Perfume Chat Room, March 11

Welcome back to the weekly Perfume Chat Room, perfumistas! I envision this chat room as a weekly drop-in spot online, where readers may ask questions, suggest fragrances, tell others their SOTD, comment on new releases or old favorites, and respond to each other. The perennial theme is fragrance, but we can interpret that broadly. This is meant to be a kind space, so please try not to give or take offense, and let’s all agree to disagree when opinions differ. In fragrance as in life, your mileage may vary! YMMV.

Today is Friday, March 11, and it is the two-year anniversary of the World Health Organization’s announcement that COVID-19 had become officially a pandemic. Reading those words today and their warning is sobering, given how many mistakes were made and how many millions have died. I feel like Neil at The Black Narcissus, who was recently wondering why he writes (and we read) about perfume when the war in Ukraine — that started two weeks ago today — is so appalling. I think the answers in the comments to his post respond quite well to his question — if we have done what little we can to address human needs, we need respite from the unrelenting tide of awfulness; we need to pause and remember how much beauty there is in the world, and how lucky we are to be able to enjoy it. Victoria at “Bois de Jasmin”, who is Ukrainian, is trying to achieve that balance by posting about aid resources, her family home in Ukraine, and her friends (to put faces on the crisis).

The Friday community project at “Now Smell This” is to wear a fragrance that somehow captures for you the official anniversary of the pandemic. I’ve been struggling with this all week, but last night, the right choice for me popped into my head. It is Gardener’s Glove, from artisan perfumer Diane St. Clair of St. Clair Scents. When my family went into lockdown by the end of March 2020 (it took my workplace until the end of the month to send most employees home), I decided to start a vegetable garden. It was both a distraction and a way to make sure my family could have fresh vegetables, given uncertainty about supply chains. Gardener’s Glove and First Cut, also by St. Clair Scents, reminded me of my late father’s vegetable garden.

And sometimes, as Voltaire once wrote, our individual response to the world’s disasters, war, and cruelty must be to “cultivate one’s garden.” Writers have argued for centuries about his intended meaning. Is it cynical advice to turn away from the world’s suffering and sorrow, and isolate oneself in a comfortable retreat? Or is it a call to create and nurture beauty and fruitfulness within one’s limited control?

I choose the latter. Candide has witnessed the world’s suffering and has not forgotten it. We too can bear witness, and respond as best we can, and also continue to create and nurture. So I will give to Ukrainian relief, and follow the news, and appreciate my many blessings, which include fragrance, and cultivate my garden. If creators cease creating, the war-mongers have won, and the world will become even more grim.

Backyard vegetable garden
Old Herbaceous’ vegetable garden, Winter 2021-22

Are you marking today’s anniversary in any way? Do you associate any particular fragrance with the last two years? Or, how do you cultivate your own “garden”?

10 thoughts on “Perfume Chat Room, March 11

  1. With the world not yet back on a level footing after the shock of covid, to be hit with the outbreak of a war waged on Ukraine by a despot was a further assault on the senses. We can do so much to help from a distance by giving what we can to aid agencies, or opening up our homes (in Europe) to house what is becoming a tidal wave of refugees. In the worst of times we need something to lighten the mood and the morale, and to remind us that there is still beauty and goodness in the world so why NOT write and read about something like perfume? I can remember exactly what I was doing when covid was declared a pandemic – sitting in the hairdresser’s chair. My workplace closed immediately for several months, even though everyone thought at the time that it might be a few weeks. We have learned a lot since then. I’m in a gentle cloud of Bottega Veneta Eau de Velours and enjoying it tremendously.

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  2. I always thought Candide’s “tend one’s own garden” meant each person should mind our own business and not meddle in others’. But part of that is also tied to your proposed interpretation, because how else can we help others if we don’t nurture and build our ability to do so?

    Today is also the 11th anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

    It will probably be only in retrospect that I’ll know whether I associate any perfumes with the pandemic. Wearing my sample of Amouage Honour 43 Woman today for an olfactory change of scenery with white flowers.

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  3. Hey OH,
    So much in your post.
    I’m not in any space to really answer any of the big questions or wonder about interpretations.
    Your veggie garden looks terrific. It looks like you could support yourself with few additives if the time came. Congratulations. It’s also beautiful. I’d expect nothing less.
    Nothing has particularly dominated the last two years perfume wise except I did fall heavily in love with Liz Taylor’s Emeralds and Diamonds.
    Stay safe, well and prosperous.
    Portia xx

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  4. I had not marked the anniversary of the pandemic being announced as of course it isn’t yet over. One of my concerns regarding the needless war, is that such massive displacement of people will, inevitably, give rise to new variants & a further wave of C-19. Such needless suffering.

    During times of increased uncertainty the need to nurture & grow becomes stronger as a survival instinct, as does finding beauty in our lives. The perfumed representatives of this, for me are Floria’s delectable Madonna of the Almonds, the apotheosis of an almond orchard in bloom & Sisley Eau de Campagne, a true interpretation of tomato stems.

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  5. Pingback: Cultivating One’s Garden – Old Herbaceous

  6. So beautifully expressed! I totally agree that we must all do what we can to alleviate suffering in the world and continue to nurture love and beauty. I have given to Ukranian aid organizations and will continue to do so. In the meantime, I’m appreciating my blessings and my wonderful life more each day. The perfume I would choose is Annick Goutal’s Nuit Etoilee’ I think it’s an under-appreciated beauty. It always reminds me of the beauty and mystery of the stars and the infinite universe.

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