Suzanne's Perfume Journal

Annick Goutal Encens Flamboyant eau de parfum contains frankincense in three different formats (frankincense essence; frankincense resinoid and “Old Church” frankincense) as well as notes of pepper, roseberry (pink pepper), cardamom, sage, nutmeg, lentisque absolute and balsam fir. It can be purchased from the Annick Goutal website, 100 ml for 120 €.

(I received a decant of Encens Flamboyant from a kind reader in British Columbia. Thank you, Karen.)

Excerpts are from the short story titled "Gary Garrison's Wedding Vows" by Ron Carlson, from his book At the Jim Bridger, copyright © 2002 by Ron Carlson (Picador USA, New York, 2002, pp. 153 & 162-163)

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Because I've been so busy this past week, here is one of my lazier posts in which I will eventually tell you about a little about a perfume by first telling you a lot about a favorite literary piece. In this case, Ron Carlson’s short story, Gary Garrison’s Wedding Vows—a story that speaks of love at every turn (and in the space that is the literary equivalent of a K-turn, manages to touch on love of every kind) in a voice that is remarkably quiet and steady. This is how the story starts out:

Fearing that she is “destined to go through life as an exposed nerve” and deciding that a job will help her “grow some insulation,” Gary Garrison (her first name is actually Margaret) moves out west to become an intern at the Brigham Bird Refuge in Utah. She has the notion that moving west will help “wear out her feelings, shuck them, use them up” and, of course, just the opposite happens. Driving to Utah, each new place she passes throws off sparks of fresh electricity, and by the time she arrives at the wetlands to assume the simple but mindful role of being a census taker of migrating birds, it is September—“a season of crumbling summer and its crushing light, light about to fall off a polished table like a crystal vase, light that filled Margaret Garrison like fire in a bowl, and in her September days, she walked upon her toes to get her head up in the air as far as possible.”

While the feelings she hoped to shuck only seem to multiply, in Utah they at least manage to serve her: she not only falls under the spell of the western autumn sky, its wetlands, and the task of identifying birds, but also under the spell of the rugged and taciturn wildlife ranger who is the manager of the refuge. Mark Faberhand is his name, and at thirty-one-years-old he is already “a flinty expert in the western flyways and in all birds, even exotics.” Gary Garrison never speaks of her attraction to him—she’s so struck by him that when they’re working together she can’t even face him full on—and though he is equally mum, it becomes clear by the way that they work together in the bird blinds that there is a deep chemistry between them.

The two of them are not alone in this picture; the other intern at the refuge is Juanita Dubois, an intelligent, plainspoken woman who is as passionate about her job as the other two and whose directness seems to ground them. Juanita also is attracted to Mark, which Gary realizes as the two women lie in their bunk at nights and Juanita speculates as to whether he has a girlfriend or not. And then, by the end of fall, when it’s time for the refuge’s annual Trustee Tour and Dinner, another gentleman arrives on the scene—the head of the trustees, a young attorney from Laramie named William Brookes. He will court Gary Garrison; he will ask for her hand in marriage and she will say yes—but because she is who she is, their wedding vows will only be sealed if a certain condition is met. “The invitation said it this way: ‘When the wild geese call, we will be married heart and soul, and only if they call.’”

I’m not sure you can write a love story that would fall under the category of “literary” without it having an element of unrequited love. And while it does figure here—lending wistfulness and the ring of truth so necessary to a story that revolves around the type of quirky character who might otherwise be seen as cute—it’s that element of unrequited love that also manages to lift the story up. Gary Garrison’s Wedding Vows is a story of gentle sweetness because it’s a story about people who know how to love, who as solitary as they seem, have made it a part of their vocation. I won’t tell you the ending, not wanting to spoil it for the rare person who seeks it out, however I will leave you with a final excerpt that hints at the direction it takes.

But before I do, I’ll tell you about the perfume that made me think of this story, that made this question form at the back of my mind: “Oh, I wonder how Gary Garrison is doing and whether her life turned out lovely, as her mother said it would, if she could find the right company.” Annick Goutal Encens Flamboyant smells like an ancient pine tree—like resinous evergreen sap—and it also smells like the dry, high-country lands of the West.  It is quite simply a bone-dry frankincense scent enhanced by enough sage and herbaceous notes that it speaks of the outdoors, yet does so in a way that manages to stay one’s focus. Though its name indicates that it is smoky, to my nose it is more arid and pine-like than smoky. Its composition is fairly linear—this is the kind of scent that doesn’t make demands of its wearer, that has a very modest sillage but enough olfactory texture that it doesn’t read as boring. It’s the perfect scent for the Gary Garrisons of the World because wearing it is a reminder of the thing they love most—the high-altitude, natural world in which their spirits soar—and at the same time it offers a plain and simple constancy that can be a balm to the high strung.

William Brookes drove her to the Old Mill, the fanciest restaurant in the county, where the waiters wore lederhosen and green felt hats and stepped heavily around the wooden-floored room. Williams Brookes called her Margaret, which she didn’t correct, because with all this new noise she felt like someone else.

After dinner he drove above one of the apple orchards, the trees all bright wrecks in the moonlight, and he pointed out the deer moving through the scrub oak. Deer which should have undermined her ability to breathe, sit still, but she watched the small herd move through from a new distance. Her mind on Mark, and now William in her face, the smell of this big new car, a night plucked and stolen from the continuity of her electric life. He talked, a man’s voice this close, about how much he loved the West, his life, the air, the dark, the mountains, etcetera, an unending inventory which she heard and after half an hour began to trust. His sincerity walled her in. He leaned to her and tried to kiss her and kissed her and still tried. A man’s lips on her own crushed the circuits, and she kissed him back.

April 9, 2012:

A Scent for the Gary Garrisons of the World:
Annick Goutal Encens Flamboyant

Gary Garrison gave Radcliffe a second try, but when she came home to New York having completed her sophomore year, she announced her academic career was over. “It isn’t a good idea for me to be up there cutting classes to sit around my room having feelings,” she told her mother. The classes were excellent, if large, but all they inspired in her were feelings. She took differential calculus and got feelings. She took philosophy and got feelings. She took Advanced French and The American Renaissance and they gave her feelings. She walked the campus and through the town at odd hours, driven by emotions she could not control, an urgent sense of the size and magnitude of all knowledge, and she sat in her room and felt her emotions surge in her like an uproarious tide anxious on a steep shifting shore. She made the actual decision to let go of college in a tree on the quad. She entered the thick umbrella of an ancient pine and then climbed the puzzling and ready ladder of limbs around its trunk until she was two hundred feet from the ground and could see the lights of Boston. She was twenty years old.

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