When I was a teenager growing up on a dairy farm, summer was a mixed-bag of a season, full of as many pains as joys. While I loved the long sunlit days, the arrival of fresh asparagus, tomatoes and sweet corn at our dinner table, the ability to go swimming everyday in our pond and the three-month vacation from school, summer was also attended by an excessive amount of chores, many of which were made more grinding by the heat. Stacking hundreds of hay bales tightly into the loft of our barn was the thing I hated most, but even the familiar work of milking our sixty head of dairy cows became more challenging. Whereas in winter I didn’t mind being sandwiched between two warm-bodied cows, each of them weighing between 1200 and 1500 lbs, as I cleaned their udders and put the milking units on them, in summer the humidity of the outside air was compounded by being in the small confines of the milking parlor, smack in between the flanks of these large animals, whose own tempers flared in hot weather, exacerbated by the burgeoning insect population as much as the heat. There is a good reason cows have long tails—they really do function well as fly-swatters and are essential to the cow’s well-being for that reason—but they are also what makes summer milking unpleasant, as being at that end of the cow, facing the tail, means getting swatted in the face on numerous, stinging occasions.

Had I heard the Gershwin tune “Summertime (and the livin’ is easy)” back then, I would have groaned and cited the above, and a whole lot of other farm-related unpleasantries, as reasons to the contrary. It is only because I have the luxury of living a lifestyle now which involves no outdoor work, aside from yard work, that I can say I love summer and hum in agreement about it being an easy season.  In the many years since I left the farm, I’ve become summer’s truest lover, adoring it in ways that might not be good for me (as in sunbathing) as well as in ways that decidedly are. I move more in summer; I eat healthier; I chat much more frequently with my neighbors, but most of all, I smile and daydream and read more. I let other people’s creative ideas take up more real estate in my head and give my own mind a break. Though I am less of a thinking person in summer, by way of compromise, I inhabit my body more fully than I do at any other time of year, both in terms of relaxation (there is something about summer sunlight that allows me to drift off and enjoy an occasional nap) and recreation (where, taking the opposite extreme, I find that exercising in the intense summer heat has a way of rechanneling my mind such that it doesn’t go down its familiar path of Virgoan worry).

Summer is also when, as I’ve said many times before, I enjoy wearing perfumes most, especially heavier perfumes that expand and unfold so hypnotically in the heat. But for the past couple weeks I’ve been wearing the kind of light perfumes that actually are considered summer scents (yes, how novel of me!), and though I haven’t yet determined whether this is just a phase I’m going through or a more lasting kind of love that might require a full-bottle purchase somewhere down the line, if it’s the former, then all I can say is gosh, these have been some truly enjoyable summer flings. The first was with Creed Virgin Island Water; this week it has been with the lovely Lys Soleia eau de toilette from Guerlain’s Aqua Allegoria line. As the name indicates, Lys Soleia is a sunny lily scent with a lightly-tropical sensibility, and wearing it reminds me of the way I feel in summer when summer is going as swimmingly as this one is—which is to say, lighthearted, cheerful and pretty.  No doubt this feeling is underscored by the fact that I’ve been wearing Lys Soleia at the beach, but that’s the thing about perfumes—knowing where and when and how to wear them, yes? And the beach is the perfect place to wear this little number, which smells like something one might encounter at an upscale spa. In fact, if asked to describe it in one sentence, I’d say it smells like a fresh lily wrapped in one of those spa-quality, Egyptian cotton towels (or bathrobes) that has just been taken, all warm and fluffy, from the dryer.

Lys Soleia’s fragrance notes are listed as follows: bergamot, lemon, palm leaves, lily, ylang-ylang, sunny fruits, tuberose, vanilla, and sunny musks. My first encounter with Lys Soleia was a few months back, at the Guerlain boutique in Paris, where I was smelling it on someone else’s skin, rather than wearing it on my own, and the top notes struck me as being green and spring-like. Then I received a decant of Lys Soleia (thank you, Asali!) and was expecting that same translucent green start, only to find that it doesn’t happen on my skin. I can’t detect Lys Soleia’s note of palm leaves, but the fragrance does start off with an airy lemon that is the olfactory equivalent of joy—a cheerful, meringue-like burst of lemon, nothing more—quickly joined by the lily. Now lily often strikes me as a cool and misty-smelling floral, but the lily in Lys Soleia demonstrates that kind of presence only for a few moments, as it is very quickly warmed by the deeper, bananas-and-butter smell of ylang-ylang (and presumably the “summer fruits” and tuberose, which I’d be lying if I said I could detect). When the vanilla and white musk of the base accord tenderly enfolds the warm lily, the scent takes on a soft, dry cottony smell that reminds me of the aforementioned spa towel. Thought it might sound like an odd combination—tropical floral meets the hard-to-describe smell of a fluffy cotton towel—it doesn’t come off odd at all. In fact, it translates into the kind of fragrance that probably won’t ever make a person swoon, but it will make them feel pampered and carefree and, yes, pretty.

With its soft sillage and its relaxed air of femininity, Lys Soleia wears well in the heat. Whether you find summer to be like Hell’s Kitchen or, as in my case, a seasonal slice of Heaven, it’s the kind of fragrance that makes the livin’ easy at this time of year.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Lys Soleia:

Making Easy Work of Summer

Suzanne's Perfume Journal

August 4, 2012:

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Lys Soleia can be purchased at most Guerlain counters and through online department stores like NeimanMarcus.com, where a 75-ml bottle is $61. My review is based on a decant sent by my perfume-blogging friend Asali.

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