Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Alien Perfumes

Image courtesy of
I've been thinking a lot about the sense of smell for the past few months. It's important to the plot in The South Sea Bubble, as the main character discovers a new dimension through scent and smell.

Perfumes can be very evocative. When I go to the candle aisle in Bed, Bath and Beyond I sniff the Birthday Cake, the Fresh Linens, the Pomegranate and Sage pillars, and I wish there were others available. 

How about Artist's Studio? There's a certain combination of cigarette smoke, patchouli, coffee, and paint that sends me right back to college days, when I used to visit my friend downtown at her apartment near PCA.

Or Irish Chemist - how about that? I'm talking about those old-fashioned chemists (aka pharmacies in the US) that always smelled of iodine and tube makeup, as well as very strong peppermint toothpaste. The huge Boots just doesn't have that smell; I'm afraid it's dying out. There's also Spanish Farmacia, which is spicier and evokes the image of the chemist tying up the tooth floss I went in to buy on our last trip. No silly little plastic bag for him - he packaged my floss in brown paper and strings, just like a most precious gift.

And then there's Used Book Shop, which smells like old leather, wrinkled pages, and one large black cat lazing in the bow window. I'd love to have a candle to make my house smell like that.

I haven't even begun on kitchen smells: Gaga's Sunday Lunch, comprised of roast chicken and gravy, fresh peas, new spuds with butter, and Queen of Puddings. And tea, always a pot of tea.

And Arizona Desert - a combo of brush, hummingbird nectar, and cottonwood trees.

Smell is an important sense, although also a neglected one - perhaps because there are so many stinks out there that make us curl up our noses just remembering them (I'm looking at you, Elizabeth, NJ.) The very word smell is hardly poetic, and yet someone wrote a song about it - Oo oo, that smell... No, it's not poetic at all; it's a funny word. Smelly - NOT a description to put in a sonnet.

Yet I love when writers describe smells so I can fall into their worlds. It's hard enough to make a reader see or hear something - but scent is so fleeting, so immediate, that it's more subtle, harder to grasp and pin down with words.

My one final thought on the sense of smell: I've been longing for a natural perfume for a while, one that is made from organic oils and not petroleum products. A Facebook reference turned me onto Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs, a company that produces hundreds of natural scents. There are entire lines of products for steampunk lovers, for Lovecraft readers (I'm dying to try Cthulhu) and even for Neil Gaiman's Coraline. 

If you're interested, check out the site at this link and click on the graphic. It's a fun place to go.


Johanna Garth said...

This post reminded me of Every Flavor Beans, except the perfume version :) And I'll definitely have to check out that website. Thanks for posting the link.

Erin Latimer said...

Oooh my gosh I love the book shop! I SO badly want to go there!

Alison DeLuca said...

The smelly version of Every flavor Beans - love it!

And I want that book shop too, complete with the black cat.