Hello Again



I have some news for you, and I should have even more after the next couple of days go by, but let’s catch up a bit first, shall we? It feels wrong to just blurt things out over here. I mean, I”m not against blurting, generally, but it’s more of a Twitter thing, which is a place where I tell my bits of news in between quotes from Walt Whitman, descriptions of the perfume I’m wearing, reports on the tiny flame tattooed between the breasts of the hostess who is seating me (completely true, and she was wearing an outfit where you couldn’t miss it), and running commentary on the French Rom Com I watched last night about two neurotic chocolate makers who are scared of everything and occasionally burst into song. (Better than it sounds, mostly because Isabelle Carré is luminous and utterly watchable, emotions flickering across her face one after the other…)


So, what have you been up to?



I’ve been writing, mostly. Back in December, when I wrote this post about everyday magic and beginning a new project, I was pacing back at the edge of the cliff, trying to figure out how far I might fall if I jumped. The metaphor of jumping seems to be integral to the project–both to the story itself and the work of telling it.  When people ask me what I’m doing now I say I’m not talking much about it yet  because it’s “a bit of a leap” for me. When I described my process in more detail to a writer friend, I told her that sometimes I had so many fears the only thing I could do was ignore them and do the writing anyway. And she said, without any prompting from me: “You’re like Wile E. Coyote running off the cliff.  As long as he doesn’t look down he can just keep on running into the air!”  And I thought: But he always looks down!


And so I do. And I fall. Occasionally an anvil falls on top of me. And then I climb the cliff and do it again. When I went to New York a week ago I saw my friend again, and I told her about the looking down and she said: “Ah. That’s the part we never get to see in the cartoons. The part where he gets up and climbs the cliff again.”





In any case, I have climbed and run and fallen and climbed again enough times to be well and truly in this new thing of mine. I’ve been doing a fair amount of research, some of it unexpected and magical. Just above and below are some photos of of the card catalog from the Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism at the Jung Institute in New York. That’s all I want to say about them right now. The archive deserves its own post.





I didn’t spend all my time inside. It was spring in New York, and the city was very beautiful. One of my favorite parts of the trip, as is so often the case, was just walking around looking at things. On the first day, minutes after my arrival, I saw this tree stump art in the East Village. It sort of set the tone for the whole trip.





I visited with old friends and met some new ones. I ate oysters and saw the stars come out in the ceiling of Grand Central Terminal and the clouds on the ceiling of the New York Public Library, where I thought about the marvel of such a place being built for the express purpose of being free and open to anyone who wanted or needed it. (Can you imagine such a thing happening today?)


I walked in parts of the city I hadn’t seen before. I seemed to keep running into buildings festooned with slightly outrageous things, like this enormous silver and pink rose–nearly three stories high–on the facade of the New Museum.





And these graceful, wicked figures permanently in the middle of a bacchanal on the face of this theater on Bond Street. I’m not sure what they’re meant to be, but I think of them as the fairies from A Midsummer’s Night Dream.




I went to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden for the first time, where I saw and smelled the peonies up above (more about them soon), and a grove of lilac trees in full bloom. All around me people were urging each other to take deep breaths and commanding each other to “Smell that!” And I saw my first bluebell wood. That’s what they call it. It’s never just “the bluebells,” it’s always “the bluebell wood,” like something from a fairytale.




It looks like that, too, don’t you think?  It makes you understand the kind of stories where you walk into the forest and the trees are hung with silver apples. This is what you see just after the apple trees, when you get to the clearing in the center where the Witch Queen lives. You know that’s where you are because when you emerge from the forest you step into a shimmering haze of scent, like a deeper, sweeter lily of the valley, soft but pervasive.


Who knows what will happen next.


Now really. It’s your turn. What kinds of things have you been seeing and smelling lately? Planning to leap off any cartoon cliffs? Found anything unexpected in your archives?



  1. Wendy Turgeon

    I too just visited the Bluebell woods last week and was in awe of the sea of flowers gently dancing in the sun. I immediately thought of Jo Malone’s bluebell fragrance and now it is on my list to check out when I am next near one of her stores. I am told that single flower scents are fairly simplistic in the perfume world and yet, maybe they suit me– a fairly simple person. I like the symmetry. Good luck on your new project and may I suggest you check out Mary Rothlisberger, artist; http://bangbangboomerang.com/about


    • Hi, Wendy. I don’t know who told you that single flower scents (soliflores) are considered simplistic in the perfume world. I don’t think of them that way at all. Simple, maybe, compared to things done in the grand French style, in the same way that a perfect Japanese vase is simple compared to a Rococo mirror, but never simplistic. You should congratulate yourself on your refined taste. 🙂

      Like simple dishes, soliflores are very hard to do well, because there are no baroque layers of contrasting scents to distract from poor materials or imbalance. And they are most often portraits of a living scent, one that people know and love, which is always difficult. Some of my favorite soliflores, like Malle’s Carnal Flower (tuberose) or Serge Lutens A la Nuit (jasmine) exaggerate certain aspects of the flower–they are more like paintings than a photograph.

      After I saw the bluebell wood I was lamenting to an English perfumer friend of mine that the Penhaligon version wasn’t more true–I’d had no idea how rich and complex the scent would be. I think I have a sample of the Jo Malone that I haven’t tried yet, will have to do that soon, but from the reviews it doesn’t sound like it will capture the feeling for me either. (Though it does sound very nice!) Luckily, when I was complaining my friend told me that she herself has just designed a bluebell perfume, though it hasn’t been released yet. I am eager to smell it.


    • P.S. Thank you for introducing me to Rothlisberger! Her work does indeed look right up my alley. I look forward to exploring her site.


  2. Laura E. (@Soulclaphands)

    What fun! I’m a pushover for three-foot flowers and everyday magic. I miss card catalogs. They were such a good source of serendipitous finds.

    Such lush peonies! Wow.

    We have some lovely lily of the valley and lilacs by our house. It’s finally green and fragrant around here.

    Happy new project! May you build the bridge as you walk on it.


    • Thanks, Laura! And yes, man, card catalogs. I hated them when they were the only thing around, but now they make me feel like Hermione.


  3. Today during my lunch hour, I plan to make spruce bud syrup. It’s a verdant spring here and the giant Norway Spruce next to my house is full of buds, as are some of the other conifers. I ate the first french breakfast radish from the garden yesterday–it was a baby radish thanks to my premature need to harvest, but delicious nonetheless.

    If the syrup turns out, I may just send some to my favorite blogger–YOU!


  4. breathesgelatin

    So jealous of your trips to NYC. I haven’t been, at this point, since 2005. I always imagined I’d live there after college, and instead decided to come to Austin for grad school. A lot of my life’s ‘what-ifs’ surround the idea of having gone to NYC and gotten a job instead of making a snap decision to go to grad school since getting a job seemed so scary. My aunt lives in NYC and we’d even have a place to stay, but with far-flung family, it seems all of our vacation get spent in NC and Indiana….

    I feel like there’s a cliff I want to jump off of, but I haven’t even found the cliff yet…

    As far as fragrance, this spring I’ve been wearing a lot of Soivohle, and Parfums de Nicolai Kiss Me Tender.


    • Oh wow, I can relate to the idea of needing to find the right cliff. But going to New York sounds like a nice-medium sized one to jump off of–why not start there? You know, it’s really where I started, with the whole perfume and writing thing. With taking that leap of faith on buying a ticket without a hard-and-fast excuse. (Like you, I had a place to stay.) I know what you mean about the demands of family. I feel a little guilty every time I go that I’m not in Idaho instead. And I often accuse myself of extravagance. And yet, it always seems to work out that the city trips fuel the rest of what I do for the next six months or so…

      Anyway, your Aunt deserves to be visited, too, doesn’t she? 🙂 Maybe just a long weekend…?


      • breathesgelatin

        My problem is the ticket prices! We can barely afford the plane tickets to see our parents a couple of times per year. (Half the time, my parents pay… bless them.)

        We’ll see. It’s just hard to imagine it happening any time in the next few years. 🙁


        • Well I can certainly understand that. Tickets really add up for a whole family. Would it be possible to send your family on to a set of parents and sneak off to NYC by yourself for a few days before joining them? Maybe there will be some kind of work excuse…or a birthday…? I will cross my fingers for you that something will emerge. I know this sounds ridiculously pollyanna, but sometimes when you start saying your impossible thing aloud people step forward and give you the boost that you need.


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