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.

Sunday, August 25, 2013


I know it’s early to start complaining that summer is almost over, but for me, it is. Classes start on Tuesday, and I’ll be working indoors most of the time from here on out. Even though it may still be summer outside, I won’t get to experience it much. Such is life.

Last Tuesday night when a group of us left the theatre where we’d been doing readings, everyone was standing around in the grungy, grimy street in Capitol Hill, debating whether to go out for a beer or not. Suddenly I realized that if you looked up above the ugly parked cars, distorted sidewalks, and stinky garbage cans, the almost-night sky was that incredible shade of dark cobalt blue that you only see when the air is perfectly clear and free of moisture. The cobalt shaded to a bright turquoise at the horizon where the sun had gone down earlier. There was a perfect, full moon. I thought about how this sort of natural beauty can transcend everything else and how short-lived it is. That evening I decided to make the most of the week of summer that I had left. I wanted to:

Walk at night, away from the lights, and admire the deep blue of the sky, the almost-full moon, and the mysterious dark shadows cast by the moonlight; smell the fermenting fallen fruit that’s just on the verge of molding, the breath of the dry herbs and lavender as they heave a sign of relief in the sudden darkness; feel the chill creeping into the night air, foreshadowing the months to come.

Run in the middle of the day, inhale the champagne-bubbly, bone-dry air and broil in my own sweat; smell the sharp amber scent of cedar, fir, and arborvitae trees baking in the sun like the best norlimbanol on earth, the scent of roses throwing out their last, water-starved extravaganza of wilted petals and concentrated perfume, and the mineral-spiked dust kicked up by my feet.

Pick and eat all the sweet figs from our trees, so fat, ripe, and juicy that they split open in their exuberance.

Feel cathartic outbursts of rage mixed with admiration every time I see a blackberry vine that’s grown 40 feet overnight, scrambling over trees, walls, fences, and ditches to put out a swollen grow-tip, engorged with life and throbbing with the desire to grow roots that will burrow down into the hard soil and produce more of its kind; feel the joy of taking my pruning shears to it and cutting it into small pieces the way a soldier would kill an enemy.

Go into my back garden with bare feet and feel the pavement, soil, and dead grass warm underfoot; watch the hummingbirds zip and sip from the brightest-colored flowers; feel the hot sun on my skin, hotter even than when it was high in the sky at the solstice, but with that indescribable nostalgic feel of Indian summer.

I've done all of these things. For the past week I haven't tested any perfumes because I need a break and don't want perfume-sniffing to become a self-imposed homework assignment. When I come back to it, it will be with a new nose and a new sense of delight, making the inevitable discipline of fall just a little sweeter. 

[All photos adapted from Wikimedia]


  1. Wow....Those descriptions about regular things in life...When you look closer, life's really incredible, isn't it?

    My personal fave: "...feel the joy of taking my pruning shears to it and cutting it into small pieces the way a soldier would kill an enemy. "

    1. Belle, life certainly is incredible. I think there's a tendency to go through life in a half-conscious daze, only becoming aware of little things when there's some significant change. In my opinion, too many people spend all their time on their tech toys experiencing an artificial reality and have no clue as to what's going on around them. This includes both nature and other people.