I have been dreaming about horses a lot lately. I think it has to do with the fact that I’ve been attempting to cultivate a winter-loving mindset, and one of the things I loved about winter when I was growing up was the winter trail ride. My father adored horses, and at one point we had twelve of them. On weekends, he and my mother would invite groups of their friends, usually two or three other couples, to come riding with us. We usually went on a Sunday, from late morning into afternoon, riding through the fields and over the ridge tops, across acres and acres of land that seemed unending. When I say it was a special time, I am not merely waxing nostalgic: the land was different then, because it was an era when small farms flourished. Some of the farms and forestland that we rode on back then still exist today, but many of these properties have been subdivided and now have houses on them, if not housing developments. When I was growing up, the farmers whose lands adjoined ours knew us and granted us standing permission to ride there. Today a person would have to seek out a daunting number of permissions to crisscross the fields that once led to the mountain trails, if indeed those trails still exist.

The weekly trail rides started when I was around twelve, and I didn’t enjoy them at first. I wanted to be a horse lover, but anyone could see I was a scaredy-cat around them—and the horses that had been assigned to me, in those days when my father was trying to figure out which one to pair me with, knew and took advantage of this. A couple of them bucked and threw me off, another bit me, and one (this time a neighbor’s horse, not ours) kicked me in the ribs so hard it completely knocked the wind out of me and left me writhing on the ground, gasping for air. All of this was quite an embarrassment, because one of my father’s dreams was for my sisters and me to become accomplished riders. He enrolled us in 4-H horse club and hired a succession of people to give us riding lessons geared towards the show ring. This thrilled my sisters, both of whom were younger than me and already on their way to becoming expert horsewomen, but I would have gladly given up on the whole thing if I wasn’t so intent on pleasing my father. Luckily, I didn’t have to: my father realized that, in my case, the best thing was simply to get me to a place where I could feel comfortable around a horse, period. He ended up buying me an old, sway-backed mare named Nellie. She was the most gentle, grandmotherly horse you can imagine, and though she looked as haggard and forlorn as Eeyore when she arrived at our farm that winter, by the time spring rolled around, she had a filled-out frame and a sorrel coat that gleamed like a copper penny from all the brushings I gave her. Nellie appreciated any and all affection that came her way, and she was perfect for a novice rider because she wasn’t as high strung as most horses and didn’t spook easily. She wasn’t a show horse, but I showed her at several of the 4-H round-ups anyway, and I think she liked the attention of being on parade at those events.

Nellie lived for more years than we could have ever imagined—her last year was the one after I graduated from college. When I dream of horses, she is the one I am riding, though the other horses are there on the trail with us. My mom’s spirited pinto gelding, Sugar Boy, and my dad’s pretty Quarter Horse, Lunacita, and my sisters’ horses, too, which change from dream to dream, just as they did in real life. By their very presence, they increased the beauty of the land we lived on, which was something I realized even as I despaired of ever finding one I could get along with. But the gift I received through Nellie was an expansion of that beauty, because, while it would be stretching the truth to say that riding allowed me to see the land as another creature might see it, it was the closest I will ever come to such an experience. And it was profound. A landscape that is beautiful on its own seems even more so when viewed on horseback, if only because you are viewing it from a different vantage point, and traversing it at a different speed. I vividly remember what it was like to enter forests when I was sitting high up in the saddle, at eye-level with the biggest branches of the pine trees, spying abandoned bird nests and feeling the wind stir the needles. And then cantering across a winter field, with the snow rustling up like sea spray, an exhilarating curtain of cold powder that rose and fell in our wake.

So, what does any of this have to do with perfume?  Nothing, really, except to say that I think these dreams of horses and winter landscapes have (temporarily) curbed my appetite for big floral fragrances. This past week, I cannot get enough of:

Hermes Calèche, vintage, pure parfum (gifted to me from my perfume-fairy godmother, Melissa.)  On my skin, this gorgeous chypre scent is a sophisticated mélange of silken woods and plush moss, with a touch of florals that I would be hard-pressed to name if I didn’t have a list in front of me. The florals in this vintage Calèche don’t register as flowery notes; instead, they seem to function as the olfactory equivalent of a silk lining: they provide a softness that keeps the scent’s green and leathery facets in check, so that the fragrance can entertain those qualities in a soft and supple way. This is a kidskin glove of a fragrance—an incredibly smooth and refined blend of masculine and feminine elements. I get a rich dose of vetiver from Calèche, which is a note that I once thought of as so…not me. Of course, that was before I tried Vero Profumo Onda, the perfume that first won me over to the note. Onda immediately came to mind when I was wearing this vintage Calèche, because, though they are two very different scents (Onda is audaciously risqué, while Calèche is not), both have a vetiver richness that is as inviting as a thick carpet. Maybe it’s the perfume version of catnip: it makes me want to roll around on the ground, with my nose pressed to my wrist.

Dreaming of Horses and Wearing Vintage Caleche
and Bal a Versailles

Suzanne's Perfume Journal

Images: photo, top, is from Grace's Horses website at www.punfox.com; photo below is of Jane Fonda and Robert Redford in a scene from the 1979 film, The Electric Horseman.

January 12, 2009:

Jean Desprez Bal a Versailles, edt concentration.  I hadn’t reached for this much in the past six months, and this week it was like falling in love all over again. It’s such a leatherfest on me: chaps and saddles and a hint of lathered horsehair. Oh, I’ve smelled riper versions of Bal a Versailles—a sample of pure parfum that smelled so provocatively of horse dung, leather and sweat, one couldn’t help being overtaken by clichéd Lady Chatterley-type fantasies. And, unfortunately, I’ve smelled tamer versions, too (a mini-bottle of, supposedly, pure parfum that was one of the first fragrances I bought after discovering the blogs, and my first lesson in buying only from a trusted, reputable etailer: the juice in this mini smells more resinous and ambery than anything else…like a G-rated version of Bal.)   But the bottle of eau de toilette I have now?  It’s a fantasy I can only describe by saying, imagine the movie The Electric Horseman made into a perfume: the collision of a sexy Robert Redford-esque cowboy, a Jane Fonda-esque beauty (who is maybe a bit foolish, but mostly too eager and self-involved to really see the cowboy at first), a magnificent horse that binds the two of them together, and a western landscape that is too stunning for words.

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