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June 6, 2008:

…hopscotched over Spring and landed squarely in Summer, thanks to the warm weather that seems to have finally arrived for an extended stay.  It is difficult to sit and write about perfume when all you want to do is spend every free minute outdoors.  I found I lacked the focus this week to write a proper perfume post, so instead decided to reflect upon my favorite outdoor smells that make up the perfume of life in summer.  There are the obvious ones: the sweet fragrance of the Mock Orange bush that the honeybees love so; the scent of dandelions, freshly mowed lawns, and pine bark mulch; the smell of steaks on the grill on a sunny day, and the smell of unearthed earthworms after a heavy rain.  The very distinct odor of marigolds, as I remove spent blooms, and tomato vines that release their aromatic oils at the slightest touch when I brush past them in their pots that sit on my back stoop. 

And then there are the scents most people don’t think about, but which so many of us love without even realizing it.  At the top of that list is the community swimming pool.  I love everything about it: the smell of chlorine that hangs in the air; the Coppertone suntan lotion that continues its reign as the preferred brand of American mothers, who slather it on their children like butter on toast; the vending machine snack foods—little bags of potato chips and Fritos that open with a gentle poof, volleying their deliciously salty smell into the humid air, and all of them issuing forth at the same time, like a series of firecrackers, as groups of shivering kids wait out the Adult Swim on their towels.  The good clean smell of my own towel as I return to it after my dip, and the paperback novel that also waits for me, its damp pages having absorbed the smell of sunscreen into its musty folds of cheap paper and ink. 

What caps off the perfect summer perfume?  It can be as simple a luxury as a cold beer that I drink with my husband on the porch after supper, the yeasty, fermented scent that tickles my nose as we twist the caps off the bottles.  More often than not, it is a late afternoon or evening trip to the softball field to watch my nieces, the girls of summer, play their sport.  Dust from the road, dust from the softball diamond—a smell that has no name but which is nevertheless present.  The mouthwatering aroma of french fries and hamburgers wafting from the concession stand.  The warm smell of people in a crowd around the bleachers, making me feel not so alone in the world.  The tangy sweat of girls who run and throw and hit hard, mixing with the girly fragrance of their coconut-scented hair that I smell for only a fleeting second when they let me hug them after the game has ended, and the sun that leaves its scent on their ponytails, too—a lightly musky scent, like ambergris, that affixes all of the other perfumes of life to them; that amplifies those other perfumes like a generous lover.

Yes, the sun is like ambergris: it expands and deepens and changes everything that it touches.  Too much can be devastating, but in the right doses, it is the very essence of completion.

Suzanne's Perfume Journal

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