In a Station of the Metro
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
~ Ezra Pound ~
The first line "In the Station of the Metro" pulled up memories of the metro in Paris, London, New York and most vividly my birthplace, Buenos Aires. I even saw a scene from the Argentine film "The Last Image of a Shipwreck" flash before my eyes. The next two lines however took me into nature and symbolism. I noticed several juxtapositions and found myself with multiple ideas. At that point I decided to focus on fragrance and surrender the project over to the Divine.
The scent impression that came to my mind immediately was Lotus Absolute. The symbolic aspect of the flower rising from its dark, primordial birthplace combined with the ethereal quality of the scent worked well with the tone of the poem.
I found the three line structure of the poem intriguing and haunting. I wasn't sure how the numerical aspect was to be woven in, all I knew is that it was resonating deeply within me. The number three (triad, triple, triangle) contains a wealth of symbolic imagery to pull from. I read once that numbers are the hidden root of words.
Then, just like the poem, I saw an apparition in my mind's eye and the perfume gracefully unfolded like the Lotus just before the dawn. The image was of three luminous faeries perched on a tree branch awaiting the first light of day. They are The Three Graces and each represents a floral note in the heart of the perfume.
Thus, with the stage set, I begin orchestration of our three act play. I choose notes with a cool quality for the "wet, dark" earth aspect from which the fragrance will be built upon, such as: Mitti Attar, Patchouli, and Vetiver. I see the base as a dark leather chord in juxtaposition to the bright floral heart. I add a touch of Kewda Attar for its cool, watery element and a hint of Black Musk Attar. Each of the Graces is represented by a floral note. Aglaea, the youngest sister, is the embodiment of Beauty and thus choose her essence to be Aglaia, the pepper orchid from China. Charming Euphrosyne is portrayed by the sacred Indian Champa and the eldest sister, Thalia, bestows Good Cheer in the perfection of the Lotus.
The "bough," where the Goddesses manifest, is created with wood notes including Cedar and Cabrueva. For the dawn, which reveals the deities to our eyes, I choose Ginger, Howood, Pink Pepper and Ambrette. Pomegranate and Apple will be incorporated in tiny amounts for it's association to Venus. The Three Graces are considered the attendants of the Goddess Venus, also referred to as Aphrodite. I will also weave in a tincture of Oak wood for it's strong magick, opening the door to the worlds beyond the veil. The botanical perfume is called The Three Graces and contains twenty essences to match the twenty words of the poem.
Bright glow the champaka and pomegranate flowers,
Like stars that have fallen to Earth with a blush!
And the wild bulbul's strains are prolonged thro' these hours,
Till the zephyr streams by one rich musical gush!
Oh! how this deep beautiful music of night
Is stirring up echoes like spirits around---
Till the stars---those great, glorious Creations of Light---
Are listening like lovers to love's tenderest sound.
~ "Emmeline," Lady Emmeline Stuart-Wortley
Roxana Illuminated Perfume
"Gracing Dawn" by Greg Spalenka
One of the major joys of this project has been the privilege of learning more about the perfumers who gave so much of their time and creativity to it. I was already an admirer of Roxana Villa's blog and the concept of Roxana Illuminated Perfume, but hadn't had the opportunity to explore the line or come to know the beautiful spirit behind them until she accepted the challenge of interpreting Pound's "Metro" for us.
I use that word "spirit" deliberately, because it pours out of everything Roxana does, which indicates the extent to which she invests her own spirit in the creations she shares with us as a perfumer and illustrator. No part of her artistic work is compromised; her botanical perfumes are hand-made from the highest-grade materials available in small batches and are very carefully connected to the concepts behind them. Her websites (the perfume line, blog, and graphic art site) are beautifully designed and a joy to explore, with unexpected treasures throughout.
The perfume line is truly illuminated with perfectly chosen quotes from literary works, gorgeous handmade jewelry to match the perfume concepts, outstanding conceptual artwork, and music by both the perfumer and her beloved, the acclaimed visionary artist Greg Spalenka. ("Gracing Dawn" was created by Greg to accompany Roxana's contribution here.) I encourage each reader here to take a few minutes and explore Greg's amazing work at spalenka.com - it will be well worth your time.
What you won't know unless you've ordered from Roxana is the extraordinary attention to detail with which she creates each package, no matter how small the order. Her sample sets arrive in specially made, wax-sealed card enclosures, with a short description of each of the three samples you've chosen printed inside. You will be tempted to leave the samples unopened, so beautiful and precious is the package, but once you've taken the plunge and broken the seal, you'll find your boldness has been rewarded with a perfectly placed note, which I will leave you to discover.
If you enjoy the literary themes explored here at Memory & Desire, you will adore Roxana's blog, in which she weaves together literature, science, art, and musings on the everyday with great depth of understanding. Each post feels like a blessing, and because she is truly blessed with an extraordinary sensitivity and talent, she specializes in custom perfumes for individual clients. I have found her to be incredibly intuitive in her correspondence with me, and I can imagine that commissioning a custom perfume from her would be the experience of a lifetime.
Her signature line is fashioned "in the tradition of the alchemists and perfumers of ancient times," and her lineage to these sources as well as to the historical illuminators of fine manuscripts is evident throughout Roxana Illuminated Perfume. I have had the pleasure to try six of her creations, including one which is not available on the website, and have found each to be expertly blended and well-balanced. From the Californica Series, celebrating the aromatic landscape of the state of California, she offers Q, Chapparal, Vera, and Sierra. From the Literarium Series, which honors the art of storytelling, she offers: Aurora, Vespertina, and Lyra. (She also offers an eighth scent, currently named Amber, upon request.)
As is often the case with botanical perfumes, each has a unique vibrancy. My husband particularly loves the herbal/woody Chapparal, as it reminds him of the scent of the birch forests in New England where he grew up. But the fragrance that most deeply resonates with me is Lyra from the Literarium Series, "a perfume inspired by effervescent twilight." Roxana originally created this perfume as a custom portrait for her daughter Eve, and chose the name Lyra from their favorite novel, The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.
Lyra is described as a "veil of tropical flowers, [with an] amber base, and an effervescent twilight of citrus notes." It is an extraordinarily lovely and subtle creation, completely wearable at all times, and smells to me less like a perfume and more the way I wish I actually smelled. It evokes the sweet, soft scent of a beloved child's skin. Wearing it, I'm reminded of the way my niece Rachel makes me feel when she smiles at me or launches herself onto me for a giant hug. I adore her, and I can almost see the wonder and love in her glittering eyes when I wear Lyra.
A sample of Roxana's Lyra perfume will be included in our extraordinary giveaway on March 31. Her sample sets include any three fragrances of your choosing and are simply miraculous things to behold and wear. In addition to Lyra, I personally recommend the gorgeous orange blossom of Vespertina, which is "a tribute to the Divine Feminine," as well as Aurora, a "fresh floriental" with citrus and spice notes. Perhaps more than anything else, though, I would wish each of you the privilege to get to know her creative and magnetic spirit as I have over the past few weeks. Roxana Villa is luminous.
Illuminated photo of Roxana Villa, "Gracing Dawn" and "Princess" by © Greg Spalenka. Used by permission of the artist. "Gracing Dawn" © Greg Spalenka, inspired by Roxana Villa's contribution to this project and used with the artist's permission. "Sol e Luna" © Roxana Villa and used by permission of the artist.
Comments are encouraged! Please read the initial post in this series for the details on our extraordinary giveaway which will take place on March 31.