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.
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”?