1946: French writer Colette went to Switzerland, where she would undergo treatment for severe and painful arthritis. She was delighted to find that the sparrows around her lodgings in Geneva were tame. They flew into her room from the balcony, slept under her bed, ate from her hands. They would even chirp protests when she would lock them out of the bathroom as she bathed. One day she found a pair of sparrows snuggling in a fold of her bedspread. She startled them and they flew away. Colette wrote:
This gave me fair warning that the time was not far off when I should discover one individual among their small, indefinite band, the particular one, the one who preferred me and was mine by preference. With the animal world, we are subject to the same perils every time. To choose, to be chosen, to love: the very next moment we are beset by anxiety, the danger of loss, and the fear of spreading regret. What an array of big words when the subject is but a sparrow! Yes, a sparrow. In love, there is never a question of smallness. 1
A perfect segue to the love for, and smallness of...perfumes?
Yes and no.
Though I've used the word "love" in relation to certain fragrances, I've never shed a tear over a bottle of perfume (even on the memorable day last summer when my cat, Teddy Calzini, broke three bottles of my perfume in one swoop). Since writing for Now Smell This, I've become more reasonable about fragrances (some might say heartless). I don't worry about reformulations (what you gonna do?) I'm dying (so are you), so why would I get upset when a cologne is discontinued? Priorities, people! And if someone disparages a perfume I wear or a perfumer I admire I chuckle and move on (I've got more serious stuff to worry about — see reference to Death above).
Perfume is fleeting pleasure.
Today I'm writing about spring scents, and I'm dedicating my article to a bird (in memory of Colette, who I never met but 'love'). Here's to an old buddy who chose me to be his friend for 10 years — an American robin. He was big and glossy, smart, and sang his guts out. Each summer he spent in my Seattle garden, he and his mate raised at least two batches of little robins. He trusted us so much he and his mate built nests under our deck, where we and the dogs and cats could look between the planks and see the fledglings. He would (almost) eat from our hands and followed us around the yard, catching worms we'd toss him as we weeded. I always knew spring was on its way when I'd hear him singing atop the old-fashioned telephone pole in front of our house. "The robin's back!"
For this post, I did not search out new fragrances. To quote another Robin (here at NST), trying the Slew of New leads to "too many frogs to kiss." I'm writing about perfumes I wear till the bottles are empty; perfumes I power spray and relish; perfumes I'll re-buy (till they're reformulated or go the way of the Dodo).
Geo. F. Trumper Ajaccio Violets: I first wore this perfume in Morocco in springtime, so it always has an air of adventure about it. Violet fragrances can be powdery, too sweet, smell of cosmetics. Those violets are not my type; give me bright green, sparkling Ajaccio Violets instead.
Jardins d'Ecrivains George: This robust scent is fit for days when cold torrents keep you indoors, dreaming of flowers and sunshine, and for days when you enjoy the great outdoors (digging the dirt or hiking a trail). Since springs in Seattle are turbulent (warm, cold, windy, calm, wet, dry, bright, dark...all in the same day) it's nice to have a versatile perfume.
Hermès Eau de Gentiane Blanche makes me think of damp, delicate, aromatic roots being gently coaxed from the earth. It's a lovely subdued perfume that brings to mind gardening...those first tender days of spring. This is the perfect scent to wear as I cross pollinate my plum trees (you can't count on the bees anymore) using a long, soft-bristled paint brush.
Aedes de Venustas Iris Nazarena is Gentiane Blanche on steroids, a muscle-bound cousin with dirt under his well-manicured fingernails and grass stains on his (expensive) pants knees. I love to wear Iris Nazarena in the garden and it stands up to days when I'm seriously hauling compost, power digging, cursing white morning glory vines.
Etro Lemon Sorbet: Why have I never reviewed this perfume? Lemons, oranges, dry herbs (especially mint) and incense make this an energy-producing cocktail that will help make winter doldrums disappear.
Frédéric Malle Eau de Magnolia provides a floral "jolt" that sets the scene for the many flowers to come in springtime; I'm happy whenever I smell it and it segues perfectly from spring to summer. My saucer magnolia is about to bloom...the tree is so huge I can't reach the flowers anymore for an up-close sniff. Eau de Magnolia will ease the angst of "close, but yet so far away."
Acqua di Parma Colonia Intensa smells good in any season and in spring it provides a "dressy," complex aroma that does not remind me of heavy coats, woolen sweaters and scarves or dense, woody aromas that I associated with winter (by late March, I'm DONE with the heavy-hitters of cold weather perfumes).
Astier de Villatte Grand Chalet: The last time I saw my robin it was late September in 2015. He was perched in the honey locust tree next to my house. I noticed how frail he looked, grabbed my camera and took a photo of him. Grand Chalet provides one of my favorite floral scents: linden blossom (very close to the scent of honey locust flowers), and good thing...that beloved, also frail, tree is gone now, too.
As I write this post, there's a robin singing in my quince tree. Three weeks ago, what I assume are "family" robins arrived back in my yard and are singing beautiful tunes (as they get my cats chattering). No matter what brings you joy: birds, dogs, cats, chocolate, flowers, Handel, tea or...perfume, I hope you have plenty of good things to take pleasure in this spring.
1. The Blue Lantern by Colette, translated by Roger Senhouse; Farrar, Straus and Company, first printing, 1963; pg. 23-24.
Note: top image of American Robin by John James Audubon [altered] via Wikimedia Commons. Three lower American robin images are from Robin eggs flying in three weeks, [cropped] by Volkan Yuksel via Wikimedia Commons.