It seems to me that when it’s truly hot, summer is best defined by visuals that are almost abstract. When it swelters, cars can lift off the ground, people’s heads separate from their bodies, their shoulders widening, then wobbling, before returning to true. Trees quiver as though root-rocked by a terrible storm and the air itself seems visible in its languid movement. The world shakes quietly as it melts.
Here, in November, a different kind of mirage occurs that for me captures the transition from autumn to winter, this moment in time. On one or two early mornings, the mist clings so intimately to the ground that a walker appears to be a torso, drifting across a a grey blanket, legs removed. At other times the mist is patchy, a quilted pattern on the landscape. A runner can dart in and out of the milky grey, at once dark shadow and fully formed human. There’s magic to this, and menace. Fog brings an imagined silence, a shrinking of location, and an encroaching isolation. It turns you inwards, and then indoors. I love it.
My favourite experience of mist and fog, as foolhardy as this sounds, is when driving, penetrating those layers that float above you, here, and either side of you, there. The headlights hinder rather than enable vision – this is nothing but water, but it refuses to be seen through, and whilst light illuminates it, it does not clear a passage. Momentary fog-free spots bring relief from concentration, but these are brief respites in the threading journey. Thick fog is no fun – there has to be a pattern for pleasure. Best of all, at night, are those tongues of mist that emerge from the dark, slide forward into the light and lick the car in passing, travelling their wet lengths along the sides or over the bonnet so rapidly you wonder if you saw it. There’s majesty in the monster.
And fog and mist are so often monsters in our imaginations. Mist, at best austere, gets off lightly. Fog is imbued with supernatural horrors and murderous powers, or else it blots out – through metaphor – what was treasured. It appears to remove physical space – I often had that childhood awe of wishing I could wander through the grey into a newly born world, more technicolor than Oz, but grey reality was always still there when the grey clouds lifted. And it’s used to describe real temporal loss – the fog of memory. For some of us, those places we inhabit in our past – the rooms of our memories – will be occluded, one by one, until all we have is this moment now, a moment that always drifts away, never to return.
I don’t really know where I’m going with this ramble, with this misty journey into fog, except it’s getting miserable and melancholy, isn’t it? Sorry about that. Unintentional. I generally don’t plan my writing here for the posse. I just open up in the admin section and get going. I try to make it about perfume, but when there’s nothing pressing on me in a scented sense, I just hope I’ll end up with a fragrance or two somehow. And you thought this was heading to Iris Silver Mist, didn’t you? Me too…
In all the writing I’ve been doing recently (none online folks – secret stuff), memory unavoidably starts beating its drum the loudest. It’s my main theme I guess. Like many of us, I’ve had intimate experience watching someone losing theirs – the journey from befuddlement to anger, resentment, frustration, flashes of violence (‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light’) to the final calm, blank contentment. My grandfather, the kindest man I’ve ever known, saviour of fallen nestlings, shedman extraordinaire, fierce lover of whistlepower – he’d attack my fragile gran when she approached him, before eventually forgetting she was there at all. She became a ghost who had never existed, as he himself had never journeyed, anywhere.
So perhaps that’s one reason memory is there, my obsession, but I imagine there are others. Last night, on TV, I watched ‘Capturing Mary’ a joint BBC / HBO production. I recommend it to you if you love period drama with great costume design, Maggie Smith or (slightly) pretentious British films. And somehow, it fits my current thinking about memory – how we shape who we are through how and what we remember; how who we become is in turn shaped through what we can’t forget. As a drama, it manages to be vacuous and profound, subtle and superficial all at once, and I still can’t decide if it’s anything other than a piece of trickery, a parlour game played on a nodding and chin-stroking audience of self-declared aesthetes. Be warned: I cried (you should also watch the companion drama too, to make more sense of this one).
I’ve run out of my allotted time. I need to go and make some memories, rather than just thinking about them.
(Oh, and Iris Silver Mist is incredible, isn’t it? First of all, you’re rooted in the ground, almost suffocated by that frozen weight. But then, what a release. A dancing wraith that should shudder with cold, but somehow just enjoys it.
Oh, and thanks to vidabo of perfumeoflife for inadvertently introducing me to Jack Spencer, whose photos accompany my ramble. She always chooses the most apposite images to match her scent of the day.
Oh, and the winner of the Cumming draw, and whatever else I was rustling up, is Anne. And, as a bonus for teasing her, I’m sending Divalano some too. Ladies – I’ll be in touch).