Sunday, September 14, 2014


taken by Walter in a Sussex garden
Well, we're back in ol' Virginny after visiting beloved friends and family in England and France. The cicadas are rattling in the treetops, so I know I'm not in Paris any more.

I want to write about fragrance. The delicious perfume of thoughts and memories which fills my heart and spirit -  my brother Robert and his partner Sherry, Walter and Anthony, Ati, Rosalind, Alice and Stephen and their children - and of course our beloved Noreen and her son Bardan who we visited in Biarritz. There were meals round garden tables and in Parisian restaurants, long, stimulating conversations about everything under the sun, walks through fields and meadows in East Sussex, and walks down a winding cliff path to the beach in Bidart. There were rambles with our daughter Rozzie all over Paris, and even a brief trip up to Bruges where Atli is beginning a course at the College of Europe. All these people and places have left a delicious fragrance in my consciousness. They fill me with joy and gratitude and my mind is alive to possibilities.

I'll write at greater length when I have more time - but now I'm suddenly busy.  Fall for the Book Festival is already underway, and I'm taking part on Wednesday afternoon - talking about my novel.  I'll also be reading at a local bookstore - One More Page Monday night - and then on Thursday there's a book club to facilitate, where we'll be discussing A House for Mr Biswas. I also have to get my talking points down for the two discussion groups on The Grapes of Wrath - coming up in celebration of its 75th anniversary and 75 years of Fairfax County Public Libraries.  I've also come back from my travels with new ideas for developing this blog - in between my more serious writing practice.  Forget about Bikram yoga - which I intended to keep up but somehow didn't get around to in Paris and London. Must get back into that hot room!

But returning for a minute to fragrance - to the fragrance of a very special candle.  While we were in Paris, we paid a visit to Cire Trudon, where they've been making candles since 1643, furnishing them for the likes of Louis XIV and Napoleon.

They come in handblown glasses, and feature such fragrances as that of a mossy cloister, or the polished floors of Versailles.

It's a museum. It's a gallery.  It's a candle shop.

Rozzie's particular favorite was conceived by designer Yaz Bukey. Described on the box as, "a delicious olfactory story; explosive, [where] sophistipop beauties pull our their bright red lipstick to hold up fragrances of violet," it smells like lipstick in a leather handbag.

This is the box.

The fragrances are so layered and subtle that you register them as atmosphere.  You aren't so much smelling them as thinking them.  You are receiving impressions and your thoughts take a journey.  So that when, for instance, you light the candle Ben and I purchased for our library, the Solis Rex, you step into a room that carries the atmosphere of space, of other times and interactions. The room becomes infused with history, with memory.

It's hard, full as I am with memories of this holiday, to separate what I'm feeling from what I am experiencing.  Might they be one and the same?

Back to more serious endeavors. Ben is now mowing the lawn.  It's turned into September. A few days ago it was summer. There was the tangy smell of sun and sea in Biarritz.  Now the air smells of grass clippings and cut myrtle.

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