Tuesday, September 11, 2018

DSH Perfume and American Perfumer, Colorado

Perfume lovers out there, you don't want to miss this special edition (although I know saying that means I may not have any more to purchase down the road). I saw #DSHperfumes mention it last week, and because I have friends who love me and know my birthday is coming up, mine is now in my hot little hands. It is brilliant. The bergamot and lemon carry through for me the whole way, and gives it such a happy lift, but it snuggles down to the most amazing fir/pine maple cozy wood fragrance. On me, there is a faint tinge of smoke, but the fir and balsam wrap around it with the citrus and give it such a soft glow. Under it all rides a beautiful maple-y lusciousness that just...well, it's beautiful. I had to go to several appointments today, and when I wasn't having to talk (and when no one was in the room) I happily sat and huffed my sleeve. If I tried to explain it, my words would fall flat. It mixes everything I enjoy: wood, chypre, gourmand, citrus but merges it all in such a way that I can only come up with one word: joy. I am so in love with Colorado (see here: Colorado )

Monday, January 22, 2018

Solo Piano by Robin Spielberg and Hidden Lodge by Solstice Scents

I am often losing things. (I have even lost my keys while holding them in my hand.) So it's no surprise that when I closed my eyes and spun my Spotify list this morning, landed on something, then hit play, what came out of my speakers was something I realized I was finding after thinking it had been lost.

Today's music comes from Robin Spielberg, and per Wikipedia is, "is an American pianist, composer and author." According to her website, she is "heart and soul of interpretive solo piano."

My mother has been a pianist for years. At one point in my childhood, our church needed a place to store their baby grand piano, and it was moved into our living room. There was enough room for a walkway from the front door to the kitchen, but if you wanted to sit anywhere in the room, you had to crawl under the piano and sit on the floor.

There were times my mother would practice for services or special events, and would often pull in classical pieces from memory to warm up with. Piano music has always been part of my life, and maybe it's because of my childhood, but I can listen to a lone piano for hours.

When I was in college, I discovered several "modern" pianists and played their music in my dorm room after my mother went overseas for missions. It kept her close, but also helped me navigate through my fears of her never coming back. That music was a lifeline to me.

Piano music is something that both soothes me and makes my heart ache. It can immediately throw me back to times where I crawled under that baby grand piano and listened to my mother warming up. Piano can be haunting. Fierce. Dreamy. Suspenseful. Soothing. Sometimes, I would stand up and watch the little hammers strike the strings, watch her feet move on the peddles to evoke different sounds, watch her fingers press the keys. The whole of it fascinated me. How can something that looks so simple create so many moods and emotions? I am feeling the same way today as I listen to Robin Spielberg's compositions.

Today, when the piano began to play, all of the feelings I remember having while lying under that baby grand came back to me. Those sessions while my mother played were some of the few times I saw her truly happy (even when she was frustrated at mistakes she said she was making). I felt at home, wondering, hopeful, longing. I remember often feeling like listening to my mother was like watching falling stars: it was a wonderful experience that I knew would end, and I kept wishing it wouldn't. My childhood was often chaotic, and I mostly remember feeling that chaos. But, today, while I listened to the first songs play out, I connected back to some of the times that I felt safe and happy. I didn't even realize how much of that I'd lost, until today.

I don't remember adding today's artist to my Spotify list, and I don't recognize any of the songs I'm hearing. I'm being reminded again that I don't have to recognize a song in order to connect with it, and I'm so glad this was an artist I had added to explore. I had created a Peaceful list on Spotify, for those days when I really need to shut everything away for a while, and I'm finding that instead of picking through and adding a song here or there, I'll be adding Robin Spielberg's albums to that list, then removing songs that don't quite appeal to me (if I find any).

This is a perfect backdrop for testing a perfume, and I'm thankful to have it.

Today's perfume is Hidden Lodge by Solstice Scents. Solstice Scents used to only do perfume oils (and some other products like whipped soaps--which are wonderful), but a few years ago Angela St. John (the perfumer) decided to branch out into alcohol based perfumes. I have stuck with the oils (although I would dearly, oh so dearly, love to get my hands on her House Vanilla perfume) so this review will be for the oil version. Since I haven't tried the alcohol versions of her perfumes, I'm not sure how much they differ.

Again, I'll be giving my impressions, then post the official notes.

I only have a sample vial of this one, so I can't get as much out of it as I would from a bottle, but in the vial and on the wand, I get the feeling of windswept desert, something a bit herbal and green underneath, and the sense of dry underbrush and wood that has been lying in the sun for years. I grabbed this sample because I like the idea of hidden places where we can wander off, explore, find serenity. I am also finding it amusing that the music for today seems to pair so well with the concept of a Hidden Lodge. I often felt like I was in my own hidden world when I would crawl under the piano, so this fits perfectly. I also am getting a note in the perfume that reminds me of peanuts, which means there may be some form of sandalwood or oud in here.

On my skin, oh this is lovely. There is a part of this that reminds me of one of my favorites from Solstice Scents called Witch's Cottage. That one has soft herbs, sweetness without being sugary, and always makes me feel grounded and hopeful at the same time. This reminds me a little of that in the herbal edge, but this seems to have more woods added to it. I'm still getting a faint peanut note, which is opening up some more which makes me lean toward a soft sandalwood (although I suspect oud may also be playing a role). On my right arm, I'm getting a smoky note that isn't apparent on my left arm. It's a beautiful silvered campfire wood smoke that again reminds me of a desert, but one at night with the stars brilliant overhead, and the faint call of wild things beyond the light from the fire.

As it dries, the sweet herbal note remains dominant on my left arm, but definitely grounded and centered by a very dry wood. What I suspect is oud is wrapping through it all, mixing it all together very beautifully. This comes across as a dry perfume, but still has edges of sweetness. This would be amazing on both men and women. On my right arm, the smokiness merges with the dry wood, making it more dry wood than smoke, but still retaining that elusive smokey quality. This is dry, but soft, not hard or wrung out as some perfumes can be.

Dry, this has become a warm and soft wood with a faint sweet herbal edge with a lick of smoke. My right arm continues to hold a much more dry and smoked edge, but the whole feels like I've somehow found a way to compress an old wooden building with boards bleached by sun, surrounded by soft herbs and dark dessert with the memories of fire, into a perfume.

It is beautiful.

According to the website, "Hidden Lodge is a dry woody blend with traces of spice and smoke and delicate animalic undertones. The dry wood portion of this fragrance is comprised of a number of fragrance and essential oils. Sandalwood, copal bark, cedar and amber combine with additional wood aromas to produce a diffusive, warm, dry foundation for this scent. The addition of the woodsmoke with very conservatively applied nutmeg and clove enhances the incensey slightly sweet woods. A touch of a botanical castoreum blend conveys a very subtle and enjoyable animalic hint to the blend. Natural oud adds a rich and intoxicating body to the total composition. Hidden Lodge smells very incensey, warm, woodsy, smoky, slightly spicy and even has a bit of well-worn leather on the skin. The spices are more detectable after initial application and fade quickly to a subtle supporting role. On initial application, there is a sweet note similar to brown sugar along with a peppery zip. These nuances are an added dimension from the combination of wood and spice notes. Some of the woods in Hidden Lodge have a natural sweetness similar to that of caramel. Though this sweet characteristic is detectable, it is subtle and Hidden Lodge is not a sweet blend. Natural sandalwood and oud were used generously in this fragrance. Unisex leaning masculine." The notes are "Dry Wood Blend, Oud, Woodsmoke, Spices, Castoreum (Botanical Interpretation) 

Aha! I don't get much of the animalic, but I am tickled to see that this is very along the lines of what I got from it on my skin. Angela really is a master at setting a mood with her perfume, and this one is just perfect for me today, especially paired with the music pick. I find myself balancing between feeling peaceful and thankful for finding moments of happy memories. All by determining to discover something new.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Flamenco and Perfume? Yes, please.

(Otherwise known as The "Meaning To" Beginning, With Gipsy Kings and The Arabian Dance)

For several years, I have had an idea of diving into music. I know what I tend to gravitate to, but I have been on a journey of asking myself, "Is this who I am, and how do I know that," in many areas of my life. Music somehow remained static. I liked what I liked, and didn't stray much from that. But, as I continued to question myself regarding what I was "sure" I liked and wanted to add to my life, music began to take on a focus.

Music, like perfume, is often considered a personal taste. Also, like perfume, there will be those who think your personal taste is terrible (and should not be aired to the public, lest ye offend). With both, some will be interested in more than what is traditionally offered. Like perfume, there are music brands and types sold for mass consumption. Then, there are the steadily growing niche perfumers and bands that have developed loyal followings because they offer something else/more, something that isn't being acknowledged by the mass consumption gods.

Music, like perfume, even though developed by others, is considered an intimate form of self expression.

I have taken several years to explore perfume (although I admit that even there, I have tended to find one thing, obsess over it for a little while, then stall out before moving on). In doing so, I have discovered more of myself--things I thought I didn't like but ended up loving, new words to describe my tastes and interests, ways I tend to self-care (and ways I can improve), the way I approach something I'm not sure about (and how I can work on expanding my experiences).

I have often not understood not wanting to learn, whether it's more about self, about others, about the world we live in. I see people going about their day-to-day, sometimes candidly expressing that they don't want to explore anything else. They want the routine, the predictable. While, I do understand how comforting sameness can be, I also crave discovery and truths that may lurk beyond what we think we know and experience. I've been told by several people (in varying tones and degrees, and sometimes meant as an insult, sometimes as a compliment) that "You are a very different type of person, Maya. Not everyone is as __________ (bold/willing to explore/critical of self/whatever the thing is at the time) as you are."

When I've heard that, I have allowed it to set me back. Should I be as curious about the world, about people, about what makes us all tick? Why is this insatiable desire to know inside of me?

One thing I seem to have to keep learning is that whether I am the same as everyone else or different, it's not going to change who likes me, loves me, hates me and even more importantly whether I like or hate myself. So why not test a horizon or two?

Which brings me back to exploration. I have, through the past two years (and especially so last year), been adding to my "Someday I want to explore that" list in music. I've asked people what they listen to, and have added those artists and songs.

While I've been doing this, I have also been adding to my perfume lists as well as looking at the boxes of perfumes I have set aside to fully test, explore, make decisions about.

For over a year, I've been meaning to get to both the music and the perfume with the idea of combining them. Test a perfume. Test a new artist. I have held back because sometimes I scare myself by how much I want to do something (and I also realize the big risk of exploring an artist, not liking them, and having someone tell me how stupid they think I am).

But the idea has persisted. Persists. Probably will continue to do so.

So, today, I basically closed my eyes, spun the list on Spotify, and picked a group at random that I added I don't even know how long ago, and pressed play. I also closed my eyes, reached into my box of perfume and grabbed.

I didn't realize that just doing those things would make my hands sweat a little bit.

I probably won't give as in depth a review on the music that I pick as I do this (although who knows how it will evolve), but I do look forward to seeing what I connect with and what I decide to add permanently.

On to the reviews!

Gipsy Kings

The group Spotify landed on today was the Gipsy Kings. Per Wikipedia, "The Gipsy Kings are a group of flamenco, salsa and pop musicians from Arles and Montpellier in the south of France, who perform in Andalusian Spanish." Their website was fun to wander through and read. They hail from an area very close to where most of the well known perfumes in the world have been developed and come from (as we know them today). Both this music and perfume have history behind them--weighty, bold, and beautiful.

I also have liked flamenco music through the years, but have never really taken the time to focus on it. The Gipsy Kings grabbed me immediately, and I found myself adding more of their songs to one of my permanent lists. I find it almost impossible to be cranky while listening to flamenco music, and the Gipsy Kings kept making me happy from track to track.

However, reading their story also reminded me of a different history when it comes to gypsy culture, and how gypsies have been treated through the years. I found myself wondering what joy, what cultural impact, what influence would have been lost if the people who had wanted to rid the earth of gypsies and their culture had succeeded.

Today, I am grateful for a chance to listen to masterful guitar work and powerful vocals. I will be keeping this group's music around and look forward to more days spent with the Gipsy Kings.

Today's perfume grab was The Arabian Dance, and I admit to chuckling over how life can sometimes pair things. I'm listening to music that makes me want to dance, and it is paired with a perfume with dance in its name. I probably would have had to hunt for hours to find that pairing, and yet closing my eyes and picking made it happen. It tickles me.

Today, for the fun of it, I'm going to go through the review first before I find the scent description and notes from the perfumers website.

The Arabian Dance

In the bottle, I get a bunch of things that smoosh up together. I start to pick them out and at first get the sense of a dark and woody chocolate or coffee. It's dark and just shy of bitter. But, immediately dancing around that and lifting the whole is a sweet fruity note that feels like it's tangling with raw silk. It's compelling in the play of light and dark.

On my skin, my left arm immediately gets a beautifully spiced note (like an amazing spice cake, loaded with cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove), threaded with a touch of coffee. I also get the sense of sugar. On my right arm, I get more of the sweet fruit that turns very perfumey. The raw silk edge lifts, then drops down to become part of the perfume base.

As it dries, the spice on my left arm is beautiful. The coffee note drops into a deeper and softer chocolate vibe without smelling like chocolate, and continues to play along a line that dashes between light and dark, without ever becoming heavy. It is (on my left arm) completely what I would like my cozy days to smell like in wintertime: charming, uplifting, slightly spiced, warm. On my right arm, that coffee note begins to rise a bit and brings up the raw silk aspect. It also comes across as very perfumed with a sweet edge. It also has a note in it that reminds me a little bit of Phyllotaxis also from Possets, which had a black musk and coffee note blended with chai and lavender notes. My right arm has a slightly plastic edge among the notes, but it is not dominant and only noticeable when I put my nose on my skin and sniff. I suspect there is clove in this one, as clove can sometimes go to a weird plastic on my skin (but only up close, not in the throw). The waft around me is glorious: warm spices, a distinct snugglycuddleness, and yet lifting into a really beautiful perfume with soft and sweet edges, without being too sugary sweet.

Fully dry, the perfume softens a lot, but stays warm and cozy spices, a faint hint of coffee base, and keeps that lovely perfume edge with a soft sweetness. This is perfect for me right now in our winter months. (I suspect it would be too much in our heat and humidity.) I will be putting this in my autumn-spring rotation pile.

The Arabian Dance is a permanent at Possets, so if you think you may like to try it, it would be available as a sample. The notes for it are: Clove, coffee, a drop of mild oude, and very light smoke. Very spice sensuous and lovely like a sunny afternoon in a coffee shop in Dubai in January. A glorious simple pleasure. 

The mention of smoke surprised me a little, but I suspect that is the raw silk edge I was getting. Overall, I'm a bit pleased that I picked out the clove (or spices) and coffee. For people who may be afraid of smoke fragrances, this seems like it would be a good one to try. I have other perfumes that literally have a smoke-from-a-bonfire smell. This is a much lighter, more "clean" smoke, and soft. It is a beautiful perfume and deserves to be out more. I'm thrilled to have rediscovered it.

Both the music and the perfume are perfect for today, and both are keepers (although I know some will not be). I look forward to seeing what else is out there just waiting for me to discover them.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Possets Winter Retour, Virtues

After Fabienne at Possets died, there was a part of me that wondered if I would be doing much testing of Possets perfumes in the future. However, the company was purchased and the new owners have done a great job of running seasonal retours this year, to allow customers a chance to grab items they were afraid would be lost forever. I was not able to take advantage of previous seasonal offerings, but I did get some Christmas money and I splurged on a few fragrances I have been keeping an eye on.

Today, the perfume I'm focusing on is Virtues, from the Yule 2010 collection. The Possets description is: "Virtues are the force of making things happen. They are placed under the dominions to carry out the plans authority makes for mankind. A dashing fragrance with a decided masculine side to it, but perfectly at home on a lady who knows her mind and will not be cowed. A special chypre containing a very light oakmoss (blond oakmoss), is blended with frankincense and a very faint clove hint, small zest of lemon to keep it from being too heavy. Ethereal and stately."

This one has been on my list since I first realized that any chypre Fabienne made should be something I own. I finally grabbed it during this retour, and (spoiler) tried it on when my mom was here. She liked it so much, I'll feel guilty if I don't give it to her for Christmas.

In the bottle: The chypre is clear, and I also get an ink on paper note. If I hadn't known lemon was in this, I wouldn't be able to pick it out at first sniff, but as I inhale deeply, I get the faint edge of a very dry lemon note (no juice or pith, just wrung out bleached in the sun lemon that makes this feel a bit austere, but also plays very well against the chypre).

On my skin: Mmmm. That oakmoss is glorious. Truly glorious. And there's the lemon (a bit juicier now) to float to the top. This creates a smidge of pencil shaving note on my skin (but not woody, if that makes any sense). In the interest of full disclosure, I am trying this on two locations, and my right wrist brings up a softer lemon with a touch of vanilla that plays and pairs amaaaaazingly with the oakmoss.

As it dries: On my left arm, it's very dry even though that oakmoss dominates. It's almost a little plastic-y (a surprise), but I can tell it's shifting to where it really wants to go. It also reminds me of Old School French Perfume here, with a dash of hmmmmm Avon from the 70's thrown in, maybe? Odd combo in words, but it's nostaligc and warm and classic, but also a little impish. On my right arm, the lemon really blooms and gets more pithy and juicy, almost overwhelming the oakmoss until it dries further. The way it smells on my right arm is how it smelled on my mom, and it's bright and happy but also soothing and amazing the way oakmoss can be.

I really don't get much clove from this, except as a back end (faint faint) supporting role. The frankincense is also low key, but helps to give lift to the oakmoss. The lemon and oakmoss dance around each other beautifully on my right arm, the lemon giving lift and zest and the oakmoss making a warm cozy bed. My left arm would probably be described by some as "old ladyish" but I tend to think of it as more classic in vibe. This would be wearable in almost any situation (except where people complain about perfumes). It's golden and warm and cool and serene all at the same time. In short, it's a chypre worth wearing and adding to your collection if you like chypres. I'm glad I got the bottle and in many ways I'm delighted that it's the one my mom gravitated toward because when I think of Virtues she is definitely on the top of the list. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Too Much Honesty

Several conversations have been swirling through my social media feed this weekend. One involves the state of women in ministry (some people are for it, some people against it, and some wonder why this is still an issue today). Several other conversations involve victim blaming in regard to how women dress when raped tied in with that same verbiage relating to children who are molested ("If she didn't dress like a slut, she wouldn't have this happen to her.")

I briefly engaged in the first one, engaged heavily in the third one, and dabbled in the second. The first one involved a Twitter feed ( #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear ), and the replies there were often poignant, engaging, and painful. The third involved me opening up about my own abuse, and how that affected me.

As always, these conversations make me raw. Really raw. I try to balance between understanding those who do not "get" what I'm saying, and being real, but I often end up feeling like I continue to speak to winds that blow past me on their way to other more important things.

And, I have been through enough counseling to know that just because I am past some of these wounds, I am always going to have to measure my own reactions and be mindful of where I am emotionally.

But there are days, like today, when I flail. Where I feel like everything I have processed and worked through and talked over are nothing but repeating spirals. Where counseling and "working stages/steps" becomes nothing but noise. Where all I can do is sit and cry.

Cry because I feel ineffective and weak. Because I feel unheard. Because I feel valueless, broken, and irrelevant.

Today, I did something I know I shouldn't have. I went to a bakery and got non gluten free doughnuts and ate them.

I cried doing so.

Then I confessed to a friend what I had done.

She asked me to not self harm. I acknowledge that eating gluten is akin to cutting for someone like me. But, as I told her, "I can't control how others hurt me, but I can control how I hurt myself." And, yes, I do realize how messed up that is.

Eating gluten is my own act of rage.

I started feeling the results pretty quickly. Along with the nausea and need to vomit came the swirls of regret and sorrow and helplessness.

The irony is that I felt helpless so I did something that felt powerful but put me in an even more helpless situation.

This is what a woman living in rape culture does when she feels she has no place to turn.

No excuse, mind you.

But it is the same as putting a razor to my skin. No amount of prayer can change that driving need to control something when the reminders are so fierce that I have no control.

Because I am not beautiful enough, but something made someone want to take something I didn't offer. Because I am not strong like a man, even though I've been told by others I'm so strong. Because I was too sheltered in some ways, and not sheltered enough in others. Because, as one woman who transitioned to a man put it, "When I became a man, I was no longer afraid," and I am deeply aware that I am not a man.

Not surprisingly, during all of this, my mind turns to fragrance. In my upbringing, there were sermons on how brokenness is a sweet perfume to God, how ingredients used for the temple oil included being crushed. Stories of how Christ was broken for us (broken and spilled out, like perfume) are paralleled with how we will be broken and spilled. It is pain. It is blessing. It is even fetishized.

There are times I do wonder what sorrow smells like to others.

I know the first time I was almost kidnapped, fear smelled like candy, wet cement, and copper.

The second time, I remember smelling the leather of my shoes, the flowers blooming in the hedge I ran past. The smell of the house I was welcomed in to. Safety.

When I was molested by my step father, I smelled dust and sweat. Cotton sheets. Meat in the oven. Onions. The faint trace of something rotting. Fecal matter. Sometimes, when I dream and hear a child crying, I smell roaches.

There are more smells. More memories.

Perhaps this is why I surround myself with too much perfume. I cannot control the smells that happened to me, but I can control what is around me right now. If I want to smell jasmine, I can. If I want to remember safety, I close my eyes and smell grass, the scent of raspberry bushes. Blueberries warm on the tongue and how that tart sweetness blooms in the sinuses when you breathe in and out while chewing.

Today, I have no answers. I am exhausted from being up a lot of the night and staring at the dark ceiling. Again feeling like I am a foreigner trying to reach a culture and a people who simple cannot understand me. I do know that some care, and some try to translate, but we still speak very different languages.

I know there are those who deny that rape culture exists, and that is within a secular setting. For someone like me who was raised in the church, with the idea of women being in submission, how our sexuality is equated to purity, how we become damaged so easily, and as someone who watched multiple men in authority abuse their positions and children and women around them, I acknowledge an issue much deeper than rape culture that shares similar roots.

But, as the saying goes, there are none so blind as those who refuse to see. I know many ministers who insist there is no problem. Men who claim to love women in their lives, but see abuse as Latin: it's out there, others use it, but it doesn't affect them in their day to day.

Where do I go from here? I will do the same thing I do every day, Pinky (after I throw up and regret the terrible decision to add gluten to my intestines). I will go forward one more step. Put on some perfume (perhaps one of my "comfort" standbys), and pray that some day women won't have to fear being told we are "beating up" men by using our voice to be too honest, one more time.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Loss and Discovery: perfume and music

Braining is hard work. Braining while feeling like you have no brain is sometimes almost impossible. Since last year, I have had a lot of blocks that I don't always feel capable of climbing past (not necessarily related to loss or grief, but sometimes it is).

Writing, something I have always done whether it was for pleasure or more serious, has felt alien--not just difficult, but outside of who I am. This was going to be the year that I submitted this and that, where I would be faithful to reviewing perfumes, where I would _________. The inability to do so (as always) has led to lack of creativity, which then has led to more inability, and that leads to existential crises.

So what does one do when setting alarms and timers and reminders and scolding oneself into paralysis doesn't work? One waits.

And waits. (And wonders if padded living quarters should at least be considered.)

I've been here before. Usually related to crisis of health, and sometimes a crisis of soul. I know this waiting. I hate it. I have read the books that say "Just do things anyway." I've tried. I tried again this time. But this wait was somehow different. My mind was not just waiting, it was quiet. Too quiet. I usually have what felt like 500 fluorescent lights buzzing up there all of the time. Then there was silence.

Then fear. "What if I never write again?" "What if I can't find words?" "What if I'm broken?"

I can force discipline (in limited stages), but I cannot force creativity. So all I could do is wait.

I read books on leadership. I read books on not being angry. I read books on hope. Books on vampires. Books on writing and blessings, and detectives, and how others got past their blocks. Nothing seemed to "spark" me, make that inside voice come alive.

One thing I have been doing is continuing my path of cleaning up my world. It may seem small, but I am working hard to surround myself with what gives me joy. I think that's where some of the silence has come from: how can you choose what gives joy when you realize you are in a rut? What do you discard? What do you keep? What do you look for?

As I looked at my seriously insane pile of perfume that needs to be reviewed (and re-reviewed so I can keep what I truly want and find new homes for the rest), I realized that I could at least do that. And then as I thought about reviewing perfume, I remembered that I had also been wanting to explore new music. So, last week I asked Facebook folks what music they liked, and I added all of their answers to my Spotify lists. The lists are long. A little intimidating. But I am more excited than I expected to be to have this path to explore.

This week, as I looked at my perfume pile again, I thought: why not combine the two?

This morning, I randomly picked a new artist to try (Blind Pilot, We Are the Tide album) and without looking grabbed a bottle from the perfume pile (Daring, by Possets), There it was. That comedic, brilliant, laugh-at-life moment. I often feel like a blind pilot as I navigate this life--sometimes not even knowing if I'm going up or seconds away from another crunch and crash of impact. The moments of loss, of momentary destruction are brutal. I tend to focus on those. What changed my life the way I didn't want. What I don't have. The people I miss who have died or gone away. Loss of health. But then, there's Daring to balance it out. What is life without some boldness? Some "I will go forward anyway!" Determination to seek altitude. We gain nothing by refusing to fly.

One of my favorite poems when I was young (and still remains dear) is High Flight by John Magee. Today, when I read the poem again, I was reminded that silence doesn't have to be dark. When we fling ourselves out into the unknown, sometimes what we find is what we've been looking for for too long among the known.

So, today, as Blind Pilot gives me their smooth Indie folk sound (reminds me, so far, of a little of what I like of Band of Horses and The Head and The Heart), I will review Daring and once again be amused at how life sometimes ties words and things and experiences together.

Daring was released in the Valentine's 2014 collection. Description: "A daring idea to pair jasmine and patchouli in the right balance so each bolsters the other and no one dominates, yet the two elements are in such a surprisingly perfect harmony that you wonder why this hasn't been done many times before. There is a tremendously woody aspect to this one, but that is more due to the ingredients being blended in the correct proportions. Somehow this one comes off like a woman with a formidable intellect."

At first sniff, in the bottle Daring comes across as almost medicinal. The patchouli is striking, making me think of vetiver in how bracing it is. Immediately under that I get a sense of more vetiver mixed with a brown sugar note (without the sweetness), a soft almost powdery floral, and a rough silk edge that verges on wood.

On my skin: this patchouli is not a headshop hippy one at all. It's more grassy, with a faint hint of pencil shavings. It immediately opens up into floral essence, roughed up and gritted over somewhat by the patchouli. This one is perfume with a P. It feels like a cool beauty wearing a little black dress, giving you an assessing look--wondering if you'll measure up to her standards. Which could be intimidating, but then you realize the little black dress is paired with Converse.

As this dries, it retains a classic edge and vibe, but continues to be a bit fun (and a touch flirty) underneath. I still get a sense of pencil shavings, mixed with perhaps some fizzy ginger ale. It's soft, but bracing. This would pair well with an Important Event (with a light hand, as this could go into Invasion of Personal Space territory if applied too liberally), but also would be equally at home with a t-shirt and errands.

I don't get a lot of jasmine out of this one, but there is a very lovely soft white floral note that winds through this one and plays with that woody/grassy perfume vibe of the patchouli (that seems to want to pretend to be vetiver today). This is utterly classic. Cool. Aloof. Polished and pampered. But it also has softness, warmth, charm, and a touch of fizz.

Edited to add that as the hours went by, this one became more soft dark cola mixed with wood floor (old, but carefully maintained), with that flower note weaving through. This is sweet without any sugar. Almost having some of that black musk vibe that is so lovely in Possets in that it can be warm, sweet, but not cloying, but this isn't black musk at all--if anything brown and gold and still retaining the hardness of hard wood.

The waft of this seems to pick up more of the wood, and at times comes across a little wood pulp-ish, but for the most part really remains what feels like an utterly classic perfume. I would wear this to France and walk into a shop or wear it out in the evening for social occasion, mixing it up between the two (casual and formal) without a qualm.

This one is definitely one of my keepers, probably more so for special occasions, when I want to feel decadent.

My previous review of Daring on the Possets forum says this (I didn't look at it until I finished this test): "This would be great for a dressy occasion. It has that classy classic opulent vibe. But, but, oh BUT! it would also be great for everyday wear, where you just want to feel like strolling out in something lovely because it's what you have and what you can do." It also worked well on my mother. We have very different tastes and skin, so it's fun to find one that we both like a lot.

Paired with Blind Pilots, Daring places me right on the edge of a big adventure, but is equally happy being at home thinking about the to-do list for the day.

Life is full of loss. Of silence. Of taking blind curves, and feeling our way through the dark with our hands outstretched in front of our faces. But, life is still to be lived. It is up to us to make the choice--to dare--to do so. I hope when you start your own flight check, that you smell as wonderful as Daring insists you can be. And that you fly past what your limitations have set for you. I wish that for us all.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Grieving Today, and a Love Note to Perfume

Just a few minutes ago, I heard from someone who follows Possets that Fabienne Christenson passed away in hospice. Link to her obituary: Fabienne Christenson

This summer had been difficult for her, and she had let us know on the forum that she was "helping a loved one" in hospice. Looking back at some of her posts, things that were a little confusing now are much more clear. For example, she loved Halloween and always looked forward to making Halloween fragrances, but this year "unexpected things" had come up, and we would not be getting our yearly release. I remember thinking how very out of character that was for her. And, I admit that I was tempted to write her several times, but I know how busy helping someone in hospice can be, and I didn't want to intrude. (Now I'm wishing I had intruded, a little bit.)

She was the first perfumer that I discovered when I started going down the Indie perfume/niche path (not one that someone recommended to me).

I still remember going through the website and ordering samples, getting the samples, and immediately turning around and ordering a few bottles and more samples. Some of the perfumes worked. Some didn't. Such is the nature of skin, chemicals, bodies, and perfume.

One of the things that charmed me about Possets was that Fabienne would include a little personal note on each invoice, and her turnaround time was impressive. If she had issues with a mail carrier, she let us know. She hated delays. She liked to be connected. And it showed. When she had to raise perfume prices, she did so with apologies and warning. All part of her dedication to customer service.

She is one reason that I decided that perfume didn't have to be fussy or full of alcohol or headache inducing. I found more from her that worked for me, that I enjoyed, and when I found out that her company had been started as an essential oil company, that made sense to me. She seemed to care about what she created, and it showed to those who purchased from her.

When I heard the news today, I had an urge to find all of my Halloween bottles, and open them. This was one of her favorite times of year, and it showed in her Halloween releases. In some ways, I find it oddly fitting that somehow she waited until autumn. It was a season she loved, and it was a love she shared with many of us on the forum in her posts, and also in her perfumes. Where else would you find perfumes called Ghost Fart; Gingerbread Whorehouse; or Pumpkin Tied Up, Covered in Honey, and Licked all Over? Her sense of humor, her fun, her delightful approach to an art that some take much too seriously (although to be fair, some don't take seriously enough) charmed me and made me realize that perfume is just one more fantastic way to express myself.

Oh, Fabienne, you will be missed. Thank you for being part of the scent memory of my life, and for sharing your art with us while you were here. I am deeply grateful that I found Possets when I did, and that it was part of what helped start my ongoing love affair with something as small as scent molecules. Science and art can be utterly wonderful when they come together, and Possets is proof of that.

Today, as I watch more leaves being shaken down by unseen winds and I think of all that I love about autumn, I am going to find my Halloween bottles and decide what I'm going to smell like today. I can tell you this: I'm going to be delicious. And I owe that to Fabienne.