The Wake
A Deeper Season

Entirely Green


(Quelque Parfum)
- Rainer Maria Rilke -

Malgré le ciel encore bas
et cet air qui chancelle,
quelque chose nouvelle
flotte vers l'odorat.

Quelque parfum tout vert
discrètement se dégage.
Un plaisir déménage:
le printemps est ouvert.


(Some Perfume)
- Rainer Maria Rilke -

Despite the sky, still low,
and the hesitant air,
something new
floats into scent.

Some perfume, entirely green,
frees itself discreetly.
A pleasure begins to move;
spring is open.

French text from The Complete French Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, Graywolf Press, 1986. Electronic text via:

My relative ignorance of "green" perfumes has been both willful and convenient.  Mostly willful because, until recently, I simply never liked any notes that I would have characterized as "green" and I actively hated the big, monstrous greens that are easily overapplied and never seem to smell good on anyone I know.  Yes, I am thinking here of your favorite green perfumes, including, but not limited to: Chanel No 19, Estee Lauder Private Collection, Caron Muguet do Bonheur, Gres Cabotine, and Carven Ma Griffe.  (The latter was supposed to have been created by famous perfumer Jean Carles after his sense of smell deteriorated,* which, to me, made perfect sense.)  There was, in fact, a time before my more recent enlightenment to the depth and breadth of perfumery, in which I equated "green perfume" with "bad perfume" and I equated the people who wear them with poor taste and malfunctioning noses.  Greens were hard, angular, and mean, usually sour and pinched-smelling, frequently encountered on quarrelsome, haughty, too-tanned women carrying enormous purses which reeked of the stuff.  This was the early 90s, and I sold these hateful perfumes to these hateful women.  I'm sure we all hated each other equally.

But my fate was to change.  I recently received several "green" perfumes by chance, starting with botanical perfumer and artist Roxana Villa's California Oak-inspired perfume, simply called Q.  I ordered it almost as an afterthought along with two other samples - I wasn't sure it would appeal to me but I picked it out of curiosity - just to find out what an oak perfume might smell like.  The night I tried Q turned out to be a vivid and marvelous evening in which I picked up a fairy tale I've been crafting since I was a child, and took it straight into the woods for several hours.  Q is both lush and restrained, majestic and simple. Not angry, not quarrelsome, not angular, but very green.  I lay in bed for several hours with my wrists wresting on a pillow in front of my face, and explored the calming green of trees in sunlight.

I thought that sticking with natural, botanical greens might be the way to go, so my next test was Ayala Sender's Gaucho, a unique yerbamate tea perfume which smells so good on the skin, it's no wonder she has launched a perfumed tea of the same name.  It's a testament to Ayala's blending ability that she includes recognizable doses of galbanum and angelica in this perfume without making it shrill or bitter.Millais48_2

Then, without even knowing it, I tried Roxana Villa's Sierra, an intensely magical dark-green blend which opens up like an evergreen forest under snow and warms to ambery orange, as though one had suddenly found the enchanted cottage in the deepest, darkest part of the forest.  Sierra took me on a powerful imaginative journey, which I shared with Roxana in an email. [Edit 5/6/08:  She paid the story a great compliment by publishing it today in her Illuminated Perfume blog, as "Secret in the Forest."] In the space of three days, Sierra turned my hesitancy about evergreen notes into pure admiration.  The scent transforms several times during the space of eight or ten hours on my skin, unusually lively and tenacious for a botanical blend.

So this past Saturday, I met my friend Alyssa for lunch in Austin and she gave me a number of interesting surprises, among them a vial of Niki de Saint-Phalle parfum extrait.  I knew nothing of the perfume except the packaging design, which I've always admired.  She warned me about its greenness but encouraged me to try it, and this morning, I did.

Gorgeous.  Entirely green.  As though the earth just broke open and from all angles, green silk of every hue spreads out to cover the world.  There was an hour or so this morning when I wondered what I have ever hated about green scents - surely this is as green as they get, and yet, it is not harsh, not hard.  It could be distant and perhaps even austere, but just one drop on each wrist is just enough to make me believe that I could someday love all that is green, and that maybe green will love me back.

A pleasure has begun to move.  Spring is open.


* Luca Turin & Tania Sanchez. Perfumes: The Guide. Viking, 2008.  p. 234.



"The Green Tea Bride, Self Portrait" by Kimiko Yoshida.  Via

"The Proscribed Royalist, 1651" by Sir John Everett Millais, 1852-53.  Via


"Quelque Parfum" by Rainer Maria Rilke, French text from The Complete French Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, Graywolf Press, 1986. Electronic text via: My translation.

Posts prior to 2015 first appeared on my previous website, memory & desire (


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sweetlife: I always had an internal rationalization mechanism that I thought would keep the brakes on my need to have and try perfumes. But I'm losing faith in my ability to avoid things I think I don't like with each new vial! Niki is really very special, just one drop on each wrist is more than enough for the entire day. Phenomenal. And as we recently discussed - how perfect that you shared CdG Sequoia with me just as I was beginning to love Sierra, which is dedicated to the same trees.

I really have to say that I started exploring perfume for purely selfish, egotistical reasons, but the sense of community and exuberant sharing has far surpassed the actual perfume in contributing joy to my life. It's hard to imagine enjoying perfume without the sharing rituals, now.

And man, those were some goooood waffles.

MariaB: What a great idea! I've just gone and put on Reverie au Jardin from my sample. I remember when I first got this, my husband loved it and I was a lot more reserved. This time it's much more exciting and less intimidating. It's definitely not a shy pansy; it's Spring for Big Girls.

I haven't given up hope on Chanel No. 19 entirely. After all, I never would have dreamt I'd find a way into this thicket - who knows where I'll end up!

Thank you for your comment and for your visit!


chaya: I love Schubert! I will find that piece and put it on this evening. Perfect accompaniment. I love Gaucho and think I'd love it even more as a solid perfume, since those tea notes can be so fleeting.

And when you come to Austin, we'll treat you to the greatest smells/music/art Texas has to offer!

Helg: I imagined just those Beethovenesque scenes as I was explaining Carles to my husband - what an enormous and bittersweet challenge to create a scent that you could never smell yourself.

I am not sure if I ever mentioned my perfume salesperson past explicitly - I worked in a department store for two years, just after I left college in 1991. Dior was my primary line, and I had to compete with the Calvin Klein salesperson and the Yves St. Laurent salesperson for commissions. We had many more lines, but only three main salespeople. At that time I was almost completely disinterested in perfume - I wore Shalimar on occasion, and tried various other things, but most of it gave me a headache. It wasn't until almost ten years later that I caught the perfume bug. It was through experimenting with edible aromatics in cooking and baking that I found an interest in perfumery ingredients, and from there to perfume, and then that first bottle of real Shalimar extrait... and then I was beyond saving!

I love the idea of being in the realm of emeralds. Really, that is just perfect.

Maria B.

I'm so glad you've discovered Roxana's green scents. I fell in love with Q the moment I put it on. It makes me feel as if I'm in an oak forest where magic might happen. I'm not surprised it sent you back to the fairy tale from your childhood. I haven't tried Sierra yet, but I'm looking forward to it; I love evergreen.

Now on the other hand, I'm shaking my head with disbelief at the dissing of my dear No. 19 and Private Collection. :-) If you start getting into the greens more, try Andy Tauer's Reverie au Jardin. That galbanum hit is not for the green-shy but I love it.


Hello, my dear! Thank you for this gorgeous tribute to green. As I shared with you I have fallen headfirst for galbanum these days. Even Chanel No. 19... I'm finding that the angularity props me up when I need to stand up straight but can't quite do it on my own. Perhaps those overtanned women were more fragile than they seemed?

I am so glad you enjoyed Niki. It really does take only a single drop on the wrist, doesn't it? I am so pleased with my impulse-ordered parfum that I ordered the EDT (in the Pisces bottle, natch), too. When it arrives we can explore it together!

(And kisses to you, too, Chaya!)


In fact Jean Carles lost his sense of smell completely (eventually) and tales abound in which he went through the motions (like Baldini in Das Parfum) for the sake of the client when in fact he couldn't smell anything at all! But those tales are comparable to Beethoven composing the 9th while deaf: I think there needs to be a degree of incapacitation for us mere forlks to understand we're in the presence of genius. And of a very retentive memory, too, which is such an underestimated thing I find.

BTW, I never knew you sold perfumes. Did I get this right? You did, but you weren't interested in them at the time? (seems like such a waste of perfect opportunities....)Forgive being obtuse if you have said it before.

Welcome to the realm of emeralds! :-)


You AND Alyssa.
It would have been my delight to nestle among you two...

Gaucho, Niki,- great choices.
Everything about Gaucho appeals to me- I brought mine to Sniffa, for folks to sniff...

Niki is a magnificently quirky, oddly herbal green.
It is SO potent, and vividly evocative-
Much like that wonderful lady-in-the-hat you depict.

Brief, lovely Schubert to accompany post-
"Erstes Grun" [with umlaut !]- sung by Hermann Prey.

Just a thought.

Love you-

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