What is the Perfume Project?

This blog is a constantly evolving forum for thoughts on perfume, perfume-making, plants (especially orchids and flora of the Pacific Northwest) and life in general. It started out chronicling the adventures of Olympic Orchids Perfumes, established in July 2010, and has expanded in other directions. A big part of the blog is thinking about the ongoing process of learning and experimentation that leads to new perfumes, the exploration of perfumery materials, the theory and practice of perfume making, the challenges of marketing perfumes and other fragrance products, and random observations on philosophy and society. Spam comments will be marked as such and deleted; any comments that go beyond the boundaries of civil discourse will also be deleted. I am grateful to all of you, the readers, who contribute to the blog by commenting and making this a truly interactive perfume project.

Monday, September 18, 2017

RED SUN, RED MOON, ASHES, AND RAIN


Last Friday I finished teaching the 4-week intensive class that I do every year before autumn quarter starts. That afternoon I went running for the first time in over a month, thinking it would be the last chance to enjoy the dry weather given that rain was predicted for Saturday – the first rain since May.

However, weather predictions are fickle things. When I woke up Saturday morning the eastern sky was the odd lavender-yellow color that I've come to know, and when I went outside I smelled the all-too-familiar scent of wildfires, stronger than ever. Or maybe I’m just sensitized to it now. The fires have been ongoing since the end of July, with many days when the sun was so obscured by smoke that it looked like the moon and was bright red in color. In the mornings when I drove to the university, I would sometimes find a layer of fine ash covering my car like snow. It was so volatile that I could clear my windshield by simply blowing on it. All day Saturday, the sunlight was so dim that was like the eclipse all over again.

About that smell of wildfires. It’s not a nice, cozy, aromatic campfire smell, as one might think. In fact, it reminds me of the smell of the hospital crematorium at an academic institution where I worked many years ago. They fired it up one day a week, on Thursdays, and the smell wafted all over campus. I’ve been thinking about how to characterize the wildfire smell, and the best I can do is a mix of a smoldering or recently extinguished campfire, an electrical fire, burned hair, scorched soil and rocks, and that hospital crematorium. It’s a medley of burned material, animal, vegetable, and mineral.

The wildfires are a major disaster for those close to them, but for those of us a little farther removed there is a certain bizarre beauty to the yellow-gray clear but overcast skies, the unaccustomed colors of the sun, moon, sunrise, and sunset, the muted orange color of weak sunlight filtering in through a window, and the specks of ashes floating through the fuzzy air. It was a strange summer.


Sunday night the rain finally came. Not a lot, but enough to save trees and plants that were on the verge of dying. This time of transition is the signal that I need to get back to work on the blog.

[Top photo by Gail Gross; the others are mine. It's interesting that my camera sees the red sun as white surrounded by red while my eyes see the whole thing as red.] 

8 comments:

  1. Hi Ellen,
    The smell of our smoky air seemed to change throughout the day - and from one day to the next. I remember a morning when the air smelled like incense and that same afternoon like a barbecue gone bad. Now that the rains have come I can smell a bit of wet soot mixed in with the damp earth, cedar and blackberries. This has been a strange summer - a whiff of purgatory? Perhaps a compliment to a Devilscent. 😀
    Gail

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    1. It smells so much better now that the rains have come!

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  2. We have had intense summer storms in the mid-Atlantic recently, some were remnants of the recent hurricanes in the South/Caribbean. Fortunately we didn't experience the same devastation but have had some flooding, branches down, etc. Once the storms pass, I love smelling ozone, earth and petrichor. We live about 5 miles from the Atlantic and when the breeze hits just right, you can smell hints of the churned up sea.

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  3. All I can smell while walking around my Miami neighborhood is the scent of rotting leaves and cut up tree bark from the multitude of trees that fell over because of Hurricane Irma's wrath. The downed trees line every street in the city. Both young and old trees have toppled awkwardly upon each other, while the few somber trees that remain standing do so without any pride. It's a sad thing to pass by and have been told it might be quite a while before the carnage gets picked up and hauled off.

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    1. Irma survivor here, too! The smell from the river and the dunes was just rot and sulphur. Yuck. It's better now, and at least the skies after a hurricane are a true cerulean blue. I don't know what's worse, fire or hurricane....

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  4. Ah I know what you mean about the bizarre beauty from the wildfires. There was several wildfires in mountains near my home this summer. Too far to reach us, but close enough to see/smell the plumes of smoke. It's a strangely captivating sight, at least until the smoke starts to burn your eyes. It seems the entire west coast was on fire this year. Rainy season can't come soon enough for us!

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