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A Package from Christos: Greek Sandals & Oud Cuir d'Arabie

A Package from Ines

A Package from Lavanya

A More Affordable Olfactionary

A Week of Wearing What I Like

Amouage Dia (pour femme)

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Amouage Epic Woman

Amouage Gold

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Amouage Jubilation 25 

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April Aromatics Calling All Angels

April Aromatics Bohemian Spice

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April Aromatics Nectar of Love

April Aromatics Rose L'Orange

Aroma M Geisha Green

Aroma M Geisha Rouge

Arquiste Anima Dulcis

Arquiste Boutonniere no. 7

At the Moment (Chanel 22 & Marshall Crenshaw)

At the Moment (Contemplating Change & Habit Rouge)

At the Moment (Marron Chic & Paris)

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At the Moment (Saki & Lubin Idole edt)

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At the Moment (Vera Wang & Fireman's Fair novel)

Ava Luxe Café Noir

Beatnik Emptiness Incense

Best of 2009

Bond No. 9 Andy Warhol Silver Factory

Bond No. 9 Brooklyn

Bond No. 9 Little Italy

Bond No. 9 New Haarlem

Bottega Veneta eau de parfum

Breath of God

Byredo Green

By Kilian Amber Oud

By Kilian Forbidden Games and In the City of Sin

Calyx by Prescriptives

Canturi by Stefano Canturi

Capote, Truman & Evening in Paris

Carner Barcelona D600

Caron Aimez-Moi

Caron French Cancan

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Caron Yatagan

Cartier II L'Heure Convoitee

Cartier IV L'Heure Fougueuse

Chanel 31 Rue Cambon

Chanel Bel Respiro

Chanel Chance

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Chanel Cuir de Russie

Chanel Egoiste

Chanel No. 5 (vintage)

Chanel No. 22

Chantecaille Petales

Chantilly Dusting Powder

Clive Christian C for Women

Comme des Garcons Daphne

Comme des Garcons LUXE Champaca

Comme des Garcons Series 7 Sweet Nomad Tea

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Coty Ambre Antique

Coty Chypre

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Creature by Kerosene

Creed Acqua Fiorentina

Creed Fleurs de Bulgarie

Creed Virgin Island Water

DSH Perfumes Bancha Extreme

DSH Perfumes Quinacridone Violet 

DSH Perfumes Vert pour Madame

Deneuve

Devilscent Project

Dior Diorissimo (vintage)

Donna Karan Black Cashmere

EnVoyage Vents Ardents

EnVoyage Zelda

Estee Lauder Private Collection

Estee Lauder Private Collection Jasmine White Moss

Etat Libre d'Orange Rien, Rossy de Palma & Noel au Balcon

Faberge Woodhue Cologne

Favorite Fall Fragrances

Fendi Uomo

Fragrances for Sweden

Frapin 1697 Absolu Parfum

Frederic Malle Angeliques Sous La Pluie

Frederic Malle Bigarade Concentrée

Frederic Malle Carnal Flower

Frederic Malle Dans Tes Bras

Frederic Malle Geranium Pour Monsieur

Frederic Malle Iris Poudre

Frederic Malle Le Parfum de Therese

Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose

Frederic Malle Noir Epices

Frederic Malle Portrait of a Lady

Frederic Malle Une Fleur de Cassie

Frederic Malle Une Rose

Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel

Ghosts of Perfumes Past, Present & Future

Gone Fishin'

Gucci Eau de Parfum

Gucci L'Arte di Gucci

Gucci Pour Homme

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Lys Soleia

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Guerlain Attrape Coeur

Guerlain Chamade

Guerlain Jicky

Guerlain Mayotte

Guerlain Parure

Guerlain Samsara Parfum

Guerlain Un Air de Samsara

Guerlain Vega

Guerlain Vetiver (vintage)

Guy Laroche J'ai Ose (vintage)

Happy Solstice

Hermes 24, Faubourg

Hermes Caleche (vintage)

Hermes Eau des Merveilles

Hermes Hiris

Hermes Iris Ukiyoe

Hermes L'Ambre des Merveilles

Histoires de Parfums 1740

Histoires de Parfums 1828

Histoires de Parfums Blanc Violette

Histoires de Parfums Vert Pivoine

Hometown Portrait, State College, PA

Honore des Pres Vamp a NY

House of Matriarch Carmine

How I Store Decants

Il Profumo Cannabis

In Memory (w/mention of Lanvin Arpege)

Jacomo #02

Jacomo #09 (Link to my review in Sniffapalooza Magazine)

Jean Desprez Bal a Versailles

Jean Patou Joy

Jean Patou 1000

Jo Malone Saffron Cologne Intense

Jo Malone Sweet Milk Cologne 

Juliet by Juliet Stewart

Kai Eau de Parfum

Kenzo Jungle l’Elephant

Kenzo Summer

Lancome Magie Noire (vintage) 

Lanvin Via Lanvin (vintage) 

L'Artisan Parfumeur Nuit de Tubereuse

L'Artisan Parfumeur Orchidee Blanche 

L’Artisan Parfumeur Passage d’Enfer

L'Artisan Parfumeur Seville a l'Aube

L’Artisan Parfumeur Tea for Two

La Via del Profumo Balsamo Della Mecca

La Via del Profumo Hindu Kush

La Via del Profumo Milano Caffe

La Via del Profumo Oud Caravan Project

La Via del Profumo Sharif

La Via del Profumo Tawaf

Le Labo Gaiac 10

Le Labo Iris 39

Le Labo Patchouli 24

Le Labo Poivre 23

Little Lists

Lorenzo Villoresi Yerbamate

M. Micallef Vanille Orient

Maison Francis Kurkdjian Absolue Pour le Soir

Maison Martin Margiela (untitled) eau de parfum

Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Eau des Iles

Message In A Bottle 

Michael Storer Winter Star

Miller Harris L'Air de Rien

Miscellany

Missoni (original) by Missoni

Molinard Habanita

Mona Di Orio Nuit Noire

Mona Di Orio Oud

Mona Di Orio Vanille

Montale Black Aoud

Montale Boise Vanille

Montale Intense Tiare

Montale Patchouli Leaves

Montale Red Aoud

More Roses (rose cookie recipe)

My Heart Has Skipped a Beat (summer smells)

My Perfumes Have Theme Songs

Nasomatto China White

Neila Vermeire Creations Bombay Bling

Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps

Nez a Nez Ambre a Sade

Northern Exposure "A Dash of Chanel No. 5"

Odin 04 Petrana (Link to my review in Sniffapalooza Magazine)

Olivier Durbano Black Tourmaline

Omar Sharif Pour Femme

Oriscent Pure Oud Oils

Ormonde Jayne Frangipani

Ormonde Jayne Ormonde Woman

Oscar de la Renta Oscar for Men

O Tannenbaum Joint Blog Project

Parfum d'Empire Azemour

Parfum d'Empire Cuir Ottoman

Parfum d'Empire Equistrius

Parfum d'Empire 3 Fleurs

Parfumerie Generale Bois de Copaiba

Parfumerie Generale Indochine

Parfumerie Generale Un Crime Exotique

Parfums de Nicolai Sacrebleu

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Parfums Karl Lagerfeld Sun Moon Stars

Parfums MDCI Chypre Palatin

Parfums Retro Grand Cuir

Paris, je t'aime

Pascal Morabito Or Black 

Perfume Quotes - The English Patient

Prada Infusion d'Iris Absolue

Pretty Perfume Bottles 

Prince Matchabelli Aviance Cologne (vintage) 

Profumum Roma Acqua Viva

Profumum Roma D'Ambrosia

Puredistance I

Puredistance Antonia

Puredistance BLACK

Puredistance M

Puredistance Opardu

Ramon Monegal Cherry Musk

Recipe for Socca

Regina Harris Amber Vanilla Perfume Oil

Regina Harris Frankincense-Myrrh-Rose Maroc Perfume Oil

Robert Piguet Fracas

Robert Piguet Visa

Rochas Mystere 

Rome Vacation Photos

San Francisco Holiday

Sarah Horowitz Parfums' Joy Comes From Within & Beauty Comes From Within

Scented Reading

Scents of the Mediterranean

Scentuous Reading: One Hundred Years of Solitude

Serge Lutens Arabie

Serge Lutens Borneo 1834

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Slumberhouse Rume

Snow Days

Sonoma Scent Studio Incense Pure

Sonoma Scent Studio Jour Ensoleille

Sonoma Scent Studio Voile de Violette

Sonoma Scent Studio Winter Woods (brief mention)

SoOud Ouris Parfum Nectar

S-Perfume 100% Love {More}

Stone Harbor, NJ Vacaton pix (non-perfume related)

Strange Invisible Perfumes Lyric Rain

Sweden Is For Lovers

T is for Taxes

Tauer Perfumes: Incense Extrême, Incense Rosé, Lonestar Memories, & Reverie au Jardin

Tauer Perfumes Vetiver Dance

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

The Diary of a Nose, Book Review

The Different Company Jasmin de Nuit

The Intimacy of Scent

Thoughts of a Perfume Collector

Tightly

Tokyo Milk Ex Libris

Unlocking an Unknown: Webber Parfum 6T

Velvet & Sweet Pea's Purrfumery Bed of Roses

Venimus Vidimus Vicimus, or How 3 Perfume Bloggers and a Husband Took Rome

Vero Profumo Kiki, Onda, and Rubj

Vero Profumo Mito

Viktoria Minya Hedonist

Viktor & Rolfe Flowerbomb

What I’m Lovin’ Now

Xerjoff Mamluk

YOSH Perfumes Ginger Ciao

Yves Saint Laurent Nu

UNDER THE SPELL OF A CASSIA FLOWER

 

Recently I reread Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel she wrote in 1931 about rural China in the years of its last emperor, as seen through the eyes of a peasant-farmer named Wang Lung. Over the course of his life, through good times and absolutely desperate times, Wang Lung’s diligent care and governance of his land—not to mention his marriage to a selfless, hardworking woman—sets him on a winding path that leads from poverty to wealth. By the end of the novel he is a widowed lord presiding over the courts that make up his great house—courts where his single and married sons and their families, his aging concubine, Lotus, and his many servants, all live. But life presents challenges at every stage, regardless of poverty or wealth, and Wang Lung begins to feel drained by the constant feuding that take places in his bustling house. Ineffectual might be a better word because not only is he unable to control the fractiousness of his household, his advanced age and social status now prevent him from returning to work in his beloved fields. And in this state, as the master whose influence has been diminished, Wang Lung experiences a brief period of lust for a young maid (a servant girl) whose innocence and demure manner is as much an attraction as her pale and lovely face:

 

…he watched the maid incessantly as she came and went and without his knowing it the thought of her filled his mind and he doted on her. But he said nothing to anyone.

      One night in the early summer of that year, at the time when the night air is thick and soft with the mists of warmth and fragrance, he sat at rest in his own court alone under a flowering cassia tree and the sweet heavy scent of the cassia flowers filled his nostrils and he sat there and his blood ran full and hot like the blood of a young man. Through the day he had felt his blood so and he had been half of a mind to walk out on his land and feel the good earth under his feet and take off his shoes and his stockings and feel it on his skin.

      This he would have done but he was ashamed lest men see him, who was no longer held a farmer within the gates of the town, but a landowner and a rich man. So he wandered needlessly about the courts and he stayed away altogether from the court where Lotus sat in the shade and smoked her water pipe, because well she knew when a man was restless and she had sharp eyes to see what was amiss. He went alone, then, and he had no mind to see either of his two quarreling daughters-in-law, nor even his grandchildren, in whom was his frequent delight.

      …When night came he was still alone and he sat in his court alone and there was not one in all his house to whom he could go as friend. And the night air was thick and soft and hot with the smell of the flowers of the cassia tree.

      And as he sat there in the darkness under the tree one passed beside where he was sitting near the gate of his court where the tree stood, and he looked quickly and it was Pear Blossom.

      “Pear Blossom!” he called, and his voice came in a whisper....
“Come here to me!” 

 

And Pear Blossom goes to him quite willingly. Despite her tender age, her own social status as a slave girl in a great house (where other men have already begun eyeing her) has granted her the wisdom to realize that this arrangement might afford her more kindness, more gentleness than she might otherwise know. When Wang Lung suddenly becomes hesitant and has second thoughts about his desires for her (“Child,” he tells her, “I am an old man—a very old man”), Pear Blossom answers him in a way that assuages his doubts:

 

And she said, and her voice came out of the darkness like the very breath of the cassia tree,

    “I like old men—I like old men—they are so kind—”

 

The way in which Pearl Buck wrote this small scene is captivating to me for a number of reasons. Buck had a simple and direct style of writing that was unsentimental yet powerful in delivering up the hearts and minds of her characters; yet there’s a sleight-of-hand complexity to her writing too, achieved not by language but by her deft use of details. In the interaction between Wang Lung and Pear Blossom, the flowering cassia tree is one such detail. The reader who has never smelled a cassia bloom (and here I include myself) nevertheless understands what its sweet, ripe fragrance is meant to evoke in these passages. Buck referenced the cassia tree not once but three times within the space of a few pages, and in doing so, it provides her a masterful, shorthand way of narrating the kind of sexual encounter that might easily have been viewed as too unseemly to write about in 1931.

 

But what further captivates me, and the reason I’m writing of this here, is the way this passage connects to my interest in perfume. While I have no way of knowing whether the flowering cassia tree that Buck refers to in her novel is that of Acacia farnesiana or Cinnamomum cassia, both of which grow in China, I’d like to think it is the former. The flowers of either tree are commonly referred to as cassia (or cassie) flowers, but only the Acacia tree’s blooms are used in perfumery—and nowhere do they bloom more sensuously than in the fragrance, Une Fleur de Cassie, by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. What a strange little flower fragrance, this one!  It smells furred and kittenish; erotic and innocent. Une Fleur de Cassie is composed of mimosa, jasmine, cassie flower, and rose, along with carnation and a vanilla-and-sandalwood base; but in its initial stages, my nose detects cumin and musk rubbing up against these flowers, a commingling of sweet and animalic scents that recalls the downy underarm of a clean but unshaved woman. In other words, just a hint of the erotic: a bit of musky fur that hides in the hollowed underneath of a perfumed arm. (It also reminds me of dandelions: the tumbled-together smell of bitter and sweet elements.)

 

The kittenish part of the fragrance?  Une Fleur de Cassie is a surprisingly petite perfume in many respects, with a much softer sillage than what you might expect. Its sexiness does not arrive with a growl, but (to steal a line from Carl Sandburg) on little cat feet. Quietly, persistently, Une Fleur de Cassie teases the senses until you are fully under its spell.



Une Fleur de Cassie, from Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle, can be purchased from Barneys.com, $150 for 50 ml.
 

Excerpted from The Good Earth, copyright © 1931, 1958 by Pearl S. Buck (Washington Square Press, New York, NY, 2004, pp. 339-341)

Images: Reclining Nude by Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), is from Art.com.

Posted by Suzanne Keller, 3/6/2009.

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