I´m on the flower guild at my church. I think they let me join because I’m still young enough to bend over and pick things up off the floor; I´m at least a generation younger than most of those ladies.
This is a tough time of year for me, church-wise; I´m going to skirt the edges here and just say I´m not sure what I believe any more. I was raised in a church, and I´ve had my share of spiritual comfort. But the construct of the church we belong to now (and the mainline Protestant faith behind it) isn´t doing much for me. Yeah, I know – it´s not supposed to be about what the church is doing for me. But there you have it.
The simple Lutheran church my mother took us to when I was a child was a major fact in my life, not a peripheral part of it. Back then, my faith ran through me like a river. I wasn´t sure of all the details all the time, but on Christmas Eve and watching the sun come up in that little wooden chapel on Easter Day, I stood with God, safe and full of love.
We wound up at the Lutheran church because it was the closest to our house and my mother didn´t drive. If we´d lived a quarter mile further west I´d probably be Catholic. Anyway, I married into our current high-church Episcopalian rigmarole, and I barely go anymore while I have my quiet, well-mannered spiritual crisis. But I do the flowers regularly.
Our church right now a big old stone deal, with that dank fortress smell. My favorite time to be there is any rainy day, because this church is perfect for gloomy weather. I like to listen to the rain pouring off the slate roof into the copper downspouts outside those weird little transom windows they can crack open in the larger stained glass windows. It splashes off the rocks below and into the gardens. It´s the most peaceful sound in the world. Sometimes I just sit in there, with the lights off, all alone in that huge space, and take it in. I ponder the parts of my life that are a little too full, and a little empty, and I ask for guidance. It´s those moments, there in the semidarkness, that I feel most at peace.
That church´s dank smell works great with Etro Messe de Minuit. I wear it in there fairly regularly, and on the occasions I´m actually going to a service like a proper member. Messe de Minuit is some incense and some woods and some sadness on me, like a yew-green cloak, and that drop of mildew just makes it a little more contemplative.
But the real winner I only discovered recently, when I tried Demeter Holy Smoke for the first time. (Yep, this turns out to be a post about God and perfume during Holy Week! And you know what? I think God will cut me some slack.) I fell in love, because Holy Smoke has that piece I´ve been missing. In the Lutheran church of my childhood, we didn´t have anything fancy like incense; I only associate it with “church” through smelling it in various cathedrals as an adult. As a child, probably my main church smell association (besides the wood beams, old polish, and coffee brewed in those monster percolaters) would have been candle smoke. I was an acolyte (the person who lights the candles and puts them out) from the time I could reach up that high, and I´ve always loved the smell of candle smoke right after you douse the flame. Demeter Holy Smoke is full of that candle smoke rather than, say, the woody smoke of a bonfire, along with a waft of sweet incense. I got my bottle a few weeks ago and I´ve been quietly enjoying it ever since then.
For my flower duties, which are significant this time of year, I´ve been layering Holy Smoke (you can spray that thing all over your head and body, or even your clothes, it´s light enough) with various floral perfumes. The perfect one is Malle Carnal Flower; it´s got that little bit of chill, like working in a florist shop, and a true tuberose on me rather than a “perfume”-ish one. It´s strong and fierce but not headache-producing like some are. When I dab on some Carnal Flower and then veil myself in Holy Smoke, I feel I’m my own small, peaceful cathedral in the rain. For me, as I said, it´s a contemplative smell.
Anyway, for those of you who are with me: a Joyous Passover and Happy Easter. For the rest of you: I hope you got a couple of vacation days. Maybe the Easter Bunny will stop by and bring you some Djedi.
Cathedral window, Annaghdown Cathedral, Co. Galway, www.monasette.com