Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Importance of Scent In A Challenging World

The year 2019 was a challenging one for me, and the first thing to go was my fragrance blogging. Health challenges had to be reckoned with and resulted in missing planned trips to renew old friendships. But the punctuation mark of sad tidings was the death of our beloved family pet Buffy right before Thanksgiving. Anyone who has had a loved pet in their life knows the particularly acute pain that loss can bring.

I knew the time was approaching to say goodbye to our almost sixteen year old dog, Buffy. She had Cushings disease which among other things was wasting away her leg muscles, extra sad because a Springer Spaniel's raison d'etre is the ability to perform twirling pirouettes of joy in midair with three feet of air beneath the paws. We had another year, I reckoned. I had planned the end. When she was no longer able to live her life we would gather around as she rested in her beloved and somewhat smelly bed and send her off in comfort, surrounded by love.

When you don't feel well the day-to-day bad news can drag you down more than usual, but one of the saving graces for me was an almost daily visit to online fragrance lover group sites, populated by people like me, who find beauty through scent and their sense of smell. The online fragrance community is such a warm and accepting group, at least on the sites I most often frequent, Eau My Soul  and Facebook Fragrance Friends.  Random acts of kindness are frequent. In fact, in totally coincidental timing, right after dealing with the death of my pet I won an extremely generous RAOK set of samples from a member on EMS, which she had put together to honor her friendship with the late Robert Herrman, a beloved member of the fragrance community and a writer for Cafleurebon. 

In the last year Buffy's hearing and sight had become compromised. On walks, the squirrels which she used to love to chase seemed to sense that she didn't see them anymore and would literally stroll across the path right in front of her. I wanted to get a slingshot and give them a thump for their disrespect towards my girl!

In a a world that is full of disheartening stories, seemingly insurmountable problems, and incivility like I've never seen in my lifetime, it is lovely to have an online place to go where you know people will be kind, and if they're not they will be summarily bounced out by the online moderators. Smell brings me so much joy. With a spray of  Estee Lauder Private Collection I'm that 29 year old young woman feeling confident and sexy in a leather skirt on my first date with that new Australian engineer on the sixth floor of my office building, not knowing he was my husband to be. Or a whiff of gardenia perfume reminds me of my mother, who planted a gardenia bush right outside the window in front of her kitchen sink so that she could gaze on it the rare times it bloomed in hot Texas summers, and  introduced me to that beautiful scent at a young age.

As her hearing and sight lost their power, Buffy's long nose only seemed to gain in power. Walks were no longer about exercise per se, but about just moving for movement's sake, and most of the journey was spent with her nose to the ground. Storms sometimes knocked branches from the upper heights of the trees we passed on our daily walks. These were of special pleasure, fulsome with the scent of squirrels who had frolicked in them, and were explored thoroughly as I patiently waited, happy for the joy these explorations seemed to bring.

We are lucky, those of us that for whatever reason have this desire to smell everything! Not only do we constantly seek to be delighted in the creativity of a new fragrance. There are cheap thrills a plenty; the scent of the fresh cucumber you cut for lunch as the knife pierces the skin, wild honeysuckle wafting from some unknown hiding place, or the first shovel of upturned earth in spring, after a cold winter. Finding beauty in the everyday and finding people who share that excitement is a wonderful thing.

Buffy's end was sudden, unexpected and not according to plan. Her body started swelling and she was in great pain, and a rush to the emergency clinic— it was night time— brought a diagnosis of twisted stomach, and at her age surgery was not really an option. I had to call my husband who was on a different continent and my three children who were by coincidence all in Dallas about an hour away. The veterinary had given her an injection which made her sleepy to keep her out of pain, and I waited for my now adult children to gather. They had grown up with Buffy, after all. They eventually arrived with their partners and my husband watched via Facetime as we faced this heartbreak together.

I am looking forward to getting back to writing in my blog in 2020, more for my own pleasure rather than that anyone is clamouring for me to do so. Dissecting beauty in scent is very meditative and calming to me, and I especially enjoy those times when I get to communicate with perfumers. All of those I've met or spoken to have been wonderfully generous people. Undoubtedly there will be new fragrances that will excite us this year. There will be scents of foods that will make our mouths water, and scents from nature that will bring us serenity and joy. May we experience that scent that reminds us of an absent loved one or takes us back to a happy memory in time. May we recognize how lucky we are to have the ability, because there are many who are oblivious to the importance of this sense and miss out on these charms.

Buffy's nose was her greatest asset to the end. I would like to think that in those final moments, even as she lay sleeping, that her subconscious recognized our scents and she knew we were there, that she felt the touch of our hands and it gave her comfort, and that she sensed the overwhelming love that filled that room, too big to be contained by mere walls. 

I look forward to interacting with you in 2020, sharing our new scented discoveries and rediscovering some of the old ones. Have a happy and safe New Year's Eve, and for my part, I welcome the fresh start of a new decade and year!