Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Not a fierce or famous hag...

...just a homely old woman, doing a task she's done thousands of times in her life. Look at the way she sits, the perfect grace of her hands as she holds the egg and spoon. The expression on her face is both weary and contemplative. It's the look of someone who could tell you a great deal about life, but she won't, because she knows that every true thing she could tell you is contradicted by another truth--and anyway, the truth won't save you from anything. She is past mourning for you, long past mourning for herself. A part of her has already left the world. The boy can't even begin to imagine what she sees when she looks at him.

An Old Woman Frying Eggs, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez, 1618

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hags, harridans, etc.

In keeping with the spirit of approaching Samhain (and because I'm feeling a lot of sympathy with my inner hag these days), I'm going to do some posts to honor ornery old women. Today's hag is the Witch of Endor, whose Biblical cameo baffled me when I was a little churchgoing child. She was supposedly engaged in demonic business, but she did it very reluctantly, and the spirit she summoned told Saul the absolute truth. Far from seeming scary or repulsive, she struck me as a very sympathetic character. She was understandably afraid of risking death by accommodating Saul, and then she treated him with kindness when she saw his fear. Nevertheless, her image in art is usually fierce and ugly, as in the painting above, or here. Seems unfair, doesn't it?

I don't think I'm the only one who's been baffled by the Witch of Endor. A quick Web search turned up contradictory interpretations of her role here and here. Gotta love those people with The Answer.

Saul and the Witch of Endor, Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen, 1526

Sunday, September 27, 2009

In case you were wondering...

...about the lack of posts at Turn Outward, the reasons are partly practical, partly spiritual. ...(more)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Dog? What dog?

*Nudo Maschile con Cane (Male Nude Posing with a Dog), Wilhelm von Gloeden (1856-1931)

* The Wikimedia Commons page gives this caption. Do you see a dog in this picture? (Don't be cute, I mean a real dog.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

No time to write a post today...

...but I came across this beautiful, weird image and I thought I'd share it with you. It is St. Stephen Suckled by a Doe, by Giovanni di Paolo, c.1450. Read about the painting here, and about St. Stephen here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Five telltale signs you may be a perfume whore

1. You buy dupe oils of the same discontinued favorite from 3 different flea market sellers and obsess over which one is better--even though you still have a nearly full bottle of the real stuff at home.

2. When you're stuck deciding between two perfumes for a special occasion, you spray one of them on your wrists and carry a purse atomizer of the other one, figuring you can find a ladies room to scrub and switch if necessary; or, when that seems impractical, you spray a different perfume on each wrist and let god sort it out.

3. Weeks after testing, you still mourn the fact that the new Halston launch was so good when it first went on, but then decayed into a particularly horrible salty/sweet amber that made you queasy.

4. Even though you know from long experience that a certain bestseller makes you feel faint (and not in a good way), you still take a whiff every time you pass a tester bottle. You simply must figure out what people like about that stuff...

5. Your dear mother--who lives two hours away and rarely visits--drops by unexpectedly just to see how you are, and you spend most of her visit trying to figure out if there's any way you can get her to give you the bottle of Cinnabar she never wears.

Eve After The Fall, Alexandre Cabanel, 1863.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Ever since that I did that series of monster posts, my mind keeps turning to thoughts of monsters and their charms. Monsters have a special allure. I often feel that sweet Nio is our resident monster. His huge head with its enormous maw, his twisted hip and gimpy leg, his blue-black fur—they all add up to make him an endearing freak. He’s an exasperating creature, with a lot of stubborn bad habits and lousy impulse control, but that only makes him more perfectly, lovably monstrous.

Speaking of lovable monsters, I don't know how anyone could fail to see the appeal of The Minotaur by George Frederic Watts (1885.) For a modern poetic treatment of the same beast, read "Why the Minotaur is always sad" by Peter Boyle.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mabon dreaming

This image, with its somber colors and haunting figures, might seem an odd choice for a post to welcome autumn. The usual equinox theme is a celebration of the season's material pleasures: abundant food, brilliant foliage, crisp days and clear, chilly nights. But Mabon has a spiritual side, too. It's the time to make peace with the inevitable passing of all things. It's the season of Persephone's descent to the underworld, where she mourns and dreams of the green Earth, to which she will one day return. Autumn's mission is to journey deep within the self, there to meet the ghosts of all we've lost, and catch a glimpse of what we might become.

So, autumn will be my season of quiet dreaming. I'll wander through the world and my own heart. I'll read books that are old friends, and explore at least one new one. I'll prepare myself for the coming winter, and look toward the birth of spring.

May all our dreams lead us to something sweet.

Der Traum (The Dream), Pierre-Cécile Puvis de Chavannes, 1883.

More peace

As promised in yesterday's post, here is dear Chaya's review of the peace fragrance from Illuminated Perfume:

Chayaruchama's Impressions of Peace

Peace: is it a form of happy homeostasis ? A fluid “at one-ness” within and without ?

As [most likely] the eldest tribal member among us, Roxana’s contribution is dear to my unrepentant hippie heart…
No felicitous accident, this: International Peace Day intertwines with Solstice, Jewish and Ethiopian New Years, and the close of Ramadan.

Radiant Roxana refers to her labors as a symphony, built on chords. Chords, accords , essential building blocks of music and olfactory composition…
Roxy has provided us with four vials; the three with scent chords contain a mere wisp of ghostly aroma, representing the top, heart, and base notes; the fourth, a precious drop of the final orchestration.

Greg Spalenka’s image of Lotus Eve provides the devastatingly lovely and ethereal icon for this project. [Greg--devoted lover/ husband, multi-media artist- never ceases to amaze me; he somehow alchemizes spirituality, family life, and ethical, savvy business practice. The last artist who managed this feat- to my failing memory- was Peter Paul Rubens.]

My predominant impression is one of profound serenity. There is just enough of the scent to sample on the flesh; as it warms and unfurls, a significant sense of well-being unfolds with it.
It feels earthy, but not precisely of this Earth.

The top chord feels sunny, citrus, herbal, tonic- quite complex for an entrance. [A great deal of loving labor is evident !]

The heart chord is vastly different- a velvety, discreet floral woodiness floods my nose; I sense a full yet subtle fruitiness , too. [If only there were enough to allow me to “skin-test” this ! Only vapors remain in my vial…]

Base, as in foundation- combines the animal and the vegetal ; even a silvery, mineralic quality is present [often, fragrant materials- particularly ouds- possess many such facets.]

My overwhelming sense is that extremely precious woods were used , as the wraiths remaining in my vial insinuate the presence of insects and microorganisms [ouds, sandalwood- I mean you]; I can’t “rule out “ the faint use of patchouli, either.

East /West, inclusion of all worldly and otherworldly aspects, are abundantly evident in our loving couple’s labors of devotion. Symbolic and practical incorporation of all the spheres, continents, and cultures marry- very successfully, I think.

May all their efforts- and the efforts of their friends and colleagues-
Conspire to help bring about the nascence of a more global consciousness.

Many thanks are due !
To Roxana , Greg , and Beth Gehring – for so graciously inviting me to participate…I’m deeply honored, and grateful.

To Sweet Sister Maria, who generously allows my blather on Bitter Grace Notes [ and teaches me to edit myself, bless her !]

And to all those who make the time to write and read.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Peace, poetry and perfume

"War is a quarrel between two thieves too cowardly to fight their own battle; therefore they take boys from one village and another village; stick them into uniforms, equip them with guns, and let them loose like wild beasts against each other."

Thomas Carlyle, as quoted by Emma Goldman.

Monday (9/21) is International Peace Day, and even though my inner cynic can't think of a single government on the planet that's actually promoting peace, I am happy to nod to the observance and the good intentions behind it. The decision to hope for peace is itself a gesture of peacemaking. For a glimpse of the futility of human conflict, consult poet and conscientious objector William Stafford.

Impressions of Peace

In honor of peace day, and as part of a global peace initiative that you can read about here, Roxana Villa of Illuminated Perfume has created a fragrance we'll call the peace perfume--though Roxana points out that "the perfume does not have a written name, the name is the actual peace symbol."

The peace perfume opens with a surprisingly snappy citrus chord. I was expecting something quiet, even soporific, but the top notes here suggest joy and exhilaration--a nice way of recognizing that peace is an active good, a state that promotes happiness.

Floral notes emerge in the heart, and take the perfume to a much mellower place. These are soft flowers, funk-free and warmed with ginger. They have a clean, soapy quality I like, though not everyone would enjoy their slightly alkaline character. The base took a long time to reveal itself on me. When it finally arrived, it was dominated by a smooth tobacco note, sweetened with vanilla.

The peace perfume has a bit of the raw edge most naturals display. If you're addicted to perfectly polished scents, this one might not please you. That issue aside, though, this is a thoroughly lovable fragrance. It's not flat, but it evolves predictably and pleasantly. My only quibble is with the sweetness of the base, but that's a matter of personal taste. Most people wouldn't find it overly sweet.

Notes for the peace perfume: Clementine, Neroli, Ginger, Champa, Blue Lotus
Vintage Mysore Sandalwood, Tobacco and Vanilla Orchid Bean.

Read more about the perfume here, and get details for purchase at the Illuminated Perfume Etsy site.

Check back here for an upcoming post on the peace perfume from Chayaruchama.

More peace perfume bloggers:

Indie Perfumes
Memory and Desire
Perfume Shrine
Perfume Smellin' Things
Scent Hive
The Non-Blonde

Justice and Peace, Corrado Giaquinto (1703-1765)

Peace Has Begun, Greg Spalenka, 2009. Available as a limited edition print here.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pearl likes this poem

"It's love," they say. You touch
the right one and a whole half of the universe
wakes up, a new half.

From "Choosing a Dog" by William Stafford. Read the complete poem here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The mob

I have a confession to make: I really don't care about the teabaggers. Are they ill-informed, overwrought and more than a little bigoted? Of course they are. Are they contributing anything useful to the discourse on health care, the economy or foreign policy? Of course they aren't. They're basically the Right's lunatic fringe, the crazy aunt in the attic of conservatism--which is why I think our side should calm down a little and stop worrying that they're going to stage a coup or something. The average teabagger (the political kind, I mean) couldn't find his ass with both hands.

As for the right wing blowhards and loser politicos who lead them, well, they're losers. Who's sitting in the Oval Office? Who controls Congress? If the people who actually hold power fail to make good on their promises, it will be due to their own cowardice and corruption, not the ravings of Rush Limbaugh and a few cranky geezers. The hateful old white folks contingent wields no real political clout, but it does give politicians a convenient bit of misdirection with which to hide their real reasons for not enacting reforms that a vast majority of us want.

As for the seriously deranged and heavily armed minority among the Obama-haters--yeah, they worry me. I'm still stunned that people were allowed to carry firearms at a protest anywhere near the President. I've been to a few lefty demos in my day, and I am absolutely certain that any protester with a gun would have been promptly tackled and arrested, if not simply shot dead. And the reason for that, of course, is that there always have been and always will be people who want to kill the President, whoever he or she is. I don't know why the Secret Service decided to allow that bit of street theater, but the whole incident reflects more on their competence than on some unique homicidal tendency among teabaggers.

All of which is not to say that I don't sympathize with the anger and revulsion the teabagger phenomenon inspires. They make me angry, too. I feel a little heartsick that we've come to the point that a Congressman thinks he can holler "You lie" at the President--but I feel even more heartsick that the President was reassuring us that undocumented immigrants would get no health care when the shout came. Obama was caving in to the Right's agenda, even as one of their yahoos screamed abuse at him.

Mobbing the Tories, from The Project Gutenberg EBook of History of the United States by Charles A. Beard and Mary R. Beard, via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Down to bottomless perdition...

Yesterday I saw a church sign that said, "SARCASM IS THE LANGUAGE OF THE DEVIL." This was news to me. How alarming. I always assumed I'd burn in Hell for heresy and chronic misuse of the Lord's name. Now I find out I am damned just for my love of irony.

To save yourselves from the agony of eternal fire, click here for a brief (very brief!) visit to the Sarcasm Society, so that you may better know the path to avoid. Repent!

Last Judgment (detail), Giotto, 1306.
UPDATE: Some visitors are saying that they can't get the Giotto to display. If you're having trouble, click here to see it at the Web Gallery of Art. It needs seeing ;-)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"If not you, who will?"

I grow old under an intensity
Of questioning looks. Nonsense,
I try to say, I cannot teach you children
How to live.—If not you, who will?

Cries one of them aloud, grasping my gilded
Frame till the world sways. If not you, who will?
Between their visits the table, its arrangement
Of Bible, fern and Paisley, all past change,
Does very nicely. If ever I feel curious
As to what others endure,
Across the parlor you provide examples,
Wide open, sunny, of everything I am
Not. You embrace a whole world without once caring
To set it in order.

From "Mirror" by James Merrill. Read the complete poem here.

Heads of an Old Man and a Youth, Leonardo da Vinci, c.1500

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

One Sentence Perfume Review: Sikkim, Lancome

It's like the first movement of the Kreutzer Sonata--overheated and overwrought, but impossible to resist.

Notes: ylang-ylang, jasmine, galbanum, oakmoss, leather, patchouli

Kreutzer Sonata, René François Xavier Prinet, 1901

Monday, September 14, 2009

Blogging the Madinis: Marrakech and Baraka

I can't believe it's 8:25 pm. Where did the day go? I'm about to turn into a pumpkin any second, so I just have time for a couple of lightning-fast reviews:

Marrakech: Go to your spice rack. Open the jars of ginger and cardamom. Wave them under your nose. Mentally add a whiff of jasmine and Madini's signature sweet amber. Now you know what Marrakech smells like. It's fairly unisex, but not suitable for manly men. Personally, I like it. It's a nice scent for a cool, crisp fall day.

Baraka: A sugary musk layered with a heavy dose of the best head shop strawberry incense. If you are of a certain age, Baraka will remind you of getting high and making out while listening to Todd Rundgren records. Whether you wish to take that particular trip down memory lane is a matter of personal taste. I only enjoy it at long intervals.

Illustration of cardamom plant from Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen, 1887.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

My to-do list for early autumn

1. Take time to admire the fabulous spiderwebs that appear everywhere. If the opportunity presents itself, sit on the porch and watch an orb weaver at work as the evening comes on.

2. Keep an eye out for the last of the Dickcissels and Orchard Orioles as they pass through on their way south.

3. Search the Nashville markets for the perfect pomegranate to use in Mabon observance. Try to find time for a visit to the Cane Creek Market in Lobelville, TN, to stock up on spices and splurge on some useless piece of speckleware.

4. Put black walnuts in everything. Make pumpkin custard.

5. Unpack my cool weather clothes, and marvel yet again at all the stuff I have that I don't need. Be pleasantly surprised by all the nice things I had forgotten I owned. Wonder why so many of my winter socks seem to disappear over the summer.

6. Fish my garnet and amber jewelry out of the tangle in the jewelry chest.

7. Re-read A Word Child and The End of the Affair.

8.Remember our good feline friend Binx, who moved all over the country with Dave and me. October 2 is the anniversary of her passing.

9. Eye the persimmons that have fallen prematurely and resist the urge to taste one.

10. Break out the fall perfumes! Vintage Scandal and Toujours Moi, AG Sables, Sikkim (a new fave), DSH Firefly and Kyphi, Chamade, Hove Flame, etc, etc. I love my summer florals, but it's a pleasure to put them away for a while.

Autumn, Frederic Edwin Church, 1875

Friday, September 11, 2009

"Aw'd without virtue, without beauty charm'd"

Twas thus Calypso once each heart alarm'd,
Aw'd without virtue, without beauty charm'd;
Her tongue bewitch'd as oddly as her eyes,
Less wit than mimic, more a wit than wise;
Strange graces still, and stranger flights she had,
Was just not ugly, and was just not mad;
Yet ne'er so sure our passion to create,
As when she touch'd the brink of all we hate.

From "Epistles to Several Persons" by Alexander Pope.

A Fantastic Cave Landscape with Odysseus and Calypso, Jan Brueghel the Elder, c. 1616 (Click the image to enlarge)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Quote of the day

“...nature cares nothing for logic, our human logic: she has her own, which we do not recognize and do not acknowledge until we are crushed under its wheel”

Ivan Turgenev

From Smoke (1867)

Arachne or Dialectics, Paolo Veronese, 1575-77

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

One Sentence Perfume Review (and then some): Voeu de Noël, Caron

"Voeu de Noël is rich and somber as dark velvet, and despite its name, it's more a scent of memories than dreams."

That was going to be my One Sentence Review for Caron's long lost beauty, but I decided it deserved a whole paragraph. Voeu de Noël--an Ernest Daltroff creation--was introduced in 1939, and according to several sources I've seen, was also marketed as Rose de Noël. By any name, it's a Caron's Caron, with those unmistakable notes of musty rose and Mousse de Saxe that perfume connoisseurs either love or hate. I love them, of course, and it's hard to imagine a Caron I could love more than this one. I don't know the age of the stuff I sampled, but if the fresh juice had any fleeting top notes, they fled long ago. There was no suggestion of turned or "crushed" flowers to get past--just a rush of deep red rose, followed by hints of violet and carnation. The heart of Voeu de Noël echoes N'Aimez que Moi one moment, En Avion the next. Slowly but surely the flowers give way to a base that suggests Nuit de Noël grown more demure. The drydown has the same irresistible combination of Mousse de Saxe, sweet woods and spice, but the effect is lighter and smoother. I can imagine a very serious young girl wearing wearing Voeu de Noël.

If you are a Caron lover and have never tried Voeu de Noël, I'd say it's worth what they're charging for a sample at The Perfumed Court. Or you could just pray for a generous perfume friend to gift you with a drop. (Many thanks!)

Magdalene, Caravaggio, 1596-97

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I'm feeling a little stressed

Many distractions here, so a real post will have to wait a day or two, when things should be calmer. Best wishes for a safe and relaxing Labor Day to the American contingent, and happy Monday to the rest of y'all.

Head of Medusa, Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1618

Friday, September 4, 2009

"...a sun god crooning desire"

This lord of storm clouds
Is also a sun god crooning desire
& dalliance in a garden of nymphs.

From "Infidelity" by Yusef Komunyakaa

Jupiter and Io, John Hoppner, 1785

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I haven't done many political posts lately...

but this is just too good not to share--plus, it continues the August monster series. (A blogger curtsy to David Dark for posting the link on Facebook.)

Blogging the Madinis: Nile

It's a little after 6 am here, and a thunderstorm has been rumbling for hours. The first flashes of lightning woke me up, and as I tried to get back to sleep I began to think about Madini Nile. Other people may count sheep. I catalog my perfumes.

Nile is a light, spicy oriental with a fleeting rose note in the heart. It has a hint of green (probably galbanum) that gives it a contradictory quality I love. The warm, soothing spice converses with the fresh, grassy note, so the scent never goes flat, as oils so often do. Nile is wild and cozy at once--a little like curling up in bed during a thunderstorm.

Evening, or Lost Illusions, Charles-Gabriel Gleyre, 1843. (This painting was supposedly inspired by a vision Gleyre had on the bank of the Nile.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

No fight zone

As I type this, a brown thrasher, a cardinal and a goldfinch are hanging out together atop the chain link fence in my back yard. I've been watching them for a few minutes now, and they have been perfectly serene companions. Normally, the thrasher would make it his business to chase away any bird within chasing range, but he's just looking at the other two as if he's curious about what they might do....(Click here to read the rest.)