Monday, April 25, 2016



"C'est drôle, l'absence... Il me semble que Guy est parti depuis des années. Quand je regarde cette photo j'oublie jusqu'à son visage, et quand je pense à lui c'est cette photo que je vois. C'est tout ce qui me reste de lui.
(Absence is a funny thing. I feel like Guy left years ago. I look at this photo, and I forget what he really looks like. When I think of him, it's this photo that I see." 
- Jacques Demy's Geneviève Emery in Le Parapluie de Cherbourg

Absence leaves a negative space that at first feels like a soaring pain. The silence hurts the ears and sends shivers down the spine like creaking chalk on a blackboard; the empty seat is a constant reminder of anticipation for something that cannot be. Every bit of the routine when that person used to participate has the sense of a phantom presence - the mind fills in the gap with an internal dialogues and scripts.

This void is painfully palpable when it has a trail of scent behind it: A grandparent's scent in their home after they've passed away, lingering after their last breath was exhaled - reminding of the life they've lived, the food they cooked, still nourishing those who are left behind; A lover's scent on their pillow or the scarf they've left behind.

Whether if the person's return is anticipated or not makes the perception of it either immensely painful or pleasurable (though the latter in a bittersweet way). What used to be a comforting, nostalgic perfume that creates the illusion of closeness to grandma, now pinches the heart because she is now gone.

But if the hope is there - I savour every bit of Eternity that clang to the T-shirt that you forgot to pack, and more importantly - your own smell that is hiding underneath. And I am afraid it will disappear every time I smell it. I'm wondering if you'll return before it loses its scent completely. Yet I'm consoled that at least in your suitcase there are the healing oils that will accompany you on your journey. Scented things that maybe will make you feel like I'm by your side sometimes.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Transitional Scents


Transitional times can either be the best times to try new scents, or the worst possible idea. It really depends on what type of transition is taking place, isn't it? Transitions happens when we find new love, lose an old one, move to a different place, complete or begin school, embark on a new career or let go of a previous one, take care of an ill loved one, or welcome a new family member.

At times like this, I find myself doing one of three things: find comfort in familiar, tried-and-true scents with which I have strong positive associations; try something new; or just avoid scent altogether.

1) Leaning on familiar fragrances to bring comfort
Like catching up with a good old trusted friend, it's wonderful to have a perfume (or two) which you know you'll always find comfort in wearing. To me, many of the classic Chypres have been just that: Miss Dior, Mitsouko, and my own Ayalitta. However, you should be warned that new scent-memories are ever changing with new experiences and new associations. For example: when my daughter broke her leg many years ago, I took my bottle of Mitsouko EDP to the hospital to make me feel better. It worked at the time. But then I was unable to wear it again for many months without remembering this harsh week at the hospital.

This is not surprising, and is also true for the memories themselves: they change every time we recall them. Each time we tell our story, it is being edited, so to speak...  Every time we experience a fragrance, we not only recall our past experiences, associations and emotions with that scent, but also create new ones. There is a dynamic relationship between our emotions, memories and scents. Every time we wear a perfume, we deepen the relationship with it as we encounter new people, feelings and memories along the day.

The beauty of this is, that we can change our own stories and give happy ending even to the most traumatic chapters in our lives. On a more perfumey notion: perfumes that we hated or brought sad, painful memories, can be turned around and become the bearers of happy thoughts and good news.

2) Experiment with a new fragrance, which will create new scent-memories for such significant time. 
This is the philosophy of "new life - new scent". It does, however, depend on a state of mind that fosters curiosity. Curiosity and playfulness have room to exists only when there is a sufficient amount of confidence and safety in place. Only when we feel safe enough - we will feel curious to explore a new environment and experiment with new possibilities.
I often have clients come to me at times of transition wanting to imprint this time of their life with a  unique scent. Once again, this is proactive way to shape your own scent-memories. The wind of change is often scented with new scents - of the a new home, a new work environment, smells of new people and whatever they've chosen to scent their lives with... Rather than passively waiting for new scent associations to come by (which they are bound to anyway!) - you'll remember this change in your life by something that you have chosen yourself.

3) Avoid scents altogether, as to avoid creating new negative scent associations.
Change makes many people uneasy or uncomfortable. Even if it's a so-called positive change, the unknown always has an element of fear, and cause of major stress. Even excitement for the future has more than a hint of anxiety mixed in. When embarking such unpredictable journeys, I often find it difficult to embrace scent in my daily life. There is so much to take in that scent may feel as imposing another excessive stimulation on an already overloaded system.  When a million thoughts are going through my head, sometimes it seems that experiencing the emotions that a scent inspires would just be an overkill.
If you feel like this, don't push yourself to wear perfume. Perfume is meant to be a pleasurable, enjoyable experience. Not a painful one. With that being said, you may find a renewed interest and comfort in simple scents from nature, or notice that your sense of smell is more keen now and notices more subtle aromas. Take pleasure in small things such as savouring the fragrant steam of a cup of tea and more nuanced smells of objects that you've never noticed before, such as linen, straw hats and wool. 

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Thursday, April 14, 2016


This past year has been mostly about bidding farewells. Change is inevitable and it brings with it, simultaneously, much excitement for a better future with more possibilities; and an increasing anxiety about the unknown. It is also has a destructive force as it puts strains on relationships and friendships, and also requires letting go of much of the past and erasing possible future chapters in one's life, so to speak.

We've spent 18 years in Canada, where we lived (me and my daughter) in Vancouver's West End. As my last year here approached, with the commencement of each season I was thinking how this would be the last time we will experience it here. It was bittersweet, as if seeing my daughter's entire childhood in the West End and bidding farewell to it: all the hardships of raising her alone in a strange, faraway country, of the diagnosis process, the different people that helped us along the way through all the phases, her daycares, schools, after school programs, summer camps... So many good people along the way that were like our family for the time they've accompanied us - and then, usually, moved on with their own lives. Looking back, I really feel that I've given my daughter an amazing childhood in this part of the world, and I feel more than a little guilty for plucking her out of her familiar environment and transplanting her into my own...

The last Thanksgiving and Halloween were especially emotional as they are also around the same time as my daughter's birthday and a very special time of the year for her.  But by the time the winter holidays rolled around I was beginning to see the benefits of my decision and being in transition phase. The things that usually bother me about this season - the isolation, the darkness and the sense that I don't really belong here - did not matter so much because I knew I will be leaving soon. So instead of being sad about feeling left out, I felt relief in knowing that I can engage in whatever social gatherings that I enjoy and that I will have plenty of family obligations soon enough to make up for all those years of being away.

But of course, just when I thought my path was already carved out for me and I was set with my nose toward Jerusalem, surprises and distractions started piling up along the way. I spent the past year helping a close friend recover from multiple addictions (including methamphetamine, whose recovery from involves all kinds of fun stuff such as hallucinations, paranoia and emotional bursts of all types); and then I got involved with helping a family of refugees to settle in Canada, which made those previous troubles seem like a piece of cake. And all along the way my own daughter began panicking about her approaching graduation and this being her last year in school and all the changes that we've been agonizing over, discussing and preparing for mentally for the past year.

For those reasons, packing my stuff now and leaving feels like too much for me right this moment. But I must do it. Vancouver has become a ridiculously expensive city and many of my friends are leaving for similar reasons. It has become an increasingly isolated and cold city, even more than it was before (and it was never friendly to begin with). The sense of alienation is piercing especially when big life events happen - good or bad. There is no sense of community and no matter how much people care about you - if you don't have family (of origin or one that you've built on your own, i.e. a husband or a significant other of some other title) - you're on your own in those dark and bright moments with no one to share life's most extraordinary aspects. It's not like that in other parts of Canada (including British Columbia) that I've visited, so I'm not ditching the entire country. I'm just saying Vancouver has become an increasingly hostile city towards the people who live in it and try to contribute something to its culture and community. It's quite astonishing really, that I was able to survive here - and at times even thrive - as long as I did.

So either way there is going to be a major relocation coming up (FYI for me, a routine-loving artist surrounded by millions of fragrant bottles and vials, who likes to dig my roots deep and stay in places for pretty long, even moving to a different neighbourhood in the same city is a big deal). Aside from my very nomadic early beginnings (a side effect of being born to a very bohemian mother), I spent pretty much half of my life in my home village and half of it in Vancouver. And as versatile and adaptable as I am, I don't like change and only take it up when I am absolutely forced to do so. As a dual-citizen, I've been always blessed with too many possibilities and I'm now suffering the consequences, so to speak.

But even a rather dark and personal post like this should end on a positive note: transitions aside, once that hurdles are past me (packing hassles, establishing my exact moving date, renovations on the other side of the globe, etc.) I'm very much looking forward to the next chapter of my life. There are going to be many more possibilities for me personally and also for my business, and particularly for my perfumery school. I'll have my own fragrant garden and and dreaming about dabbling deeper into extractions, distillation and tincturing of all those fragrant perfumery plants that are for the most part native to the mediterranean region. I'm looking forward to a simpler life, more community and family oriented, more connected to real people in real life and less distracted by social media and technology (for better or for worse - my home village is off the grid). Come visit me there and you'll see for yourself!


Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Rainy Day


Somehow, a rainy day when sad is much easier than a sunny one. It gives permission to feel what I feel. A sunny day, on the other hand, may seem like a mockery of one's misery. Like in Lisa Marr's song"In the land where the sun is always shining on / Crying alone, palm trees are laughing at me". 

That kind of sun is one that I dread, pressuring one to pretend to have fun, get out and enjoy life, even if they feel dead inside. Not to mention, it brings to mind the harsh sun of my youth, aimless summers spent enclosed in the family ranch; tied down to chores that seem to have no beginning or middle or end.


Magnolias Return

Magnolia Bud

Magnolias are back in town. Their bare branches adorned with buds and incredibly huge flowers that resemble celestial lotus.

Their scent is exotic and intoxicating. And of course there is a huge variety between colours and particular genus. Pink, purple, white... Some are more tea-like, others exotic and spicy, redolent of ripe fruit. Others are ethereal, citrusy or oily-aldehydic.

Each smells different. I've written much about magnolias in the past, so this is just a tease and an invitation for you to revisit the article from 2013 titled Magnificent Magnolia, and enjoy perfumes with this note this spring.


Friday, April 01, 2016

Up For Grabs

Breaking News: Ayala Moriel Parfums is up for grabs. Anyone with personal links to Estee Lauder, LVMH or any other potential buyers, please email me privately.

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