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Of all our senses, smell is the one I’m pretty sure (judging by the panic and upset/depression I get with a blocked nose) I’d want to lose the least. If you’ve been reading this blog a while now, you’ll know I’m obsessed. And that I abhor anything that hints at duty-free. Or is akin to the stock market. More on that later.

I definitely cloak my descriptions in overblown adjectives, because, well, perfumed water is such an elusive beast. Sometimes you need a big cacophony to even get inside the (first) front door. Sometimes you need to invoke every gorgeous flower that ever was placed in a bottle. Because fragrance is ravishing whichever way you look at it. Whether it’s devoid of sex, a bit risqué, totally virginal or romantic, olfactory taste seems to be a matter of pure aesthetics. When I’m around a person who says “man it smells good in here,” I always want to offer up my wrists and sometimes my collarbone, so they know it’s me emanating something kinda wonderful, and not just the room. Olfactory vanity? Guilty as charged.

My dalliances with perfume are best described as flirty and (mostly) unfaithful, because I’m constantly on the lookout for that fantastical, otherworldly scent made flesh. I blame my mother. Partially. She’s been wearing Fracas, that masterpiece of heady tuberose, since I was a baby, and if you grow up around that kind of velvety lushness, a one dimensional buttery-soft imprint just doesn’t really cut it. Plus, for here’s the thing I’ve discovered: people who smell, who really sniff into life, are passionate purveyors of incandescent trails, and almost by definition, more interesting to talk to. Tapping into senses for something as quixotic and emotional as smell makes them mighty, mighty grand. I’ve had some of the best nights in the company of scent junkies. Like great foodies, you find yourself instantly hooked. And maybe even diving unwittingly into an unsuspecting neck.

 

 

source: cora kps

 

 


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If winter is a shower of shooting stars, then spring is a hop, skip and a jump through lush meadows. I love me a shower. I really do. The lengthier the better. But then I feel the antithesis of green and pretty guilty. I recently read that whilst working on an academic project with Nasa, Mehrdad Mahdjoubi, a Swedish industrial designer, realised there could be parallels between sustainability in space and on Earth. The extremes of space require that the vital resource of water be used in the most efficient way possible, and so, inspired by those experiences with the space agency, Mahdjoubi created a shower system that reuses the same water in a circular loop, while two filters take out impurities as it circulates. This Shower of the Future, from his company, Orbital Systems, can operate on five litres of water. The water constantly circulates for 10 minutes or so – the time of an average shower apparently – in turn saving on energy. I think we should jump on this bandwagon. Tout suite.

I go through all the typical shower rituals — washing, washing and then some — until I’m ready to steam it up a bit. I put a few drops of essential oils on the floor, giving me a rise of note and my very own makeshift inhalation. Lavender, geranium and eucalyptus are a potent little triumvirate for an invigorating and sometimes soporific boost, but I also keep Aura Cacia Shower Tablets around. Place one on the floor in the direct stream of the water and then languish under the beat, sucking in what feels like a field of herbs in Provence (that’s my kind of kick mind you), just with fun effervescent bubbles beneath your feet.

And then I go nuclear. Or Arctic to be more precise. I grab the handle for the water, pause, take a deep breath and then turn it to all-the-way-cold, or freezing. The thing that most draws me to the cold water is also the thing that most repels me: It’s really hard to do but it feels all sorts of amazing afterwards. And your circulatory system will be ever so grateful. And that, in a nutshell, is the biggest reason to do it (with the caveat that if there is a water shortage in your area, you should find something else to do that is hard). It reminds me a little bit of that Mark Twain saying, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

 


 

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C’mon, I know you have at least one person who makes you spark. I do.

You might as well ask nerds to try to explain the Force – it’s about as abstract and just as helpful. My friend Poppy calls it ‘a stepping away from the vehicle’ moment. Just for a moment Pop?

So what of those flickers, gleams, glints and sparkles? That delicious cacophony you have with someone. It’s rarely physical. Probably never will be. And that’s why it’s so goddamn palpable. I’ve got one word for you: rollercoasters. What makes them work isn’t the steep drops, the loops, corkscrews and hard banking turns. It’s the loooooong build-up before launching into the ride.

Amongst the hilarious words in Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine—a plotless, stream-of-consciousness examination that details the lunch-hour activities of a young office worker named Howie, whose meal (popcorn, hot dog, cookie and milk), and purchase of a new pair of shoelaces, are contrasted with his reading of a paperback edition of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations—there’s this gem:

‘Has anybody said publicly how nice it is to write on rubber with a ballpoint pen? The slow, fat, ink-rich line, rolled over a surface at once dense and yielding, makes for a multidimensional experience no single sheet of paper can offer.’

How do we understand tangible flying sparks, fireworks even? Why do they ignite so intensely with some? It doesn’t seem rational, even though science would have us believe that it’s all down to chemistry.

In Swiss zoologist Claus Wedekind’s famous lab experiment, participants were asked to wear a T-shirt for two days, sleeping and sweating in it. The shirts were then collected and placed in containers. Other participants of the opposite sex were asked to rank the shirts in order of which they thought smelled best. The data showed that people favored the shirts of the participants that had immune systems that were different from their own based on blood tests that had been taken prior to the experiment. Maybe we just don’t want a redundant mate for offspring, so, we can sense, in a way, their immunity?

The thing is, I’m not thinking (or wanting to think) about any of this when I’m in the moment of a spark. And maybe I defy physics and my chemicals aren’t either. I’m too lost in eye contact or a slight feeling akin to: is there a tiger in the bushes? Well maybe not a tiger, but you know what I mean.

Sparks are potent wizards. Is the fact that we may never act on them a reason they’re so incendiary, or would the heat be generated just the same if we did? It’s a question I’ve been pondering. In the way of glows and beams. And all that is seen and unseen. That’s my (chemical) spark (again and again) right there.

Or, as Diane Ackerman noted in A Natural History of the Senses:

‘Our skin is a kind of space suit in which we maneuver through the atmosphere of harsh gases, cosmic rays, radiation from the sun, and obstacles of all sorts.’

And this:

‘since feeling is first

who pays any attention

to the syntax of things

will never wholly kiss you.’

ee cummings

 

 

source: savethedeco.com


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I once heard a medical examiner at a dinner party say: “If you really want to learn forensic pathology, do a rotation in New York City, all kinds of great ways to die there.” It stuck with me. And then I moved there.

Maybe it’s my South African heritage, but I’ve always been a little paranoid. It started when I was teeny tiny and I’d check under my bed (it had a huge gap) after I watched something scary, and most definitely if I was home alone. Then it manifested when we lived on Eaton Place, a street known for its (some might say) eerily quiet calm and dark back mews. And then, because I took forever to pass my driving test and was a bit rubbish on the tube (wink wink), the humble British taxi became my scare-mare. I started pulling out a small strand of hair every time I got in a cab, thinking that if for whatever reason I was squired away forever, a piece of me would be glaringly imprinted on the linoleum floor. My theory: everyone loves a mystery. Or, more specifically, everyone loves an ingeniously solved mystery. But how about just being clever and preempting the mystery entirely?

So by now, you’re thinking I’m slightly quirky – or is that too generous a word – but hey, it never hurts to be cautious. Hear me out though. Keratin, the main component of human scalp hair, contains all 21 amino acids, but the ratios depend on the body’s biochemistry and differ from person to person. Hydrolyzing the amino acids and measuring their quantities yields a profile that, when compared with a database, gives an indication of a person’s sex, age, body mass index, and region of origin. Boom.

Now, sophisticated analytical techniques are giving hair a new role in forensics. The goal is no longer matching a suspect to a crime scene but using hair to infer physical characteristics or even the travel history of an unknown criminal or victim. Boom, boom.

The ratios of isotopes—atoms of the same element that differ in the number of neutrons—in hair can also yield clues. The ratios of hydrogen and oxygen isotopes in drinking water vary from region to region and are also captured in hair. As a result, isotopic analysis of hair can provide clues about where a person has been in the previous months—or years, if the hair is long enough (mine most certainly is). In 2008, a Utah company called Isoforensics discovered that “Saltair Sally,” an unidentified woman found dead in Utah in 2000, had repeatedly moved between the Pacific Northwest and the Salt Lake City area before she died—a clue that helped identify her in 2012.

I really think there is something to be said for leaving a little lock strewn around on your travels, a stab at fate no less. Governing our minds certainly requires a sparkle of madness and my goodness, I got me some hair to play with.


215New York cabs are for kissing. Or shouting. Or both. And their insides serve as spurious ambassadors to the smells of the city. I rarely encounter a backseat that tickles my olfactory senses, until yesterday that is, when I took a ride with a gentleman who imparted some serious fragrant wizardry. It was all babies and antiseptic and roses. I felt happy and oddly soothed. He told me that everyday before his shift starts, he wipes his seats, door handles and upholstery with a mixture of rubbing alcohol, pinesol and rose water. ‘I never get sick anymore’, he exclaimed with such glee it was contagious, or I was high on the ethanol. I ran to the nearest Duane Reade, bought the ingredients and poured them into an empty water bottle to use on anything in need of ‘future disinfecting’ – I’m thoughtful like that. Me being me, I added some bergamot, geranium and jasmine essential oils for a little extra somethin’ somethin’. It’s a pretty damn lush concoction.

I’m always amazed at how smells can trigger the most intense, complex memories instantaneously. When I’m in New York I’m blindsided everyday (even if I don’t always inhale deeply). Think top notes of unmistakable $1 pizza (even at 8.30am), and lingering hints of incense, sweat, exhaust, and – on a good day – weed. Noxious on its own, but just an allusion can be, well, alluring – that’s the perfumer’s dirty secret isn’t it? Something almost ‘nasty’ used in minute traces to give the addiction and the wanton aspect ultimately makes the scent and its trail literally irresistible. If you’re in any doubt, look up the ingredients of the magnum opus of fragrances, Fracas. And then, just sniff.

 

source: helena carrington


 

My friend Lara sent this email a few weeks ago:

This morning, I had this overwhelming clarity that I want to start documenting what I am grateful for every day. But I think putting it out into the universe, and sharing with others seemed much more appealing than writing it for myself, so I am proposing we start a group daily gratitude forum and maybe add our quotes or other articles to our list…

Every day (or at least Monday through Friday) each of us just write anywhere between 1 and 5 things we are grateful for…the benefits are really significant and it’s the easiest thing in the world. What do you guys think?

And so everyday(ish) without fail we’ve been emailing each other what we are grateful for – it happened seamlessly and unanimously between four of us. Some email at the start of their day, some at the end, and it’s become my highlight, a co-creation so to speak. There are literally millions of ways we are blessed daily, and by saying what we are grateful for (which isn’t always easy), don’t you think we send our energy into the unseen world where we are all connected? And maybe those invisible threads strengthen our spiritual connections not just with ourselves but with others.

I thought I’d leave you with this Mark Twain masterpiece for whatever journey you are on today.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.

So throw off the bowlines.

Sail away from the safe harbor.

Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore.

Dream.

Discover.

 

 


 

When I first saw emeralds of that colour in Victoire de Castellane’s creations for Dior Fine Jewellery, I was bewitched. Seeing stones larger than an elephant’s eye and scarfs of rough diamonds meant to evoke ivy growing through cobblestones made me fall in love with her work completely. Every collection I’ve ever seen only dazzling creations have abounded. I love her whimsical and kaleidoscopic designs that marry flowers with skulls, where rings take the shape of gold slippers (Cinderella is my favourite fairy tale after all) and all my childhood girly fantasies come true in a trail of coloured diamonds. I also love her signature blunt cut fringe because I’ll never be able to have one, and that she’s inspired by everything from vampires to snow globes – it’s sort of like a two fingers up to fine jewellery and I find it infinitely exciting.

 

source: luxe-magazine.com


 

‘And in the morning they shook their pillows violently, hoping all the dreams they lost that night would tumble out.’

No such exertion is now needed with Sharonna Karni Cohen’s (excuse the pun) dream app. With a current crop of eleven artists from cities as diverse as Warsaw, Osaka, Johannesburg and New York, Dreame allows you to choose the one whose work resonates the most, and in return you’ll get your dream turned into a one-of-a-kind illustration. For those of you who like me mine their nighttime reveries for clues to their inner lives, for creative insight, and even for premonitions, this is a fascinating exercise in objective interpretation. I think it’s hard not to believe that at least some of our sleep-time scenarios are imbued with significance and it’s a fun digital visual to refer to, perhaps helping us to decode the messages that we might otherwise miss. All you need now is a dreamcatcher!