it on my wrists right now.

The opening is a heady and clean, crisp mélange of rosewood, lavender and apple martini. The apple martini note is brilliant. It really adds an unusually vivid, effervescent quality to the opening and thankfully lacks the mustiness that some other apple scents uphold.* It’s boozy only in an elegant way – like sipping on the cocktail to appreciate the flavour, without getting drunk.

The heart notes are abstract florals – orchids and paper whites. Paper whites are not fancy silken paper sheets as I was almost lead to believe, but rather refer to a flower from the narcissi family – Narcissus tazetta. I can’t say that I smell narcissus in there, but there is a light floral impression that is hard to describe. As I said – abstract.

These soft, ethereal florals bridge into an even more abstract base of highly processed patchouli (dry and clean rather than earthy and musty), amber and musk – together resulting in an effect that is very close to the skin. An original, clean musk skin scent, subtly surrounding the wearer with a mystifying aura that is clean and pleasant.

Breaking all of this down is such an intriguing process . I love that you can pick out some notes on some days, and some notes on others. I love that a scent changes throughout the day, and that each scent is different depending on the skin it is on. I love that some work better in summer, some better in winter. I love that some scents evoke memories, some specific imagery, and nearly all evoke colors for me.

It strikes me that these descriptions aren’t unlike descriptions of wine–another passion.


(Artwork courtesy of The Graphics Fairy)

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Why I Love Decatur, Part Trois


Originally posted May 17, 2009

I’m so in love with this town right now.

So have I mentioned how much I dig this pedestrian thing? I’ve (quite purposefully) moved within walking distance to my place of employment, which happens to reside on the downtown Decatur square. This means that I’ve also moved within a short walk of just about EVERYTHING ELSE I NEED, which thrills me to no end. Included in this list are:

– My grocery store

– My bank

– My doctor

– My pharmacy

– The post office

– TWO Marta stations

– Tons of restaurants, pubs, and local shops (which are hardly things I NEED, but are perks nonetheless)

This is yet another thing I adore about Decatur. It’s next door to Atlanta, and everything a metropolitan city has to offer, but is this wonderfully self-contained community with a decidedly small-town feel. One feels tempted to not leave at all.

The walk from my apartment in the mornings is lovely. Our street is gorgeous and well taken care of, and EVERYTHING is in bloom right now. So in addition to the benefits of a bit more exercise during the day, I get to enjoy the beautiful scenery along the way.

I’ve always made it a point to live very close to where I work. (I don’t do traffic. Others bitch about it, I just do everything I can to keep it out of my life.) Because of this, the short commutes by car often made it feel like I was rolling straight out of bed and into my office chair. Not that this is the worst complaint to have about a commute, but sometimes I didn’t even remember getting to the office. Now that I’m walking in the mornings, I have a chance to get my blood flowing, take in my surroundings, and get myself into a decent state of mind before I begin the workday.

And the smell of honeysuckle and gardenias in the morning? Almost as good as a cup of coffee.

Almost.

The one dilemma all of this brings up? Footwear. I don’t do sneakers. The boy has never understood it. It’s just … no.

In the summer, I can walk to work in flip-flops and change into “real” shoes when I get there, but I haven’t figured this out for the rest of the year yet. So I now consider myself on a quest for the Holy Grail of fashion. Comfortable shoes that don’t look like, well, Grandma’s orthopedics.

An appeal to the online universe: Surely these must exist? Does anyone have any tips on pretty, wearable (not to be confused with pretty wearable) footwear? There are cities elsewhere that are known to be fashionable and pedestrian friendly, no? Tell me this isn’t an urban shoe myth …

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The Holidays Are What You Make of Them

Originally posted December 8, 2008

The holidays are weird.

I suppose anyone who’s lost a parent at any time will tell you the holidays can be tough. That’s no big surprise. And eight years after the fact, I should probably be over the reaction of wanting to cry for my mommy the first time I smell a Christmas tree each season. I think I am for the most part, but sometimes it still gets me. And always when I least expect it.

Each holiday season has gotten a little less sad, so much so that now I can only describe them as being “off.” Up until recently I’d been a bit of a vagabond during Thanksgivings and Christmases, staying on people’s couches, showing up to celebrate other people’s family’s holidays. I certainly never lacked for invitations, but I still felt like more of a spectator than a participant in these traditions. It’s not that I felt I was imposing, per se, but I didn’t feel like I was in the right place, either.

Then I met the boy. And we started dating. And that first November he asked if I wanted to spend Thanksgiving with his family. And for lack of a more binding offer, I did. And it felt so … nice. At ease. Right. Not like I was crashing someone else’s holiday. So I did the same thing for Christmas. And I felt at home. Weirdly, oddly at home — more than I did with the extended family or friends I had been spending those days with previously.

That pretty much sums up the nature of our relationship, the boy’s and mine. Within no time at all, he felt like family. He was family. And so this year, when we learned his family would be out of town for Thanksgiving, we opted to have our own — just the two of us — rather than finding another person’s holiday we could join in on. I wanted to share this holiday with him, to do our own thing. And it was great. I roasted my first turkey (a mighty fine one, if I say so myself). We made our own massive feast, which we lazily didn’t begin until late after being distracted by A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and then several episodes of Anthony Bordain’s No Reservations. We didn’t eat until 10 p.m. It was relaxed and comfortable and exactly what I wanted.

I’m not saying I’ve solved the general melancholy that I still experience from time to time during the holidays. It’s still there, and I’m sure it always will be in one form or another. But maybe all holidays will feel “off” until I make my own traditions, with my own family, rather than try to recreate what I used to have with someone else’s. And right now, that family is me and him. And ‘Smo, of course.

(Artwork courtesy of The Graphics Fairy)

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Guilty Pleasures: In Defense of Bubble Baths

You know, I’m not even going to call this a guilty pleasure. I have no feelings of remorse about it, because after a long day – and there have been a few of those lately – the only fool-proof way of setting my mood straight when I get home is a long, hot bath. And I’m talking loooong. Like, soaking long enough to get my fingers and toes all pruny and then adding more hot water.

Some days I’ll drink hot tea during, sometimes wine, sometimes a cocktail. Sometimes I’ll burn a candle, or add bubbles, or salts, or oils. Or maybe all of them.

Some days I’ll listen to music during, and sometimes all I want to hear is the rushing of the water. When I like accompaniment, it’s usually something light-hearted and girlie, like Life by the Cardigans or Youth Novels by Lykke Li (a new favorite).

And sometimes – embarrassing though it may sound – it’s the soundtrack to Something’s Gotta Give. Sounds horribly campy, and maybe it is, but it’s a fantastic mix of late 50s/early 60s pop and old French standards. And honestly, does it get any better than Louis Armstrong singing La Vie En Rose?

(There’s an unfortunate cover of the same song by Jack Nicholson at the end of the album. I generally try to forget that one).

For the most part I read during baths – my books and magazines are notoriously crinkly and water-marked as a result. But sometimes all I want to do is completely submerge my head in the hot water and hide from everything.

I’m not sure what it is that makes baths so comforting. Is it the sounds? The smells? All sensations combined? Enveloping oneself in such warmth is rather womb-like, I suppose.

But no matter the combination of accessories or additives, a long bath is an instant cureall to whatever ails me. Maybe that’s why the boy doesn’t complain when I disappear for hours at a time …

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Eau no.

I feel the need to go perfume shopping. Things have been crazy hectic stressful around here lately, and typically when that happens I get a craving for a little retail therapy – more specifically the need to go shopping for something that looks pretty and smells good. What can I say? There’s a shallow little priss-pot hidden inside this girl.

I’ve written before about my fondness for perfumes, and my inability to stick with just one. I have two or three staples I stand by, and all of those bottles are currently empty, but I can’t decide whether I want to replenish one or go searching for something new – always an adventuresome prospect, though a bit complicated by the fact that I like for the boy to think I actually smell nice, so his opinion on such matters counts.

And something tells me that an afternoon of schlepping around Sephora would not be his idea of a great time.

When we first started dating, a little over two years ago, I decided that a certain body lotion I often wore in high school, that I’d always adored, would layer quite nicely with the perfume I was wearing then. It was the perfect variation on vanilla – I’m very picky about my vanilla scents – and I used to get nothing but compliments when I wore it back then. I got very excited about this prospect, and rushed out to the store to get some. Just my luck, it was on sale (one of those buy five get two free deals – I was stocked up for life).

We had a date that night. He was going to make me dinner at his house. While I was getting ready, I was thinking about stories I’d heard about grandmothers telling their granddaughters to dab a little vanilla extract on their wrists and behind their ears to attract men. Apparently this stuff is like flypaper for guys. Why hadn’t I thought of this before?

Cut to later that evening. We’re sitting on his couch watching TV after dinner. He puts his arm around me and snuggles in closer.

“Is that vanilla?” he asks.

Yes, it is. I’m feeling quite proud of myself at this point. Do you like it?

“My mom used to wear that when I was little.”

Er …

As I tried to think of an inconspicous way to scrub the offending product off my skin, I decided I would never buy beauty products in bulk again. You can’t mess with scent and memory; that’s a battle that can’t be won. And I’m not about to encourage that association. Needless to say the lotion has sat untouched ever since.

So yeah, maybe a joint trip to the perfume counter wouldn’t be a horrible idea. Would that make me an evil girlfriend?

(Artwork courtesy of The Graphic Fairy)

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