my occasional musings on life, love, art, perfume ... what else is there?


You've Got to Hide Your Love Away

"Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal.

Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements.

Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

But in that casket -- safe, dark, motionless, airless -- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.

To love is to be vulnerable."

C.S. Lewis

Today's fragrance: The Different Company's Jasmin de Nuit *thank you, NST* Unfortunately it just isn't me.


Maid of Orleans 1.15.1413 - 5.30.1431

"I am not afraid. I was born to do this."

Today is the feast day -- also commemorating the execution date -- of Joan of Arc, patron saint of soldiers, prisoners and rape victims.

Lauded and condemned and canonized for following what she believed to be the direction of St. Michael, St. Catherine of Alexandria and St. Margaret, Joan led French troops to victory and then defeat but then ultimately contributed to turning the Hundred Years' War in France's favor.

" 'Daughter of God, go on, go on, go on! I will be your help. Go on!' When I hear this voice, I feel such great joy that I wish I could always hear it!"

Peasant girl, woman warrior with divine mission, kingmaker, political and ecclesiastical pawn ... tortured prisoner, relapsed heretic, martyr and saint.

"I came from God. There is nothing more for me to do here! Send me back to God, from Whom I came!"

There is nothing cleanly straightforward about who she was and what she was meant to represent to us. Perhaps that is her lesson: nothing is as it appears. What is now may be completely changed then. Madness and divine inspiration are intertwined. Be prepared to pay for your faith; certainly expect no earthly reward.

"Do you believe that you are in the Grace of God?"
"If I am not, I trust He will place me there and if I am, that He will hold me there."

Today's fragrance is a trinity of roses: Montale Rose Petals, Ormonde Jayne Ta'if and Czech and Speake Dark Rose.


Bucky Says: Thank God She's Finally Asleep

RRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. I'm writing today's entry because mama's allergies are acting up and it's best for all concerned if she just stays asleep.

And I thought this would be a good opportunity to give you my view of the woman in my life: M.

She's not bad. There are, of course, a few things about her that irritate me.

One is the constant begging for kisses. The woman is insatiable. She gets right up in my face, when I'm trying to sleep and rests her cheek against my powerful jaws. Doesn't she realize that with one *SNAP* I could bite off half her face? Of course I wouldn't, but just sayin'.

She has a strange intolerance for my prey. On at least one occasion, I have presented her with a perfectly decent dead mouse (ok, rat) and -- far from being grateful -- she screamed for dad to come take it away. That wasn't very motivational. And I have to tell you I was a bit insulted.

Then there's the issue about my hair. Let me tell you, I'm not the only one around here who's shedding. I can't tell you how many times I've come across a long brown hair in my kibble. And you know it wasn't mine. Plus she makes such a production about it when some of mine inadvertently strays. Big deal.

On the treat front, I've got no complaints. She's way more generous than Old Alpha, I mean dad. And she's especially free-handed with the protein (I think because she doesn't like it and it's a way of making dad think she's eating meat, which she's supposed to be doing. We all win on that one).

Oddly, I've learned to love fruit and vegetables with the woman. Just last night, we were eating cherries. She'd bite into one, spit the pit out and give me half. I found that endearing.

Heck, there's a lot about her that's good. I just wish she'd stop insisting on the constant demonstration of affection. By now she ought to know I love her. No need to get all slobbery about it.

Oh. Fragrance of the day. I'm still wearing Rose Ikebana and A La Nuit because she was hugging on me and my fur absorbs her perfume. I'm usually just wearing what she wore yesterday.


I Hate Dieting. I'm Tired of Baseball. And I Never Get To Watch What I Want To Watch.

I'm grouchy. It's because my blood sugar is low. Must have eclair. Now.

Tonight's fragrance: Hermes Rose Ikebana, a peppery ambery rose layered on the remnants of today's A La Nuit. At least I smell good.


Does This Flowing Garment Make Me Look Fat?

Where I live -- in my mind -- one of my favorite places to travel is the Land of the MakeOver.

As changes in my life approach, I feel the need to do this with my appearance. Big Changes are coming in my life and therefore, I will need to look Completely Different than I do now.

There's not much I can do about my height -- all 60 inches of it -- but of course I will need to become stick thin, immediately. Flashback to diets I have known and hated:

  • The Medically Supervised Fast. In which I lose 40 lbs while subsisting on 400 (count 'em) 400 calories a day. For four months.
  • The Falling Out of Love Diet in which I lose ten pounds in two weeks by simply stopping eating, sleeping incessantly, refusing to take off my loved one's stinky t-shirt, crying and watching bad TV.
  • The Recovering from Surgery Diet which requires something to be cut off or out, massive analgesia resulting in sleeping most of the time, perhaps alternating with intense pain and/or throwing up. Excellent results with this one, up to ten pounds a week; unfortunately I currently have nothing that needs to be cut off or out.
  • South Beach. Meh to somebody who really doesn't much like protein. But it's not draconian and it works. This is the one I'm now enduring.

The exercise program. Oh yuk. Will increase number of walks with Bucky. When? Oh ... soon.

Ok. The Hair. In a previous blogpost I discussed my unrest with my shoulder-brushing, dark brown shot-through-with-silver-with-silver-streaks-on-side hair. I have Been There and Done Every Possible Permutation with the hair. My decision: a trim to make my bob variation severely blunt, and then leave it the heck alone. It's been through enough already.

Hands and Feet: manicure and pedicure. Pale polish on hands, bloodred polish on toes. Easy.

The Skin. I'm blessed with good skin that I started caring for at an early age. However, one must be ever vigilant and in that regard I have Completely sworn off any natural sunlight (don't talk to me about Vitamin D) and reinitiated the Retin-A micro. This is why I currently look like our gecko (yes, we have a leopard gecko named Alphonse) in a skin-shedding phase. I shall look normal by September.

Here is the most fantasy-laden component of my Make Over program: the Clothes. I tend to vacillate wildly during these Life Changing episodes. For instance, I once went from boho chic to preppy in one fell swoop. It was quite the shock to my coworkers when the peasant blouses, all-natural-fiber sari print floor-brushing skirts and native jewelry gave way to khakis, blue-striped buttondowns and navy blazers with Tiffany solitaire necklace. Overnight.

Now, fortunately, the only ones I have to shock are Jim, Bucky and Alphonse -- and, frankly, anything other than black sweats, tunic/t-shirt and bare feet is going to blow them away. Must think more on clothing choices, but am thinking traditional: straight skirts, slacks, sweaters, ballet flats, low-heeled pumps. Something that won't look weird in a law firm.

Oh God, am I really going to do this? *Self rebels at this, wants a brownie, wants to continue slothful lifestyle and wants to get nose pierced.* *Slaps Self and tells it to sit down and shut up. And do some leglifts, as long as you're just sitting there.*

Today's fragrance: mmmmm, a melange of last night's Route du The with some Sung Sha for good measure. Light tea and lilac mix ... pale green floral for an unseasonably hot afternoon.


Strange Beauty and Dreams of Diana

Today's visual has nothing to do with written content ... or, if it does, it is so weirdly connected that my conscious has not yet beaten my subconscious into submission enough to figure it out.

Published in this week's New England Journal of Medicine as "Image of the Week," this is a greatly magnified slide of a pap smear in which -- somehow -- arrowwood found its way into the woman's cervical cellular content. Per NEJM:

"This harmless arrowwood contaminant was seen in a routine cervical smear of a young woman. Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum) grows in the eastern and midwestern regions of the United States and Canada. The stellate structure has thick, transparent walls and stains a pinkish-gold color with the Papanicolaou smear. It is very fragile and is seen intact infrequently. Plant hairs (trichomes) originate from many different trees and are sometimes seen in Papanicolaou smears during the spring and summer."

One wonders how it got there, doesn't one? So strangely beautiful.

And my dreams: Diana, Princess of Wales, all night long. In most of them, she was an unhappily petulant presence. Not the heroic female archetype, just a restlessly unhappy royal.

Pap smear and a princess. If you discover the connection, please advise.

Variations on jasmine and rose move around me as I continue to test clearing's Wild series ... I have numbers written on my arms so I don't make a mistake. Numbers five and one on my right arm, number two on my left. Tough call. Three hours later: Number Five, it's Number Five!!!


Second Career!

I begin training in the fall to become a paralegal! Woohoo!

Forgot to mention today's fragrance: Tipton Charles Sandalwood, a lightly floral, dry sandalwood. Nice.


Force Our Hand

Please don't expect linear exposition on the political topic I'm about to blow on about ...

This diatribe is brought to you courtesy of the apparently prevailing power structure in our country, a group of people who bluster and push and preemptively invade countries and threaten reporters and insinuate their narrowly self-righteous views into personal matters of life, health and death, and attempt to override senate traditions and ...

You take my point.

How long did it take you to figure out that you didn't achieve the best results when you bullied your way out of people, when you attempted to force yourself into situations where you weren't wanted?

How long does your self-desired result last when you willfully superimpose it on an unwilling other party?

At what point in your emotional maturation did you discover that persuasion and collaboration often achieved what brute force and conniving failed to produce?

Many years ago, a phrase "the Silent Majority" came into common usage, describing what was thought to be a vast group of individuals who vehemently disapproved of what was being done in their name -- but who declined to vocalize just how unhappy and disillusioned they had become with their government.

I posit that a new Silent near-Majority is emerging ... and that every destructively overreaching, intrusive, self-serving act perpetrated in our name takes us one step closer to throwing off the bullying mindset that is really the few maneuvering the many.

So, go ahead. Keep doing what you're doing. It just makes it that much easier to decide against you. It makes the choice -- in just three years -- that much clearer.

Today's fragrance? The very assertive Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque, with its notes of candied Turkish rose and Balkan tobacco.


Life Is A Cabaret, Old Chum

Nothing says Monday like the CanCan!!

And nothing says brisk rosiness like Cabaret by Gres. *blows kiss to Jonna* *who I hope is not still in the throes of the stomach flu*

Introduced in 2002, it's a woody floral fragrance that SAYS it includes rose, lily of the valley, peony, and pink bay layered over middle notes of incense and blue orris, and finished with sandalwood, amber, and musk.
What it DOES for me: initially a rose so bright that it's lemony -- very stimulative, and I pour it on when I need energy -- that dries down to a dry (could that be the orris?) woodiness that I find very comforting.

And speaking of Toulouse Lautrec -- and he always comes to mind when I think of dissolute nightlife ... how long has it been since you've had a good swig of absinthe? Way too long, I bet.

Sometimes our lives are so mundane. As opposed to demimonde. Must do something about that. *Makes note to dig out black tights and cancan skirt.*


Separating Art from the Artist

Today I am wearing four Chanel perfumes -- count them, four -- and I smell WONDERFUL.

On my left hand: Chanel No. 5 (1921 - Ernest Beaux) a perfume worn by my grandmother -- who wafts around me when I bring my nose down to this scent in all its aldehydic glory. Ylang-Ylang, Neroli, Aldehydes/Jasmine, Mayrose/Sandalwood, Vetiver
Left wrist: Coco (1984 - Jacques Polge) Angelica, Mimosa, Frangipani, Mandarin/ Cascarilla, Orange Flower, Bulgarian Rose, Jasmine/ Labdanum, Ambrette Seed, Opopanax/ Benzoin, Tonka, Vanilla
Right hand: Chanel No.19 (1971 - Henri Robert) Galbanum, Bergamot, Neroli, Hyacinth/Rose, Orris, Jasmine, Narcissus, Muguet, Ylang-Ylang / Musk, Sandal, Oakmoss, Leather, Cedarwood
Right wrist: Bois des Iles (1926 - Ernest Beaux) Jasmine, Damask Rose, Ylang-Ylang/Bitter Almond, Gingerbread, Vanilla, /Tonka Bean, Sandalwood, Vetiver

Suffice to say each is wonderful in its own way -- and this concludes the fragrance portion of our program.

Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel is much in the news as an exhibit chronicling her (and Karl Lagerfeld's) work continues at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (through August 7) -- and it is about Chanel that I wish to talk.

An excellent -- exhaustive, really -- review of the exhibit, "Scenes from a Marriage" by Judith Thurman is featured in this week's New Yorker.

In the review, Ms. Thurman presents an unvarnished view of the couturier in which she notes that Chanel nearly singlehandedly is responsible for the "enlightened notion ... that a woman is entitled to dress with the same dignity, comfort and self-possession as a man."

Chanel's "purism" and "yearning for austerity" have forever marked the way women of style now dress, with her less-is-more hallmark of good taste having survived more than 80 years of faddish fashion.

Thurman describes Chanel's coda as "a core of beliefs that were as much about womanhood and its paradoxes as about clothing."

And this paradoxical core is where it gets interesting -- as the writer describes how Chanel's life informed her art:

"However gratefully Chanel might have recalled the gallants who initiated her into the idle and racy life of an apprentice courtesan [The House of Chanel was founded through the generosity of one of her lovers -- and, although she has been much publicized as an uber-independent woman, there seem to be other instances of material support provided as a matter of fair exchange] it came with its own set of humiliations. Perhaps as a result, the little grisette passed among playboy friends refused ever to fetishize another woman -- and that was the moral principle (one of the few) on which Chanel founded her career."

All the beauty, the elegance, the delicacy of her style was shaped on the hardscrabble playing field of high, fast-moving society. Coco came out of rough circumstances (including upbringing in a Catholic orphanage) and apparently quickly learned to broker female wiles into more spendable currency. It is testament to how truly unusual she must have been, to have elevated herself societally to the degree she did.

I love a rags to riches story. I love the idea of this woman overcoming tough circumstances to become a present day icon of beauty and style. I even love the idea of a woman translating sex into power.

What I don't love (quote again from Thurman's New Yorker review):

"the stories of her attempts to wrest control of Chanel Parfums from her partners, the Wertheimer family, by exploiting the Nazi race laws, and of her startling offer to Hitler's secret police chief to broker a negotiated peace with her old friend Winston Churchill ..."

Wily one that she was, even after her arrest post-liberation of Paris, when she was interviewed by the Comite de'Epuration and questioned about her relationship with the German officer who shared her suite at the Ritz during the Occupation, she answered her interrogator with "Really, monsieur, a woman of my age cannot be expected to look at his passport if she has a chance of a lover."

She apparently suffered few repercussions after the war, although it's noted that she moved to Lausanne for a period of time and paid "a large sum" (per her biographer Axel Madsen) to suppress mention of her name in the memoirs of Hitler's former police chief.

It's no surprise that beauty, style, elegance often have sordid bedfellows. Chanel doesn't sound like a nice person. She sounds like a sharp-edged survivor, who did what she felt she had to do and morality was rarely an issue.

But how does, should, that shape the way we look at what she created?

Of course you will answer that for yourself. Deciding whether who she is or what she did requires you to remove yourself from the beauty of her perfumes, her clothes, even her theory of style.

I choose to believe that art transcends the artist and make my choice in favor of the art.

It is an ultimate rationalization. (As I get older, I find I do that more. That, and compassion rears its head more often as I find myself with fewer reasons to be self-righteous.)


Every Picture Tells A Story, Don't It.

Today's fragrance: clearing's South Garden. Whiteflower sweetness. Kind of New Orleansish. Perfect fragrance for a humid afternoon.


How Far Do We Travel From Where We Start?

"Voici mon secret. Il est très simple : on ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux." "Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is with the heart that one can see most rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye."
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

In an earlier blog post, I talked about this writing as means to reach an authentic voice, something I feel I lost in many years of writing commercial copy.

But last night, as I lie in bed, I thought about how hard it is to live real, not just write real -- how hard it is to get free of the layers of fake you create as part of your everyday life.

Early in life, we decide upon a persona and set about generating a life that aligns with who we see ourselves as being.

In my case, I built upon differentness. And this quirkiness, this iconoclastic "I'm really not like anyone else and therefore most societal rules don't apply to me" ethos worked for me right up until it didn't.

Something happens in your life to shake your sense of who you are, the mask you've generated, and -- at least in my case -- I was forced to confront the truth of my commonness.

I am more like you than I want to admit.

I want what most humans want: love, security, connection. I am not capable of being alone, freestanding, unencumbered.

I must take responsibility for my humanity, the fact that I owe others the love, loyalty and compassion they've shown me. I have to return to the heart, return the heart.

I don't think I was very real to begin with. I started early to build defenses, the walls that insulate one from listening to, and following, the heart. It seems that rather than traveling back to realness, I have to learn what real is.

And it's a constant process. To be quiet and listen for what is real. And then live within it.

Today's fragrance: Serge Lutens Chergui. Honeyed incensey tobacco-ey richness. And I've been promised rose and sandalwood in this ... let's see if they show up. (Even if they don't, I love the way this smells on me.)

Many thanks to mysteryfemme for the quote.


If You Squint, This Looks Like Pinocchio

Why, Why, Why did they ruin the photograph by having the feather lengthen her nose!?


BTW, today I am wearing L'Artisan's Voleur de Roses. The patchouli is not sitting well and I'm getting no roses. Why, Why, Why?!


In Defense of the Married Man

I can't help it. I'm not funny all the time. Sometimes I'm downright morbid. Um, I prefer to think of it as melancholy -- but rest assured I feel guilty for those bleak lapses.

So here it is: I'm thinking witty. Must be witty. Preferably wit with an edge. So people know I'm cool and have not lost it.

Best I could come up with: a post in defense of the married man.

I ran this past my creative director (and she knows who she is). After a deep guffaw, she ok'd the topic. [This is the same woman with whom I will be retiring; we shall be feisty widows in our senile years. Today she informed me that in our retirement we will also be doing outreach work with prostitutes. She's kind of a do-gooder. I suggested we just become really benevolent madames but she wouldn't go for that. Even though we could have handsomely supplemented our social security with it. (Whole new meaning to private accounts.) Killjoy.]


But first, as I ever do when my creativity runs dry, let's consult Dorothy Parker for her take on the battle of the sexes:

General Review of the Sex Situation

Woman wants monogamy;
Man delights in novelty.
Love is a woman's moon and sun;
Man has other forms of fun.
Woman lives but in her lord;
Count to ten, and a man is bored.
With this the gist and sum of it,
What earthly good can come of it?

Most of the time I agree with Dot. I even think all of this is true until the average male gets married.

Funny, but although men are ostensibly the ones who run from marriage, most of them LOVE it once they're trapped, I mean caught, I mean married.

Why? Because most men crave the security of domestic tranquility and will do almost anything to make sure it is not disturbed. If they have a bit of the wild hare in them this will require duplicity, but never mind.

For the most part, men just want to see the domestic ship on an even keel. They are creatures of routine and they really like it when the seas are calm, when no torpedoes are being lobbed, when the teak and brass have been polished to a high shine, their socks are washed and folded AND when dinner is prepared [in the galley, not a restaurant] and on time.

Honestly, they'll go quite the distance to make sure their particular version of peace is achieved.

That's why a certain look in a woman's eyes is often enough to strike terror in their hearts. It only takes a few episodes of their lives being made a living hell to completely convince the average husband that, truly, it is She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Or so I've heard. I personally have not experienced this, but I have heard other women talk about it.

Aren't we being too hard on them? Do we demand too much, in too strident a voice? Haven't we lost sight of the value of the "surrendered" wife, that complacent, compliant paragon of feminity?

Please discuss this among yourselves and report back.

Fleurs de Citronnier, er d'Oranger

In the same vein as the Mercer Island matron who buys art to match her sofa, I needed to review a fragrance that goes with the painting I had posted. (Not deeply aesthetic but hey, that's me.)

Lemon was the question ... and Serge Lutens' Fleurs de Citronnier, launched March 2004, is the answer.

What I like about Serge: he plays against type. I placed the fragrance on my skin and drew a deep breath in ...

What I expect from the name: green citrusy happy smell.

What I get: deep golden, with a mysterious sense of "what IS that"?

Notes are variously listed as lemon blossom, lemon tree, lemon leaves, neroli essence, white honey, tuberose, iris, styrax (balsamic resin? benzoin?), musc, [jasmine, roses -- these I don't believe] and spices, specifically nutmeg.

Reviews quote the Master's inspiration as a Moroccan garden and I'm willing to go with that. A sultry Mideast garden in late afternoon. The fragrance gives off a heat; this is citrus basking in intense warmth.

Not bright, deep. Not green, gold. Not happy, moody -- a bit played out. Jaded. Or at least very experienced.

And today I am all about moody. It's perfect.

Addendum: the Citronnier didn't quite do it for me after all. So I splashed on some Fleurs d'Oranger. Even more heat and spice in this orange blossom, jasmine, tuberose fragrance: much better. I don't mind the cumin on me ... it's soft and peppery rather than stinky. A better choice. Sorry the painting didn't match.



I want to talk about grief, as a cathartic exercise. This can be termed a lament, "an expression of deep grief or sorrow over personal loss."

There is no primary episode of grief in one's life, but rather griefs are strung together, as pearls in a necklace of wounding. They build upon each other, as life goes on and the necklace lengthens, with one never quite forgetting the initial injury.

My initial grief, the first pearl in my necklace of life's sadnesses, was my father's departure from the family when I was eight years old.

The nature of this grief has forever sensitized me to being left behind, abandoned, by people about whom I care deeply.

This will never heal completely. Something will happen to reawaken the sadness and I will remember.

One memory: walking down the street as a little girl, momentarily cheered when I thought I saw a man who looked like my father. Then overwhelmed with hopelessness when I realized it wasn't him, couldn't be him.

Another: closeted in my darkened dorm room for two weeks after losing my first love. Unable to tolerate any light stronger than a candle and playing "Here Comes the Sun" over and over and over, to try to somehow get over the loss paralyzing me.

But I've learned better ways to deal with grief. Quiet ways that aren't as obvious (necessary because my family absolutely believed in stiff upper lip. Sadness wasn't well tolerated. One was encouraged -- no, forced -- to "get over it.")

One of my ways is magical thinking, which may or may not have some basis in reality. I believe I can maintain connection on an astral level. I hold the person in my mind ... believe it. Don't believe it. I believe it.

I also have come to believe that losses happen for a reason. That we choose our losses to help us grow. An ultimate rationalization, but it works for me.

To see life's pain as a precious necklace, an emblematic badge of courage and growth, helping us evolve into stronger, more compassionate individuals.

It still hurts of course.


Monday, Monday

Sometimes I like to torment the dog. Because the dog is ALWAYS tormenting me.

Bucky is a slow mover every morning but particularly on Mondays, after a hard Sunday afternoon at the dogpark.

What really gets him is when I stumble into the family room early on Monday morning, crooning babybuckybabybuckybabybucky and find him stretched out in his usual place on the loveseat. I bury my face deep in the wide black flank of his hairy body. Then I rub my face back and forth. Drives him nuts.

If he's really in a mood, a vibrating growl starts deep in his chest, which is him telling me, "Oh, for God's sake, woman. Can you not leave me in peace? I'm SLEEPING here."

But sometimes, he gives in and flips over, awarding me his belly to rub. That's some expansive belly. He's a big boy.

And he's lovable -- and loving -- in a gruff way. He's really a grumpy old man, who's seen a lot and doesn't give himself over to much demonstration of affection. Oh, the occasional lick of the hand, but don't be expecting indiscriminate kissing. Wouldn't be dignified. No matter how much I beg.

Unless I'm cooking, or eating something. Then he can't get enough of me. As sex is to male humans, food is to this dog.

He gets this excited gleam in his eye: "Chicken! Yes!" Or "Asparagus! Yes!" Even "Orange Segments! Yes!" I'd never before seen a dog who insists on five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables. He really believes in the new Food Pyramid.

As long as you bring it to him. Don't expect him to bestir himself to come get it. Or sit for it. I mean, who are we talking about here?

Not just a dog. It's Bucky.


Write What You Know

There is nothing scarier than being on the wrong side of a group of women. And I stand to place myself in exactly this position if I write what I'm thinking about what's going on in a certain fragrance board which I frequent ... I ask that you please forgive the "non-global" nature of this post -- but, actually, human behavior being global, maybe it is. Because it's all about human behavior in general, women's behavior in particular.

For the past two years, I have enjoyed learning about perfume and making friends with some of the most open-hearted, sensitive women on the planet. We're a multinational, multicultural group and the miracle of cyberspace enabled us to transcend economic, social -- even language -- differences to talk about something about which we shared an interest: perfume.

I have learned more about perfume than I could have imagined possible. I learned about houses and noses and notes and effects of biochemistry ... and on the way, I learned about the women themselves. And learned to love a few of them. I formed relationships off the board that are extemely important to me and that I hope to continue for years to come. Those relationships are real, not cyber. Although we conduct them via email, mail and phone now, I know we will eventually meet and continue them IRL ("in real life").

Sure there were those whose posts irritated -- and I'm sure I sometimes irritated others with the approach I took -- particularly when I once posted about the prevalence of "off topic" posts, wondering if the board was losing its focus.

Many pointed out that the OT posts were a primary way of learning to know each other, and that they were valuable in that regard, even if the prevalence of posts on television shows, emotional hardship and every other imaginable topic seemed to sometime dominate the board. They pointed out there was an ebb and flow to the board content, that it was self-regulating, that the golden mean would reestablish.

It had seemed that the mutual love of fragrance drew together a very knowledgeable, intelligent group of women, women who shared a commonality of wit and good manners, who moderated their online behavior to accomodate others' opinions, women who were willing to learn as well as teach.

We're having a hard time with moderation of behavior on that board right now. There seems to be an unlucky confluence of intolerance of others' "weaknesses" and an insistence on being heard, even if one is bullying others -- overtly or covertly -- to make certain their voice rises above all others. And this has had a sad, damaging effect.

Some -- I'm one of them -- react by withdrawing from the community discussion. And maybe that's not a bad thing: one less voice to exacerbate the tension that seems to surface so often right now. Others remain, attempting to reestablish the board's equilibrium by continuing to make their good-humoured, well-informed posts on relevant topics.

I have such hope that those who said the board is self-regulating are right ... and that the board will regain its balance. I haven't lost the women who are dear to me -- but I do miss the congenial sense of community we shared on that board. I hope we get it back.


Shotei Sweetpeas and Butterflies - Watanabe


Career Options: Second in a Series

I have labored my whole life under a misconception.

That I am bookish, use overlarge words, tend toward the artsy side of things, think deep thoughts ... meh.

Now I know this has all been a mistake. And I am free to pursue my true calling:


When Jim wasn't looking this morning, I managed to catch a good-sized chunk of Judge Joe Brown on FOX-TV (the network for right thinkers). And one of the litigants was a blonde demonstrating a lot of cleavage who spoke inspirationally about B&D as a career option.

Granted, she's working with quite a bit more raw material than I currently have on board. But I'm willing to sacrifice for my craft. I hear that silicone is back in as an implant option. And they hardly ever leak nowadays.

I have googled for leather bustiers -- have you seen the wide variety? Some of them are quite inventive. Air-conditioned, even. And the ingenious use of zippers. Amazing.

Latex is also available. Seems like you'd get kind of sweaty, however. I mean, wielding a whip is aerobic exercise, at least for the upper body.

Speaking of whip-wielding, I am practicing on Bucky. Oh, not the whip part -- he'd never stand for that. I mean the whole dominating attitude thing. I have been working on glowering at him. And it seems really effective ... until he yawns and moves off to do something else.

I've got him to the point where he'll lie there with me glowering for a good five minutes. I plan on expanding the time in one minute increments until I can get him to lie there for fifteen minutes -- that's about how much time I'd need to dominate the average client, I think.

Fees, hm. How do you put a price on domination? You can't really do a time and motion study on this one -- I guess I'll look through the alternative newspapers' classified ads, call up a few specialists and inquire about pricing. Then I'll undercut 'em, since I'm new.

And advertising. I'd like to rely on word of mouth for this one. And keep the clientele small and select. Preferably right wing and repressed. The perfect target market!

I'm still conflicted about the whole whip thing, though. I can't really get behind hurting somebody, even if they're begging for it.

I know! I can specialize in verbal domination! I'll talk 'em into submission.

THAT I have experience in.


Through a Glass, Darkly

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. I Corinthians 13.12

There are so many things I don't understand. I don't understand how people can mistreat animals in ways I won't describe. I don't understand how a man can stab his eight year old daughter to death. I don't understand how six million individuals can be methodically exterminated.

I don't understand how we can live under the Damocles sword of nuclear holocaust and go through our daily lives as if it can never happen.

We watch television and are mildly concerned about the carnage in Iraq -- more than mildly concerned if we have loved ones in the middle of it. In my home, we roll our eyes at the daily obfuscation of what we're really doing over there and why. We're vaguely aware of how much of a powderkeg Iraq remains.

And we hear that Iran may be preparing a nuclear test. And that the erratic dictator in North Korea actually has long range missiles to go with what is probable nuclear warhead capability.

And then we change the channel.

Years ago I had a dream that remains vivid in memory. I am in a hotel ballroom -- apparently at a conference, a meeting with many attendees.

It seems like Hawaii, but it could be at any coastal location, I suppose. The wall of windows in the ballroom faces an open expanse of beach and ocean. Looking out, you can see to the horizon, perfect emptiness of beach and water.

People mill about -- it seems like a cocktail reception, there is a dull murmur of discussion and glasses clinking. There is a businesslike quality to the gathering, not festive; people are lowkey, it's pleasant.

A blinding flash illuminates the room and all heads pivot, all eyes turn to the glass wall.

At the far, far edge of the sea, a column of cloud rises to the heavens and slowly expands horizontally to fill the expanse of sky.

In my dream, oddly, the room remains silent. There is no screaming, no panic -- rather a deathly quiet. It is as if we had been expecting this all along.

All I remember of the dream's end is a terrible sadness as I realized everything was over. It was all over.

The rabbi who conducted my conversion classes was adamantly anti-nuclear. He pointed out how much would be lost with the death of human civilization: the books, the history, the art, the science, the potential for more human development.

To him, this was the biggest sin that could be committed against God, this willful destruction of all that had been provided to us.

If you believe in Intelligent Design, this destruction would be the most egregious sin possible against the Designer. If you don't, you must at least acknowledge the tremendous loss of all that humans have endeavored to create in their brief span on earth.

I don't have a clever, witty or inspirational ending to this post. I don't know if it has a purpose, other than catharsis for me as I shake off that dream again.

But maybe it could remind us that our choices, particularly political choices, contribute to the direction we're going in. Or the direction they can keep us from going in.


This Hat Speaks to Me

Those of us, and we know who we are -- the vertically challenged -- live in dread of Royal Weddings, Derby Season, Ascot and Other Occasions requiring Ornate Headwear. (Sure we do. In our dreams.)

I have heard our biggest hat-wearing fears variously described: being mistaken for an oversize mushroom. The short, short legs; the wide, wide brim. Inability to see out from under oversize crown sliding down to nose. Absence of enough ballast to remain upright and stable in a stiff wind. (Although someone close to me has mentioned this would not be a problem in light of my solidity -- still I seethe. And plot revenge for that remark.)

However, Philip Treacy, London milliner to royalty and wealthy hangers-on, must be a very sensitive man. For he has included in his exclusive collection a hat specifically targeted to us: the few, the proud, the 5' and under.

Here you see it ... a hat adding what must be a full foot of height to its wearer. Every vertical pink inch of it.

What insouciance! What audacity! What a very strange piece of equipment!

And how would you keep it on? Surgical adhesive? Thumbtacks? Moorage rope?

But such a small price to pay for such style!


L'Heure Bleue

In order to retain c'est chic status, I must write a perfume review approximately every 3.5 days. Here is today's:

Guerlain's L'Heure Bleue was introduced in 1912 (designed by third-generation perfumer Jacques Guerlain) and my inclination is to say it smells like it. Very old fashioned but very beautiful. I can imagine the scent wafting around a cloche-clad woman waving goodbye, sending Johnny off to fight the war to end all wars.

Literally, "The Blue Hour" -- which I suppose is twilight, or it could be the deep blue chill of dawn -- the scent is a bit sad, a bit plaintive -- wistful, poignant. Yes, romantic.

Stated notes are anise seed, bergamot, carnation, violet, rose, neroli, tonka bean, iris, benzoin, balsam, vanilla. Some sources state tuberose is in there, too, as are heliotrope and musk.

The florality is very much there -- I can detect carnation, violet and rose -- and the powdery drydown is weightily pleasant. Another serious fragrance. I like serious.

Per Luca Turin via Chandler Burr, L'Heure Bleue is older brother [I would prefer sister] to Après l'Ondée ["After the Rainshower"] (Guerlain), during which comparison he alludes to L'Heure Bleue's mystery and melancholy.

But my favorite reference to L'Heure Bleue is a quasi literary one: In Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, this is Claire Fraser's perfume. There's a wonderful scene in which she brushes her hair to a state of static cling and pours the fragrance on her hands, which she then uses to fragrantly smooth down her hair.

Since I adore that character, it's a wonderful association of scent with a timeless woman, a woman independent yet ultimately feminine. A transcendent woman of substance.

L'Heure Bleue is perfect for her.


Sanctuary and Interlude

I read a friend's post this weekend about her brother -- he's in his sixties, he's chronically ill with debilitating illness and she believes he's about to give up. He's sick -- and sick of living.

I don't think this is an aging thing. I think it's a state-of-mind thing.

Often it's triggered by reaching a point in life when you realize you will not be able to do everything you'd dreamed. It can be a realization of limitation of skill and temperament as much as an acknowledgement of time limits. It can also be a crushing realization of what has been denied you -- or what you have denied yourself -- emotionally.

You are forced to see that you will not be able to fly the Concorde, you may not make it to CEO, you may not have the baby, you may not have the perfect marriage, or home, or job. You may not write the novel.

I no longer believe in the much laughed-at mid-life crisis. Just as many 30 year olds as 60 year olds turn their faces to the wall and literally or figuratively give up. It can happen at any time of your life -- mine occurred in my early 40s -- and this "existential malaise" manifests in many ways.

Many minds write checks their bodies can't cash: they push themselves so hard, they trigger heart attacks. Some individuals invite lifestyle diseases such as smoking-related emphysema or lung cancer; obesity or food-related issues such as diabetes or eating disorders. There's an arguable case for certain temperaments under some circumstances being cancer or autoimmune disease-prone. Some individuals descend into depression -- either the "high functioning" kind in which one goes about everyday life in despair (often numbed by shopping, food, drugs, alcohol, sex) or the incapacitating kind in which one just goes catatonic.

You "hit the wall" in terms of what your life was supposed to be.

What do you do then?

One approach -- the bootstrap approach -- would tell you to get real intent on what you do have. Make what you have better. Make what you have last. Intensify what does exist in your life. Make your life work as it is. A certain type of personality works well with this approach ... and I have great respect for the strength and discipline this pragmatism requires. And a love for the intensity and passion-overcoming-all inherent in this personality.

My approach -- by the grace of God -- was to be given sanctuary by someone who loves me -- and an interlude in which to rebuild hope, reassess strengths and decide to build forward on the ruins of what was not possible. I am a softer, kinder personality because of what I've been given.

I have been changed for the better by this opportunity to step away from all that I was and determine how I could realistically shape a good rest-of-my-life. I will never be able to fully repay my debt for this gift -- from a person whose generosity of spirit I can not adequately put into words. The gentleness I have been shown is a gift that I'm honor bound to return -- or pass on -- when it's needed.

Both approaches acknowledge how much life is worth. Real life, not what you were supposed to live. Life that you don't sleepwalk through in despair. Do what you can to open your eyes and your heart to what is really there. And value it, cultivate it, live it. Be grateful for it.


I Could Go Either Way On This One.

1) But Why? Why send the Mothers out of London? And then what will the Children Do?

2) In gratitude for everything Mothers have done, are doing, will do ... to keep their children safe.

Happy Mother's Day!


What Does A Woman Owe ...?

In prose as florid as the worst Victorian novel, I wrote the following brief book review last summer:

"In prose as verdant as the Vietnam tropics during the French colonization -- the book's setting -- Catherine Texier's novel Victorine poses the eternal ambivalence of woman toward marriage and love ... and the ways in which marriage and love are most often separate states.

The subjugation of the French colony of Vietnam forms a metaphor to subjugation faced by the heroine at the turn of the century ... as she chooses between the stifling stability of her marriage or an unmoored existence with her lover."

I loved this book for its ambivalence, the most authentic emotional state. Written by a woman who had chronicled the death of an affair in her nonfiction Breakup: the end of a love story, the novel delicately posed brutal questions:

What does a woman owe her husband? Her children? Herself?

Texier's answers are beautifully drawn, unsettling, and satisfying. I encourage you to read the book.


This Painter Once Gave Me A Painting; A Girl Once Gave Me This Poem.

somewhere i have never traveled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skillfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world

equals the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with this colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes

and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain,has such small hands

(many thanks to cjblue for reminding me)


Do You Know the Warning Signs?

This is not the post you were meant to get today. You were meant to get something edifying, literary, arty. Instead you are going to get the top ten warning signs for PMS. And you are going to like it.

Warning Sign

#10. Wake up with low back pain and a terrible feeling of foreboding. Spend some time lying in bed thinking about everybody who ever did you wrong, plans to do you wrong or is currently doing you wrong. Think of ways to slowly dismember them.

#9. Snarl at the dog on your way to the bathroom. He will look up surprised and slink away.

#8. Announce to Jim that you have PMS. Get patted on head and fight urge to bite him.

#7. Sit at computer and open email. Note that no one except various companies selling stuff has written. Note that no one loves you, no one ever has and no one ever will.

#6. Start reading other peoples' blogs. Acknowledge that they are all funny, intelligent and/or have great photos. Hate each and every one of them for their talent.

#5. Out of corner of eye, watch interview with Goldie Hawn. Memo to self: get bangs trimmed. And trout lips are not a good look.

#4. Vaguely rub foot on back of leg, noting that personal grooming, i.e. leg shaving, is lagging behind. You are a terrible, terrible person for this lapse. And you need a pedicure. And a manicure. And waxing, yes waxing. You need waxing. And you need to lose 100 lbs. By next week.

#3. Stick nose down front of nightgown to see if last night's perfume lasted. OF COURSE IT DIDN'T. Nothing ever lasts. Think dark existential thoughts about the fleeting quality of perfume.

#2. Watch cooking show segment out of corner of eye, note how corpse-like raw chicken is. Think about career change to Crime Scene Investigation. Think how you could learn to get away with your own crimes. Make note to investigate.

#1. Indulge in favorite PMS pastime: planning your own funeral. Think of guest list, with special attention to pallbearers. Make note to leave a list of flowers so you get what you want. Sketch out eulogy so you get what you want. Debate pros and cons of open casket. Leave list of makeup to be used so you look natural (all Chanel).

Derive great satisfaction as you realize how much they're all going to miss you when you're gone.


Goth. Anime. Hm.

Goth I understand.

I like the surly antisocial tone. I like the utilitarian all black, all the time wardrobe. I love black eyeliner. And I've had my flirtation with flat black and technicolor hair. Plus I like the sinister use of Edward Gorey illustrations, the allusions to Poe and Baudelaire, and the bordering on nihilism go-to-hellness of it all. The B&D, S&M-ness of it all.

Anime I don't understand.

All that sweetness makes my teeth hurt. And it's such an underdeveloped prepubescent little affectation. Kawaii ("supercute"), my [crudity deleted]. It is regressive; Saturday morning cartoons as real life. "With black contact lenses, now turning Tokyo teens into walking manga characters, poised to hit the States, artists, manufacturers, and style makers show no signs of coming down from their collective sugar high." (

If goth is seething with anger and illicit sexuality, anime is sex put on hold. It is fear of sex. Fear of adulthood. *edit: and, of course, I must now qualify this assertion to note that I am talking about HelloKitty and Sanrio, not the porn also associated with some forms of anime. Although the pedophilic quality of that "art" still leaves one the option of talking about sex-in-fear-of-adulthood.*

And maybe that is the appeal. The ultimate escape from a moving-too-fast-in-the-wrong-direction world: pretend you're perpetually 11 years old.

afterword: Why is this such a hostile post? What underlying fear do I have of Asian cartoon characters? Can further therapy help me get past it? I'll keep you posted.


On Friendship, Art, Perfume and Hamsters

One of my dearest friends is someone I've never seen. In a world of cyberrelationships, that's not so unusual. But it does force you to fill in the blanks.

What I know is that C lives in the Rocky Mountains, is the wife of an attorney, has three really amazing daughters that she homeschools (that was shocking to me, for some reason), that there once was a much-beloved hamster in that household nicknamed "Hammie," and that C is an artist in so many ways.

She and I write at least once every day, and most often a number of times. We are the Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas of our own quirky little world. She is the out there talented one and I am the domineering power behind the throne. Heh.

We will retire together with our friend T (another exceptional artist and the nicest of the three of us) in an apartment at the Aged Elms Home for Shady Ladies, where I will serve real eggplant lasagne to T and something with soy cheese to Gertrude. We will own many high end, hard to find fragrances which we will hoard until the bottles turn bad. FUN!

C is aggravatingly self-deprecating and I'll get rolled over the coals for anything I say that smacks of hyperbole (did I mention she can be provoked into temper? She can. Be careful). I'm keeping this as factual as I can.

Sure this post is about friendship, but it's also about PERFUME.

And C is a perfumer. She calls it her "problem with essential oils," you know, like other peoples' "problem with heroin." They just can't help themselves and neither can she.

C has a fascinating ability to make strange connection between dissimilars. And I think I once read a definition of art as being just that: the synaptic leap between unexpecteds.

For instance: her Patchouli Girl fragrance with the shock of its underlying lavender. Or South Garden with something hot and strange that pulled decadent New Orleans into my chilly Seattle environ.

Most often I don't have the ability to discern notes out of her frags, they're that well blended; I just get emotion.

I don't care that C says that she isn't a perfumer. She is. And I'm going to tell you about something that proves it: her Wild Series. (In a bragging aside: my signature fragrance really IS a signature fragrance: C created Mireille Green Rose for me and shared it with T, too ... and it is a treasure).

But about the Wild Series, an exploration of rose, jasmine and iris with nuanced variants of neroli, bergamot, rose absolute, black rose, french rose, wild rose, jasmine, gardenia, iris and african violet.

My brief descriptions below do slight justice to the amount of thought that goes into C's fragrances. So I include her own words in adjunct:

The black, wild and french rose oils are attars. I decided to blend them with my regular, beautiful rose absolute to see how much richer I could make the mid rose notes. I wanted to see what they would do to jasmine and iris notes as well.

Last month was the first time I used attars with essential oils in a perfume. They're a bit uncontrollable at this point because I don't know them well, and I don't know what's blended into them. I would say that French rose is a middle of the road rose scent with sweet nuances and some depth...also a predominant powder affect. The Arabian wild rose is a tea rose type, clear, true and bright.... much like the scent of a big voluptuous yellow rose. And the Black rose is very deep and mysterious, multi-layered, "eastern" and long lasting.

My initial impressions of the Wild Series ...

#1 Achingly beautiful rose, intense but with something cutting into the sweetness. Sneakily seductive.
#2 Drier yet soft. I think this is more predominantly violet. A calmer, dignified fragrance.
#3 Rosy jasmine and a hint of indoles ... a softer side of jasmine. Gentle. Subtle.
#4 Jasmine with a passion. Truly indolic. But not nasty indoles. Nice indoles. (How does she do that?) Tropical. Humid. Dense.
#5 Very rosy to me and I'm suspecting a bit more violet as well, playing sweetly against the rose. Ladylike. Elegantly subdued.
#6 (This one carried a warning: "I don't like #6. See if you can smell the difference." Poor #6. Rejected by its mother.) There is something sharp in there but I don't know what it is. Must think more about it.
#7 I get a greenness and am thinking bergamot and neroli got their turn in this one. Brisk, stimulative.

Remember, each is a play of rose, jasmine and iris ... nuanced differently and with supporting players in different roles. This is art.

The most astonishing -- and irritating -- aspect of this to me is that C does it only out of love and compulsion. I want her recognized for it, in terms of fame and riches. And I do believe that day will come. These are just too beautiful -- they deserve a wider, cash-carrying audience.

If Gertrude won't self-promote, that means Alice B. has to.


For The Love Of All That Is Holy ...

Could we please remember that there is a war in Iraq, there is genocide in Darfur, social security is at risk and our health care system is a mess?

And, in light of all this, could we PLEASE stop wall-to-wall CNN coverage of the RUNAWAY BRIDE?

Send her a bill for the $60,000 spent on her womanhunt, congratulate her fiance on the real winner he's decided he still wants to spend his life with ...


Hair As Emotional Barometer

My hair has its own story to tell. If only I'd let it.

I was the daughter of a woman who in my adolescence wouldn't even let me have bangs (for some reason she thought if she forestalled the in-the-eyes bangs, she could keep me from turning into a hippie. Think again). And who wasn't letting me anywhere near a box of Clairol. So my hair and I went wild the minute I hit UM at Ann Arbor. (You could have seen it coming)

And I'm feeling a bit twitchy right now.

I've had short hair, very short hair, long hair, asymmetrical hair, wavy hair, curly hair, straight hair, black hair, red hair, purple hair (you heard me), caramel-streaked hair, maroon-chunked hair.

I once spent $400 on salon color. In a three hour period. And had a minor celebrity local newscaster ask me in a restaurant lobby, "Oh, who did your hair?" My hair brush with fame. Heh.

But right now my hair is as au naturel as it's been since I got out of prison, er, left home. Shoulder grazing with bangs, dark dark brown shot through with a bit of silver and with long silver streaks at my temples. It's beautiful, really. But I didn't do anything to get it this way. And it's restless.

It's got that middle-aged yearning-for-blonde blues.

Walk down the street and you can easily identify a proto-50s-something woman. Depending on her socio-economic level, she's either got that brassy "this looks just like I had it done in a salon" reddish blonde burnt to a crisp (the unfortunate home color AND perm syndrome) sprayed stiff ear-length do. Or, as we ascend income level, it becomes the smoothly streaked chin length bob-with-bangs in a beautiful-but-not-found-in-nature ash-titanium-blonde.

(In a class by itself is the "I refuse to give up the '60s because those were my best years" 24 inches of hair-down-the-back in steel gray. Now THAT's scary. Something about the contrast of Alice-in-Wonderland length with the Aunt Bea gray is just wrong. Add a big bow at the crown and you've got that festive country-and-western look so popular at Garth Brooks' concerts.)

So, here I am with my hair begging me to let it do something BLONDE. Even though we know what can happen; only tragedy can result.

Better I should invest the $160 in another appointment with my shrink. I won't come out of there blonde, but at least only my eyes will be red.


My Heart(beat) Is A Homing Signal

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two ;
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th' other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet, when the other far doth roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
Like th' other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.

Valediction Forbidding Mourning John Donne