Fragrance doesn’t lie.
Whether or not we are conscious of it, perfumes of one sort or another affect us on every level.
Perhaps you never think of perfume. You only think of bacon. It is the oily, sweet effluvium of bacon on the grill that bespeaks rhapsody to your heart. Perhaps it is the rose.
We associate that which is fragrant with pleasantness, and that of effluvia with unpleasantness. Your fragrance may be my effluvia. Even the dictionary asserts this is so.
Fragrance is essence and what is essence but truth?
Shakespeare told us so in Sonnet 54, and used the rose as his fulcrum; fragrance is truth, fragrance is the beauty behind the rose. When beauty fades as even the rose must, fragrance remains…“my verse distills your truth.”
In this context, then, truth is often effluvia.
Roses without scent are unloved, un-wooed… “they die to themselves.”
That will not be our fate. All humans have an essence. We hear, smell, savor the rhythmic breathings of our loved ones…Each person’s scent is as distinctive as their fingerprint.
It is not the red rose that lingers in memory, but the fragrant one. It is scent that evokes memory and emotion. It is the oily, pungent power of scent that can drop us to our knees. Sometimes those memories will never die a ‘sweet death’. But they are truth. And still we inhale. For that is truth, too. We need to breathe. We need to remember.
What truth, what “sweet death” have we died for someone else? When we leave a room, when we end a phone call, when we shuffle off the mortal coil? Surely not the death of the Shakespeare’s ‘cankered rose’, for it leaves no olfactory trace; just a faint memory of dyed petals.
As to quality, shall we ask Napoleon?
“Don’t bathe”, wrote Napoleon to Josephine. Why? He wanted to enjoy her natural aromas. Who of us would think of preparing for a romantic encounter by not bathing for two weeks? Yet that is what Napoleon asked of Josephine. Culture, content, nurture—those things shape our views of exhalations. Odors emitted are opportunities, information and invitation. What Napoleon wanted was everything about Josephine. Nothing held back. He wanted her truth in exhalations.
Perhaps Josephine, with her passionate love for roses, exuded a sort of Chanel no. 5.
Can we think of Chanel no. 5 without thinking of Marilyn Monroe? Oh, what a curious, mighty example is she…in all her potent frailty. Fragrance as something we exude; an essence of personality that lingers long behind us. What Marilyn Monroe flippantly said she wore to bed—Chanel no. 5—has become as powerful an image of her as the diamonds she flaunted. No sparkle, no roundness of curve…just warm gusts of essence. We may have caught a whiff of this heady perfume as it wafted behind in the wake left by a Disgusted Rich Lady but for those who breathed it when exuded from Marilyn’s ardent skin? Truth.
Truth and innocence lost; John Milton used both odorous and odoriferous in the same strands of incandescent thought when he wrote Paradise Lost…oh he is fearless in imagery! He takes us on a sumptuous journey, fanned by ‘odiferous wings’ as we smell our way to our own paradise of assumptions.
“What in me is dark, illumin..”
Or, put another way; what oily pungence lurks, distill?
We find truth, when we read and we think and we choose to speak of what we have read and thought about. For we read of ourselves.
Thus we exude. We speak, we write. We affect. We find truth in our exhalations.