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.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Even as the world careens toward an unknown future shaped by anthropogenic climate change, with horrible blizzards and hurricanes on the US East Coast and spring in January on the West Coast, there are still things that give me hope and make me happy. For some reason, I was acutely aware of these things yesterday on my way home from the university.

I experienced a profound sense of relief when I finished my last class of the day, walked outside after five o’clock in the afternoon, and saw the sun still shining. Just a month ago at that time it would already have been pitch-black night. It was strangely reassuring to know that no matter how much we screw up the environment on earth, the larger universe will be unaffected, the earth will still rotate on its axis, the sun will still go through its usual seasonal variations, and everything will continue to hurtle through space in a pattern that humans cannot meddle with. Life elsewhere, whatever it is, will go on as before. I understood at that moment why many cultures have worshipped the sun, because it is one obvious predictable element in a in a world full of micro-scale unpredictability.

One neighborhood on my way home has an unusual number of flowering plants and trees. I was particularly moved by the sight of a huge star magnolia tree in full bloom, abundantly offering up its genetic material to the process of evolution. Even if the human race reproduces and consumes itself into extinction, whatever flora or fauna remain in tune with the prevailing conditions of the natural world will conquer and survive. Life will go on.

In that same neighborhood I noticed, for the first time, a set of steps leading up to the entrance of a house, each vertical surface decorated with a beautiful pattern of tile mosaic, mostly in gray, beige, and silver tones, incorporating many pieces with a mirror surface. Someone had taken the trouble to decorate the outside of their house with a unique art installation, probably crafted from broken bits of tiles and mirrors that would otherwise have been thrown away. It was all the more beautiful with the evening sun shining on it. Human creativity still exists in unexpected places.

On our property I see rafts of purple crocuses that have spread from an initial planting, purple, yellow, and white crocuses coming up in places where we never planted them, hellebores, cyclamens, primroses, and all kinds of tender succulents spreading in wild exuberance among the native plants, and fruit trees with buds ready to burst open any day now. The ornamental “fruit” trees are already blooming. It’s tempting to think that humans’ perverse attempts to grow plants outside their native habitats will eventually lead to fast evolution of vegetation throughout a changing world, even when natural dispersion and selection can no longer keep up with the rate of change.

That night, sitting at my desk and looking out the window, the sunset was spectacular. The entire sky glowed red as some benign clouds moved in from the west. There will always be beauty in nature and the universe, whatever form it takes. I’m optimistic enough to think that from time to time at least a few people will shift their attention away from the shadow world delivered to them through their electronic gargets for long enough to see all of the marvelous things that exist in the real world that surrounds them. 

[Animals walking off into the sunset by M.K. Curlionis, 1909; sun graphic and star magnolia from Wikimedia; other photos are mine]  


  1. Thanks for sharing this Ellen. There is so much life and beauty out there which, more often than not, we take for granted. We must tune (or re-tune) our senses to our surroundings. I find smell a very grounding medium for this. Best wishes, Roger

    1. Roger, well said! A fundamental part of awareness is being attuned to all of the smells that surround us. As you point out, smells can also direct our attention to other things we can or should pay attention to.

  2. Good morning, Ellen! The "attitude of gratitude" is in place here too and why not? The star magnolias are blooming and even a few bamboo shoots are coming up. We didn't see any shoots until late May last year. Regarding electronic gadgets: The wi-fi has magically managed to disconnect itself from the other computer so there will be no korean drama tonight!

    1. Gail, Star magnolias and new bamboo shoots can brighten up anyone's day unless the bamboo is pushing up the pavement on their driveway! I don't know whether our bamboo is sending up shoots yet, but I'll have to check. Totally off the subject, but we saw a coyote in the back yard yesterday morning. I hope it was just passing through, on the way somewhere else.

    2. Coyotes as much wilier in the real world than the virtual Wily Coyote of cartoon fame! They have been known to send their pups out to play with little pet dogs and then....Oh dear, I can't help but remember Caesar the cat - raccoons or coyotes, the outcome was the same. Keep your eye on Jasper. There could be a den in the ravine. Is there such a thing as coyote repellant?