I have been hibernating a bit, taking it slower, and scrapping all of the to-do lists over the past month or so. I’m sleeping in later in the mornings, spending more time reading, and less time on projects and progress. Typically I might fight this slowing-down, this softening; it might stress me out, thinking that I’m being lazy, that things aren’t moving forward or getting done. I don’t know what’s changed, exactly. I don’t know how or where I might have changed. But it feels natural for the season…which, I know…that’s a big duh. It takes me a while to get on board with things that other people seem to just intuitively know and understand.
I’m watching the leaves from the crepe myrtle tree wither and fall to the ground just outside my office window. A slow, descent, carried by the breeze. It reaches the ground, eventually. The startlingly white ibis appear like magic to dine in our yard every morning, their long bills unhurriedly poking through the grass to find bugs for breakfast. A large crow landed on our barren pumpkin bed the other day and had a leisurely conversation with an even larger crow perched on the lip of a soggy whiskey barrel filled with fragrant lemon balm and hyssop. They’re all taking their time. Me too, friends. Me too.
Giving myself a break, coupled with a few weeks’ worth of work-related and family-related travel, my little blog here has slowed down, too. I can’t remember the last time I’ve gone so long without at least a tiny update, even something silly or just a pretty thing to look at! I didn’t take a single photo while I was away, and I barely checked my social media (which I’m sure my iPhone will be delighted to report in my weekly usage update! It’s an awfully smug thing, and I resent it, sometimes.)
Saffron tassels, Honeycrisp apples, chrysanthemum dazzles: I have so far knit four different versions of this Stoker shawl, above. This one I am keeping for myself. I created the tassels for it two weeks ago and still haven’t attached them. I am supremely unbothered. It’ll happen eventually. The fiery flowers are from my garden, but they were originally a grocery store impulse buy last year! After they had set out for about two weeks and I decided that their time was up, Yvan suggested that we plant them instead of throwing them away or composting them or whatever. They languished for nine months and then as soon as the weather got cooler, they perked up and thrived! Thanks, $9.99 chrysanthemums, for reminding me to do things in my own time as well. Such as getting through this book, The Scent of Lemons and Rosemary: Working Domestic Magick With Hestia, which I started in June, and I am still only two chapters into!
Since we are on the topic of scents and such, here are a few more perfumed thoughts from my ongoing effort to catalog and review every scent that I own. (This, too, is taking a while. But there is no hurry.)
At first sniff, Autumn Vibes from Maison Margiela is an intensely smoky, peppery amber. Somewhat briefly akin to the splendidly smoky amber crackling autumn bonfire of Sonoma Scent Studio’s Ambre Noir. But then, in the span of a split-split-split second, it transforms into a sour, sulky citrus. Ray Bradbury has a quote along the lines of how for some people, fall is the only season, the only weather, and there is no other choice beyond that. These “autumn people” are full of the dust of the grave, with the night wind in their blood, and a whole bunch of other spooky goth stuff about worms and toads and snakes and the frenzy of souls and sinners and the starlit abyss. Thank you for summing us up so beautifully, Ray! So. Imagine you’re a regular denizen of Mr. Bradbury’s Autumn People Cocktail Bar, and there’s a whole menu of delectable October libations to choose from. One day this tourist shows up, and when presented with the option between the house special smoked bourbon old-fashioned with a wedge of spiced pumpkin pie on the rim…and a screwdriver…this guy inexplicably orders the orange juice & vodka. This is the sad story and evolution of Autumn Vibes. Autumn People, be warned–you’ll want to get your creepy cozy, harvest-season, sweater-weather vibes elsewhere. This one’s for the (GASP) Summer People.
I first learned of Hanae Mori on a blog that I was pretty obsessed with, back in the early 2000s. This person wasn’t a perfume enthusiast or fashionista, or even a popular blogger as far as I could tell…she seemed to be a gentle quiet weirdo, like me. She had a goth Betty Page bob and she did something in tech and updated sporadically about her little Seattle apartment. I thought she was the coolest. When I began to really delve into fragrances a few years later, I recall her mentioning this one in passing, and so sought out a sample. I was disappointed at how ordinary it seemed. Twenty years later I quite disagree with past me! Hanae Mori is a really lovely woody vanilla and creamy musk with hints of dusty dried grass and the airy green tang of blackberry leaves. A lot of reviewers mention fruit, but I don’t get any of that at all. If you like the comforting nostalgia whispers of Vanilla Fields or the bitter Miss Havisham melancholia of Fleur Cachee, I’d say this scent falls squarely in the middle, and friends, I am so obsessed.
Someone mentioned that I should try M from Mariah Carey because it smells like marshmallow incense, and though I love marshmallows and incense, I didn’t have high hopes because I think most celebrity fragrances are either boring or kind of awful. But how could I doubt the performer who sings what can only be spoken of as the most splendid and fabulous Christmas song of all time? Mariah’s version of All I Want For Christmas Is You is perfect and excellent and I am taking no questions on that point. This perfume is neither perfect, nor does it smell like marshmallows or incense (at least to my nose it doesn’t but I’m not saying that the commenter didn’t have their own experience.) BUT it’s still pretty decent! More than decent, even. And okay, maybe I was wrong. These are *cereal marshmallows* perfumed with lush, night-blooming flowers, sweetened with rich amber rock sugar, all gone soft and creamy in a bowl of milk. And then left on an altar to smolder lazily in a dish combined with dragon’s blood and pomegranate. Not a summoning. But an offering of thanks. She doesn’t want a lot for Christmas. Because she’s a giver. And she gave us the best holiday-themed song to ever exist in this world or any other. All hail Mariah, the vocal acrobatics of “All Want For Christmas Is You”, and to a lesser extent… this perfume which is actually pretty ok.
Over the past 24 hours, I have had to reframe and rescript all of my internal dialogue about Lady Vengeance from Juliette has a Gun. It is an entirely different creature today than it was yesterday. Almost a Jekyll and Hyde performance, if the good doctor was a sociopath and his alter ego was actually a hapless hero. Let me explain. Yesterday this was a fragrance of soft, cedary woods and ambery musks, a combination which I tend to love… but it was missing something. It was like observing someone with a human mask on, going through the motions of what humans do, but behind their dead, black eyes there was no light, or spark, or soul. Today this scent is the most theatrical, scenery-chewing rose; a rose that sweeps in to save the day with roses embroidered on its cape and a rose between its teeth and some sort of rose-related catchphrase– in case you, you know, forgot it was a rose. On one hand, it’s too little, and on the other, it’s Very A Lot and between the two, this lady has forgotten about whatever she wanted vengeance for in the first place.
I have an evolution of sentiment involving two scents that are nothing alike but which came together as a bit of a story when I wore one on either wrist. I will note a trigger warning here in the form of ruminations on death and our imminent mortality. If that’s something that bothers you, please consider yourself informed. Mojave Ghost from Byredo is a wistful floral. A little milky, a little woody, a little sad. With a gently soapy violet aspect to it, more like laundry soap than handsoap. Something that you might use to clean a dusty Edwardian frock. It first calls to mind the girls in their frothy ivory dresses from the film Picnic at Hanging Rock, and their mysterious disappearances. It makes me think of ruffles and lace period, I suppose, worn by people who’ve yet to encounter loss or grief. A child who one moment has no concept of death, and then in the next second when they learn of their missing sister who will never return, or their terminally ill relative or a grandparent who died in their sleep…and then with that knowledge that none of us will be here forever and eventually we’re all going to shuffle off of this plane of existence… things are just different. Perhaps we’re not going to disappear into a massive and uncanny geological formation, possibly ushered along by unseen forces (like the Hanging Rock girls) but that our lives will one day end is a certainty. Mojave Ghost smells like the moment just after you’ve come by this information, and you know you are never again going to be as happy as you were before you knew it.
Phantasmagoria, on the other hand, a perfume oil collaboration between Haute Macabre and Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, is that young person, twenty years later, after they’ve seen some shit. And they’re soaking in their departed mother’s bathtub, up to their neck in her favorite bubble bath (which in this case is Avon’s Skin So Soft.) They’re smoking a clove cigarette, a myrrh-scented incense stick is softly glowing at the edge of the tub, and there’s a rosewood box of polaroids balanced on their soapy knees. With wet fingers, you flip through til you find the photo you were looking for: you, in your easter dress, ruffles, and lace. The moment your mother told you this day would come.
Imagine you won a contest run by your local radio station, you know the one with the obnoxious sexist pig morning show duo, generically called something like “Big Dude Bro and the Little Vermin.” Yeah, so you–lucky you!–entered this contest where the prize was the privilege of getting to spend the night in a local spot purported to be haunted. Great, right?! Well, turns out it’s just a sketchy vape shop and the “ghost” is like, how someone saw Jesus’s face in a baked potato or something. And that actually happened next door in the crusty diner. The moment you walk in the door you are assaulted by the sickening aroma of maple syrup vape juice, a cloying waft from an empty rum raisin ice cream container crawling with many-legged insects, and the dusty fumes of your meanest ancestor’s cherry pipe tobacco. Was it a haunting or was it Marc Jacobs Decadence? You conclude that while you did not experience anything in the slightest bit supernatural, this vile combination of notes will certainly haunt you for the rest of your days.
Oddity from Rag & Bone was referred to me a few months ago, and a quick search revealed that it had been discontinued. I grabbed an overpriced sample from eBay and promptly fell in love. Would I consider it an “oddity”? Hm. Well, for a perfume to be so beautifully cardamom forward is a rarity, I suppose. But the real peculiarity is that there is no cardamom included in the notes! I’m no chemist or perfumer, so I am not sure which amongst the oud, incense, amber, neroli, bergamot, or rose listed is combining to give it that distinctive that piney-woody-floral cardamom aroma, but it’s absolutely enchanting and I love it. It’s as if someone took a stick of cardamom incense and stirred a cup of cardamom tea with it and then sweetened it with cardamom and brown sugar, and then you breathed in deeply as cardamom-scented smoke and steam rose from the cup. As much as I love this, I am hesitant to purchase a full bottle. It’s again available on the Rag & Bone site and I’m hearing whisperings that this is a reformulation. And I don’t always get sucked into to the nay-sayers and hand-wringers and pearl-clutchers when it comes to reformulations, but… if this doesn’t smell exactly like the strange, smoky cardamom magics emanating from this sample vial I am not interested. Also, do you see this? I literally do not have room for it if it not a thing of utter perfection and beauty.
Tam Dao from Diptyque is a perfect poem of a scent that I love wholeheartedly and which others have most assuredly spoken of more eloquently than I could ever hope to. A dry, woody composition with notes of cedar and cypress, sandalwood, rosewood, and musk, it’s an understated and Introspective fragrance, evoking the meditative shifting light of the afternoon sun as it deepens into the melancholic shadows of evening as daylight dwindles.
It recalls for me the oft-quoted line from beloved poet Mary Oliver’s The Uses of Sorrow:
“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”
There’s a decade’s worth of perfume reviews on this blog, but if you’ve missed any this year, have a look at the following links:
– 40 Days Of Perfume Reviews
– Another Month of Perfume Reviews
– More Fragrance Reviews
– Even More Fragrance Reviews
Looking for even more autumnal fragrance reviews? Check back at the end of the week and I will have my thoughts on Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s 2021 Weenie collection ready to share!
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