Going to Elements Showcase and Good Luck to the 2013 FiFi Indie Nominees


Tomorrow I’ll be at the Elements Showcase, a perfume trade show specializing in independent and artisan perfumes. The show runs both 1/28-1/29 and is free and open to the public–you just have to register first–so if you are curious about perfume and somewhere near New York City, I highly recommend stopping by. In addition to sniffing my way through the offerings I”m hoping to run into lots of internet friends I haven’t met in real life, and some older ones I have. I’ll be reporting what I see and smell on Twitter. If you are attending the show and would like to say hello feel free to try tweeting at me. I’m not sure of my hours, but I’d love to see some readers there.


On Monday evening, Elements will be hosting the 2013 Fifi Indie Awards. The Fifi’s are the perfume industry’s version of the Oscars, and are organized by the industry’s non-profit arm, the Fragrance Foundation. Read the rest of this entry »

Book Scents: Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion


I’ve been under the weather for the past week with one of those awful colds that are going around (please everyone, rest up, wash your hands a lot and take your Vitamin C) so I haven’t been doing a lot of writing or smelling, but I’ve been doing plenty of reading. I first read Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion  nearly ten years ago.  I was dazzled, seduced–then disaffected. I wanted my literature to have a firm grip on the world’s pain and Winterson’s beautiful surfaces and playfulness struck me as cheating, somehow.  Or maybe I just felt foolish for liking them so much…


I returned to The Passion this week because I’ve been thinking a lot about fairy tales–why and how we tell them, and what our modern versions look like. I feel differently about dazzle now, and this time around The Passion‘s gorgeous magic struck me as a poignant, necessary counterpart to the equally unbelievable extremes of war. Read the rest of this entry »

Happy New Year!


This time last year I was just beginning to send out advance review copies of Coming to My Senses to friends and family–to the people, that is, who were in the book or intimately connected to the world of perfume bloggers and collectors that meant so much to me.


I was nervous about it. Very nervous. For example, I brought a couple of copies home  for my parents over Christmas. (Two! So they wouldn’t have to share!) My chicken-out plan had been to leave them behind to find after I was gone. But that seemed silly once I was there, so I bucked up and put them under the tree. Three hours later I became violently ill with the stomach flu and spent the rest of the vacation throwing up or asleep. Coincidence? (True, half the town had the same illness, but still.)


I spent so much time worrying that I was truly unprepared for the wave of help, goodwill, generosity and understanding that washed over me as the book began to circulate. I was completely undone by gratitude. A year later, I still am. Of all the things that happened in 2012 I think that’s the thing that will have changed me the most, the thing I’ll remember best as I go forward into the open field of this year with all its uncertainty and promise.


I wish all of you a Happy New Year. May all your fresh starts come to fruition, and may you find the luck, love, courage and beauty you need–and a little extra to give away.


P.S. In the background of the photo you can see the scrubby little plant that is my Osmanthus (Sweet Olive) tree/shrub. We’ve had freezing temps lately so I brought it inside. It has rewarded me by perfuming the living room with the most incredible waves of sweet apricot and fine leather scent. Half the time when I smell it I think it’s my perfume and then I remember…


Merry and Bright: Holiday Scents, Present and Missed


I’m here in Austin for Christmas this year. So far my holiday smells of black tea, sleeping cats, jewel-bright Satsuma tangerine peels, star anise, the pine branches I gathered up at the Christmas tree stand (we don’t have a tree, but I have to have that scent in the house), the sweet-smoky burnt brown sugar of the Scotch I drank with a friend last night (it was aged in rum casks), the rich floral citrus of candied citron–first, bubbling on the stove and then, surprisingly, in the air when I cut up the candied strips into the amber triangles above–the apricot-and-soft-leather scent of my tiny osmanthus tree, staying inside until the night temperatures rise above freezing, and, unfortunately, a huge overdose of piñon smoke, because the cats, in a more active moment, managed to close the broken flue vent and then forgot to tell us.


And oh yes, perfume: Since we’ve finally had several cold days in a row, I’ve been wearing Read the rest of this entry »

In Memoriam: Pattern #203, Child Caves


First published in 1977, architect Christopher Alexander’s  A Pattern Language is an odd, ambitious, humorous, deeply humane project rooted in a late 1960’s sense of possibility–the kind of thing it’s hard to imagine anyone attempting now. Alexander and his team spent years researching and observing the ways people most love to live and shelter themselves–the spaces and paths we bend toward even when we’re thwarted along the way. Then they tried to offer these up as replicable pieces or “patterns.” The book moves from macro to micro: a pattern can be large and fairly abstract (“Magic of the City,” “Identifiable Neighborhood,” “Old People Everywhere,”) or very small and specific (“Windows Which Open Wide,” “Seat Spots,” “Pools of Light”).  The result is a book that is part manifesto, part practical handbook, part lyric meditation. It is both a dream of a better world and directions on how to build one, a single piece at a time.


All of which makes it a pretty good book to read in a time of heartbreak and despair. Read the rest of this entry »