- Sara Teasdale -
Copyright information unavailable. Electronic text from Poetry Out Loud.
This post first appeared on my previous website, memoryanddesire.net
I've had a long time to reflect on the usefulness and purpose of personal writing about fragrance. About 16 months ago I packed up all my most precious perfumes and essential oils in an airtight container and placed that container in the bottom of my refrigerator. When I moved, I moved the perfume from the old refrigerator to the new without even opening it. Only a few essences escaped banishment. My samples of Roxana Villa's Q and Sierra, as well as Vero Kern's Onda were the only formal fragrances that I left within reach in the butter compartment. All my other bottles of perfume languished in the dust on a bookshelf. I thought that either I was done with perfume-an-sich or it was done with me.
And in that time, a lot has changed. We moved to a new home which I like to think of as our "de-luxe apartment in the sky." I had the opportunity to fulfill a life-long ambition to become a full-time professional writer. (As in: for a living, with a regular paycheck and health insurance and everything. I still can't believe it.) There have been some bright spots and some bleak ones and I have learned to live with a new array of medicines and treatments for a new and old array of complaints.
At first, I felt guilty about just disappearing, but on the other hand, I felt pretty good about what we had done here on Memory & Desire. I wanted to honor the generosity of all who participated here by leaving the site as a monument to a particular sensibility that many of us share. But no words came to mind when I tried to explain why the breaker-switch on my inspiration had suddenly flipped to "OFF." In all this time, I've received many messages of concern and encouragement. People continued to visit, ask questions, and use the site as a resource, but thinking about working on this site conjured more despair than joy for me. So, nothing happened.
And then, just a few days ago, I read a poem called "From Violence to Peace" by Jimmy Santiago Baca. I won't copy the whole poem here because it's quite long and if you're not in the mood for it, it could be a tough read. The poem is about a man who has been shot after deciding to "settle / a bad feud" while drunk with grief. As the speaker recuperates, he considers the 28 shotgun pellets that "crater my thighs, belly, groin." Here's the important part, for me:
I wanted peace
wanted to diffuse the immovable core
of vengeance in my heart,
I had carried since a child,
dismantle the bloody wheel of violence
I had ridden since a child.
During my week in bed,
pellets pollinated me
with a forgotten peace,
and between waking thoughts of anger and vengeance,
sleep was a small meadow of light,
a clearing I walked into and rested. Fragrance of peace
filled me as fragrance
of flowers and dirt permeate hands
that work in the garden all day.
I can't say that the idea of peace brings any particular fragrance to my mind, but I liked this image: fragrance of peace as the "fragrance / of flowers and dirt" that permeates "hands / that work in the garden all day." I'm not a gardener, but my grandfather was, and I think he was an expert at making peace with the circumstances of his life. The poet uses "fragrance of peace" as a metaphor for a kind of a permeation of spirit that comes as the result of honest effort. Hands that work in the garden all day carry with them the essence of what they repeatedly do, and where they do it. The tanned skin, strong muscles, dirt under the nails and the scent of the garden remain after the day's work is done.
And then, just a few days after this poem stuck in my net, I received an email from Roxana Villa. On September 21, the International Day of Peace, she's launching a new fragrance inspired by Project Peace on Earth and wanted to organize a blog event in which "the focus is to speak of our own thoughts and impressions surrounding the topic of peace."
"I thought of you," she wrote, "and would love to have you as a part of it."
Now there are two things about this that I find extraordinary, and this is why I am actually writing about this today. First, in my 16 month-absence, Roxana wrote me several lovely letters of kindness and encouragement. I am ashamed to say that many of those went unanswered by me, but she still kept writing, sending messages of healing, of love, and of peace. She still, inexplicably, had confidence in me after almost a year and a half of almost nothing in return. I closed my eyes and imagined Roxana (whom I've never met) working in the garden of her natural perfumery all day, the fragrance of peace permeating her spirit until it spills back out again in her attitude and efforts toward others. I thought about all the little pellets of discontent that riddle me and have kept me silent. The fear of failure, the disenchantments and disillusionments. The battle of not-wanting-to-be-part-of-the-commercial world vs. wanting-to-be-a-part-of-something-worthwhile. The wanting acceptance, but not wanting to want acceptance. Some of you know this routine, I'm sure.
So when I got Roxana's letter, I pulled up this site to see what it looked like after all this time. There, in the upper right corner, was the reminder that I put there for myself at the beginning: Yes. If you've ever wondered why that's there, now you know. I'm not person who lives in the world of "yes" by nature; I have to be reminded. Getting to Yes is usually a struggle for me. The reminder worked, and for the first time in a very long time, I thought I might have something to say.
Peace is not something I can envision on a global scale because If I imagine the world is filled with people who share something in common with me, there is always going to be something to fight over. But I do believe in peacemakers. I don't think that a world without war is ever going to happen, but I do believe that making peace, one difficult conflict at a time, is incredibly worthwhile. And it's not free; peace costs something. It requires compromise and humility, sometimes it requires that you give up what is most comfortable and recognizable in your world. Peace is a risk that could go badly at any minute, but it's still worth it. In Sara Teasdale's words,
Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.
Here's to Roxana Villa's Perfume for Peace, which is not only inspired by a good cause, it's a gorgeous fragrance that incorporates some of the elements of Roxana's natural perfumery that I most love: the euphoric citrus notes and spicy, vivid heart are tempered harmoniously by rich woods. About the perfume's composition and purpose, Roxana writes:
I selected the individual notes in the perfume first by contemplating the Aroma therapeutic aspects of essential oils which impart a sense of peace. I discovered that almost every essence triggers some form of peace, it all depends on how one defines peace. Is peace stillness or calm or happy or euphoric or grounding or sedated? Is it all of these?
Each chord contains up to seven different notes. There are over thirty pure, plant essences combined in organic, food grade, grape and grain alcohol in the liquid perfume extract. Sourced from each continent of the world.
In keeping with the vision for of Project Peace on Earth, the perfume contains essences from each continent, including locations close to the sacred sites for the performances.
A percentage of proceeds from the sale of the 7 gram flacon and solid perfume compact support Project Peace of Earth.
The perfume is also available as a solid perfume unguent, as well as pure, botanical liquid perfume extract in a variety of sizes.
As a complete composition, it's immediately recognizable as a warm oriental. I don't know what's in it, and I don't even think that I want to. I love the simple loveliness of it. Roxana's Perfume for Peace (formally named for the untrademarked peace symbol designed in 1958 by Gerald Holtom) goes straight to the top of my newly-open perfume world. Roxana will be giving away a liquid and solid perfume sample through her journal.
Here's to the serendipitous combination of personal loveliness, poetic inspiration, and excellence in perfumery that brought me back to these pages. Here's to the small meadow of light that made "yes" a possibility again. I have some ideas and a lot of poems to explore. Several of the perfumers who participated in the 2007 Perfume in a Poem event here have since launched fragrances related to Ezra Pound's "In a Station of the Metro" poem. We'll visit each of those shortly. I suspect that, going forward, we may focus less on commercial perfume and more on the world of fragrance that we live in every day but might take for granted. However it turns out, I am grateful for your presence here. If you sent a note in the last 16 months and didn't receive an answer, I ask for your patience. I've kept them all and will do my best to make amends for my long silence.
The following blogs are participating in Roxana Villa's Impressions of Peace event. Please visit:
Bitter Grace Notes
Perfume Smellin' Things
Find Roxana Villa at:
Please consider supporting the efforts of the peacemakers among us.
Learn about Project-Peace on Earth, an annual worldwide telecast concert of Superstar musicians performing Sacred Music from the most mystical concert venues on the planet: Egypt's Great Pyramids, England’s Stonehenge, Australia's Ayers Rock, Peru's Inca Pyramids, Japan's Mount Fuji, and California's Mount Shasta.
"Peace Has Begun" by Greg Spalenka. Used with permission.
Photo of Roxana Villa's Perfume for Peace by Roxana Villa. Used with permission.
"Barter" by Sara Teasdale. Copyright information not available. Electronic text via Poetry Out Loud.