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?