The Circle: A Silken Thread

Tournament of Roses


O, Gather Me the Rose

- William Ernest Henley -

O, gather me the rose, the rose,
    While yet in flower we find it,
For summer smiles, but summer goes,
    And winter waits behind it!

For with the dream foregone, foregone,
    The deed forborne for ever,
The worm, regret, will canker on,
    And time will turn him never.

So well it were to love, my love,
    And cheat of any laughter
The death beneath us and above,
    The dark before and after.

The myrtle and the rose, the rose,
    The sunshine and the swallow,
The dream that comes, the wish that goes,
    The memories that follow!

This poem is in the public domain.

Since childhood, I have hated the smell of rose coming from anything that wasn't actually a rose.

In a post titled The Urn-Shaped Rosebud (on a previous incarnation of this site), I wrote

Not unlike my childhood search for the perfect urn-shaped rosebud, I have been looking for many years for that perfect rosy fragrance that really, truly, smells like fresh garden roses. My current yardstick is the rosebush growing at my sister's house; it's reminiscent of pink pepper, almost an Indian-food scent, with touches of sugary sweetness but none of the pungent industrial-strength bathroom freshener rose that seems to invade much of mass market perfumery. My grandmother, on occasion, wore Jean Patou Joy, which is chock full of Bulgarian rose. Though I associate that smell with childhood, it still doesn't smell like roses to me; it smells like perfume.  Joy is beautiful in its own right but it's no rose I'd wear in my hair, were I the kind of person to wear a rose in my hair.

About a month ago, I began a quest to find not just one rose perfume, but a wardrobe of beautiful roses that I could wear on any occasion. Before I explain why, I should probably mention that my life has changed a bit since my last blog post in 2009.

In those days, I occasionally wrote about my husband and his influence on my adventures in perfume. After our marriage ended in 2010, I had no intention of forming another romantic relationship, but life is full of surprises. A friendship developed into a romance, and on January 1, 2015, I married my best friend. Looking back on all the random events and remote possibilities that brought us together, I am astonished and grateful. He's the best thing that's ever happened to me. I've had a great life so far, but nothing comes close to the joy T brings me.  

What was said to the rose that made it open was said
to me here in my chest.

Jalal al-Din Rumi, 1207 - 1273

When we began dating four years ago, T revealed that he loved roses. Not just the real ones, but rose-scented things, everything from cheap air freshener to fine perfume. He also turned out to have a very perceptive nose. We explored my collection of natural and synthetic perfume ingredients and talked about the language of perfumery. Almost immediately, he was able to identify notes and tones that I cannot smell at all. 

But it was also pretty clear that when it came to rosy fragrances, our tastes couldn't have been farther apart. He loved big, Glade/AirWick-style roses, and I was still pretty sheepish about rose at all. I'd had a few successes with very odd rose perfumes, such as S-Perfumes 100% Love, but traditional roses were still very difficult for me.

I decided to try to find a rose perfume that would delight us both. Something that smelled obviously of rose, but wasn't bound to tradition. Something decidedly unpotpourri-like. Something free of negative associations.

What associations, you ask? Confession time. 

In my defense, I was a child. I have always been inquisitive. Willing to experiment. Lacking in common sense. I'm still the same, though I hope I've gotten a little more practical and a lot less self-destructive. But on this childhood occasion, I was standing in a bathroom next to a commode on which a dish of what looked exactly like hot pink gel candies had been placed. I put one in my mouth and bit down.

To be honest, I knew they weren't candies. I knew they were some kind of air freshener, but they just looked so edible. They actually looked like this:


I came from one of those families that would wash your mouth out with soap for talking back or saying a bad word. This time, I voluntarily washed my mouth out with soap, which made everything worse. I was sure I'd poisoned myself but I was too embarrassed to tell anyone. I don't know how long it took to get that hot pink horror out of my mouth and nose, but I was, from that moment, a changed person. Even the lightest brush with rose air freshener could bring on a nauseated headache.

So there it is, I did it to myself. And forty years later, I am determined to undo it. I sought out samples of rose perfumes in an effort to find a bottled rose both T and I find beautiful. The coming series of posts, a tournament of roses, is the result.

Photo Sources: 

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


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