Smell You Later

Smell you later

I’m prone to small obsessions. Little excursions into what you might term “side quests”: finding certain things, discovering certain facts. At present, it’s a way of distracting myself from the insoluble problems of life, and it stops me banging my head against any convenient wall. My current side quest has been going on for a good while, travelling down sensory roads by literally following my nose. I’ve explored a plethora of scents in the last two years or more, letting the fragrance go deep and see what it sparked. Some things are just brewing or festering away, and I know I can’t rush whatever alchemy I may have started.

Part of the search has been to find the scent Chloe (from Square Peg, and other books as yet unpublished) uses. I’ve always known it was a jasmine perfume; it’s one of my own favourite notes in perfumery. I’ve felt as if I might come closer to her if I could find the right one. Decades ago now, I used a jasmine eau de parfum from Culpeper the Herbalist. It was a very lovely scent, and I mourn the demise of the company for many reasons, and the loss of their extraordinary perfumes is one of them. Since then, I’ve searched. Oh boy have I searched..! I’ve tried dozens of perfumes that claim to be jasmine based or have it as the predominant note.

Then I found one. L’Occitane en Provence did a range of iconic perfumes, the Wind Rose range, and one was jasmine. Created from Egyptian jasmine, this was something that hit the mark for me; it matched very closely the scent Chloe uses. And then they discontinued the entire range because it was going to become too expensive. They’ve created another one, less pricey, but it’s mixed with bergamot and it’s not the same.

I sulked. I sulked a lot. I explored online, tried a couple of Arabic perfume houses and their jasmine perfumes, which have been good but a little unsubtle, and with a chemical tang that is off-putting. I looked at Jo Malone, who did a jasmine and something else scent. Not quite right. Plus Jo Malone’s perfumes are created entirely within a laboratory, and I prefer perfumes that start with the real essential oil.

Now social media is a wonderful thing that can bring extraordinary meetings and so, by means of the alchemical serendipity I adore, I came across a blogger who writes entirely about perfume. I got into a couple of conversations and she pointed me to the Fragonard perfume house. Marks and Spencers stock their range and on my birthday (a big birthday) a few weeks ago, I tiptoed into the store to try it.

Fragonard‘s jasmine is all I could hope for. Alas, that day they were out of stock but for the tester, but I came back a few days later and bought my bottle.

It’s as if I have established a telepathic connection to Chloe. She’s never been a girly girl, and the perfume has been one that she adopted for very emotive and powerful reasons. A year ago I began writing a sequel to Square Peg; I wrote perhaps a third of the story and then, defeated by depression, despondency and lack of meaning (and sales) it’s petered out into yet another Moleskine filled with scribble. Now I am hoping that if I spritz myself with jasmine from time to time, Chloe is going to grab me by the arm, and start whispering to me again.

We can but hope.

Monday Meditation ~ Jasmine, for sensuality and relaxation

Jasmine Meditation

You are standing in front of an archway set in a long high wall of mellow old bricks. The archway frames a gate of heavy but plain wood, standing a little ajar, inviting you to investigate. It is twilight and the sky is starting to darken and as the sun slowly sets the sky changes  colour steadily. Shades of rose pink, apricot and gold at the horizon deepen and then turn seamlessly to indigo. Birds are singing their evening songs and the air is full of the remnants of the day’s heat.

Push the gate open and step through.

You find yourself in a courtyard surrounded by high walls and filled with an atmosphere of peace and privacy. This is not overlooked by
anything and you feel safe and secure here. The courtyard is laid out
as a formal garden, in a somewhat Arabic style. At the centre is a
rectangular pool, lined with tiles of cobalt and midnight blue
decorated with geometric patterns in vivid colours that resemble
flowers. A simple fountain plays in the middle of the pool and the
falling water shimmers in the fading light, glowing brightly as the
last rays of the setting sun catch the droplets and make them light
up like molten gold.

The air is still warm from a day of sunshine but standing near the
fountain brings a pleasing coolness and freshness. The sound of the
water is gentle and musical and is a perfect counterpoint to the
birdsong.

The courtyard is filled with ornamental tubs planted densely with shrubs of varying sorts- bays rub shoulders with olive trees, and the
glossy leaves of citruses contrast with the silver-grey furry leaves
of lavenders. The walls are painted white and close to each wall is a
neat flowerbed each with a climbing plant trained up a trellis.
Tendrils of greenery reach down and brush your head as you walk
slowly round the little garden. Here and there a small candle burns
in a jar, flickering and dancing in the still air.

As you move you notice that the sky has passed through its sequence of colours and is now changing to deep midnight blue. A few stars are
now appearing and you see that the flowers on the climbers are tiny
white stars too, opening as the night begins and surrounding you with
their scent. The flowers are mostly pure clean white, slightly waxy
in appearance, their unopened buds pinkish, but some are a deep
crimson colour too. Whatever the colour the perfume that emerges is
sweet and heady and intoxicating. It comes in waves of intensity,
almost too powerful to enjoy, but fades away just at the point where
it might be unpleasant. The scent fills you with a sense of joy and a
longing you find hard to quantify.

At the far end of the garden directly opposite the gate where you came in is a white painted table and matching chairs, the ironwork complex and oriental in design. They are positioned so you can experience the full glory of this garden with its sights and sounds but most especially the scents.

Go and sit down.

In the middle of the table is a white porcelain teapot and two small
cups. A wisp of steam emerges from the teapot and if you lift the lid
you will see that it contains jasmine tea. If you wish, pour out two
cupfuls. Inhale the mingled fragrance of the tea and the jasmine.
Take a sip. Enjoy the taste as well as the fragrance.

If you wish, you may summon anyone you would like to share this moment with, sitting in this tranquil evening garden, the air filled with
the aroma of jasmine and the music of birds and falling water from
the fountain. Think who you would like to be here with you and as the idea forms in your mind, see the gate swinging open and watch them coming to join you. I will leave you in peace now to enjoy your time here.

The moon is rising, a sliver of silver in the starry sky and the air is
feeling cooler. Your visitor has left and the teapot is empty and so
are your cups. You feel peaceful and happy after your time here, and
a sense of joy still tingles in your blood. As you get to your feet
to leave, look round the courtyard one last time. It will be here
again exactly as you wish it to be next time you come. When you step
through the gate into your room again, notice that the scent of
jasmine, faint but resilient, clings to your hair and clothes.
Whenever you smell this fragrance again, you will recall the feelings
of peace and joy you felt in the garden.

Breathe deeply and fully several times before opening your eyes again. You are back.  

         Written as part of the Meditating with Aromatics project

Thaw #smallstone 13

 

Thaw #smallstone 13

 

It’s still not warm but the change is still startling. I can sit in an unheated house, without needing two jumpers and feeling my fingers become chilled. I walked in the garden without wishing I had put a coat on. The ambient indoor temperature is comfortable even without the heating on.

On windowsills, sprouting bulbs in pots lean towards the light, yearning for the touch of sun. The green shoots of snowdrops shine with vibrant life. Hyacinth flowers still unopened seem paused for breath, and on the dining room table, oblivious of outside conditions, my jasmine plant opens bloom after starry bloom and fills the room with waves of exotic scent, making me think of Mediterranean gardens on summer nights.

It may be a temporary thing, but it might be enough to get me through to Candle-mas and the start of springtime.