Basil, Biscuits and Biding My Time

Each morning when the sun rises high enough over the mountains to hit the front of my house, I set my pots of rosemary and basil on the sill of my bedroom window.  Each evening I pull those sun-drenched pots back onto my desk so I can shut the draperies against the evening chill.  And each time I lean over those tall, lovely pots to move them, I get a blast of their wonderful scent.

I’ve been plucking off the basil leaves one by one for the Thai green curry I made; tearing the leaves to sprinkle on top of each bowl is its own fragrant moment.  I snipped some of the rosemary for a stew and reveled in its herbaceous, almost bitter smell, crushed on the cutting board.  Then this afternoon, I opened a fresh bag of amaretti biscuits and was treated to their delectable, potent sweet scent – I love all things almond-y, including marzipan, almond croissants, cookies, handfuls of almonds themselves.  Anyway, the biscuits went beautifully with my afternoon chai tea.

My scent pleasures recently have mostly been of this sort – chopped fresh herbs, a clementine peel, raked leaves, the smell of my tea-scented candle in the living room.  Less successful have been my actual perfume attempts.  I have some samples I’ve dipped into recently, chosen because they’re so familiar and so loved I have them captured in memory.  Today’s set was some CB I Hate Perfume, a brand that delights me.  I could smell, sort of, my beloved sweet-smoky Falling Leaves, and earthy Black March, and sweet, boozy Gathering Apples.  I think I could have guessed which CBs they were, but that’s … not the whole experience, is it?  Not the full, remembered experience.  My terrible analogy: it’s as if I were given peanut butter to smell.  I can identify it, but what good is that without the rest?  It’s like I’m missing the … flavor, the full volume, of fragrance on my skin.

And I realized: it’s that intimacy I miss.  Not simply the fragrance in the air.  If I can smell Mitsouko in the air around me (and I haven’t tried yet), well, that will be much better than if I can’t smell it at all.  But it will be far short of the intimate ecstasy of smelling it on me, on my skin, on my wrist, there for the smelling whenever I want to.  My former life of sniffing and sampling with abandon was like eating the finest chocolates, all day, without ever feeling like I’d had too much.  I loved being covered in fragrance – one, or a dozen at a time.

Now, being able to smell fresh basil (and rosemary, and clementines, and candles, and chai) is a vast improvement over not being able to smell them at all – which I couldn’t for the longest time.  I’m hugely grateful, please don’t misunderstand.  But I’m still a long way off from my former scent-bingeing powers of olfactory perception, and I can’t perceive – or review – anything to even my amateur-level standards unless/until I can smell the “old familiars” reasonably well, because who the heck knows what I’m missing?  It’s tiresome.  And your patience is appreciated.

I’m fresh out of a job (ended on the 7th) and I’m coasting for awhile, de-stressing, nesting, taking lots of walks with and without the wee dog.  I’ve been re-reading Edith Wharton – I think I was too young to really appreciate the nuance (and biting wit) in her longer novels, decades ago.  If you want to dip a toe into her short stories, I highly recommend Roman Fever and Other Stories – Roman Fever being one of my all-time favorite short stories.  I just finished The Glimpses of the Moon which is more of a lighthearted romp than some of her other, more famous works, and I’m going to dive into more short stories and then probably The House of Mirth.  On a certain, surface level the Wharton works I’ve read are easy going – the worst that’s going to happen is an unfortunate divorce or, even worse, being seen in public in last season’s tea gown (the horror!) And I can stay right there at that level of froth, if I want.  But Wharton has a razor wit (and tongue) when it comes to her characters and their lives and foibles, and it’s a wonderful contrast to the surface gloss and polish.  In a nutshell they’re many-faceted meditations on what we want (and don’t have) or have (and don’t want) … worthy life lessons I try to remember, in case Life feels compelled to teach me again. I also want to read Wharton’s memoirs, and a biography, she was an interesting woman.  Speaking of period drama, I’m filling up my time by fiddling with bits of garments that need to be altered to make them more old-fashioned-looking – right now I’m narrowing the sleeves on a light jacket, and making a ruffled camisole to give my looser blouses a more proper pigeon-breasted front, which should be amusing if nothing else.  I think I’ll like it.

What are you up to these days?



  • cinnamon says:

    Does the presence of alcohol make any difference — ie, it mediates in such a way as to make smelling harder? It certainly is positive that some things are coming through more. Best wishes regarding the ‘what next’.

  • Tom says:

    You know, I think in some ways the sent of something natural is even better than a perfume, especially if it’s not expected. The other day I was cruising through the residential streets of Brentwood between San Vicente and Sunset with the top down, taking it slow, stopping at the stop signs, listening to “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” and generally wasting fossil fuels. At one point I passed a house and smelled mint. Fresh mint. they had planted all around their fence masses of it. It was completely unexpected and totally delightful. I think I made some sort of “squeee” noise, pumped he brakes, and just sat there for a while, taking it in.

  • Portia says:

    Footloose and fancy free March! Wonderful.
    I’ve not read the Wharton books but I’m still finding it hard to get through a full page without switching off.
    It sounds like your nose is definitely moving in the right direction, even if it’s nor exactly as you’d like it. Fingers crossed it all turns out OK.
    Portia xx

  • rosarita says:

    March, I’m glad your sense of smell is improving albeit slowly. Enjoy your time coasting.

  • Dina C. says:

    March, your post was really relatable for me this week. I’ve been sick for the last 10 days, and two days ago I lost some of my sense of smell. It’s devastating. Food still has texture, but very little flavor. Its a quick way to lose weight.. Besides the fear of being anosmic forever, apparently some people regain their sense of smell with the neurons scrambled, so everything smells bad! It’s called paranosmia. That sounds even worse! Praying I can hang onto my slight sense of smell and regain it. Meanwhile, I’ve been reading really old, vintage murder mysteries. Sewing sounds like a good idea, too. Maybe I’ll see if I’ve got any mending to be done.

    • rosarita says:

      Dina C, I’m so sorry to hear that. I hope the effects are short lived.

    • March says:

      I’m so sorry! I live in fear of the phantom bad scents, so I’m blessed not to have that. Yes, I lost some weight as well, not having the sense of smell to go with taste … I am hopeful you have a speedy recovery. Vintage murder mysteries sound great, I’m headed to the library!

  • Musette says:

    Hey, petunia – watch out for HoMirth – ya wanna talk razor? Yeah. And it’s not …fun.

    I was plunged into a serious depression (mostly weather-related and adjacent physicals) – it rendered me nearly immobile at 6:30p. I took to my bed, but brought 3 books with me: Soul Made Flesh (that book on the brain), Georgette Heyer’s hysterical ‘No Wind of Blame’ and the Honey Badger series intro ‘Hot and Badgered’, which is more about exposition of the Badgers’ situation than the romance, which was perfect for my mood. Omg. Their father (Freddy MacKilligan) … omg. SUCH killin’ needed on that one. But hysterical to get to know him.

    A few hours immersed in the Badger World and I was right and tight, once again.


    • March says:

      Okay, y’all win, I will NOT read The House of Mirth right now, I’ll pick something else off the shelf, I’m headed over there later, I’ll do some pre-trip research online … I am SO glad you’ve found things to keep you from tipping over the edge. Also this is the full Wolf Moon, and everything right now seems ripe for drama, keep your powder dry! Xo

  • Sarah says:

    Whoa, well hold onto your hat for House of Mirth. Funny, it’s not! Glad to hear that your sense of smell is slowly but surely creeping back.

  • Maya says:

    Just a thought…a lot what you can smell seems to be natural, not synthetic. Perhaps try with perfumes that are mainly or mostly natural and see what happens.

    • March says:

      Thanks, Maya. I’ve been doing my training with essential oils, and those are now perceptible… one reason I picked the CBs is his avoidance (if I recall correctly) of a lot of synthetics. I can smell them, but I can’t smell them in full. Bummer, I was really looking forward to layering Falling Leaves with Gathering Apples!