Recently I was told off at home to have a thorough clear-out, a spring clean in the Mrs Tittlemouse manner. “Very Tabitha Twitchet-Danvers” as the wonderful Sue Kaufman used to say. The stacks of sealed boxes piled up in the bedroom, under tables and behind the sofa all had to go. I had something very like a panic attack. “But what of the treasures inside?” I moaned. “Those boxes are filled with irreplaceable unique documents!”
“Then they will all need to be sorted out!” came the implacable reply. Now, I’d been filling these containers for at least 40 years: they represented, I believed, my archive, my legacy. Anyway, I hauled out gaudy biscuit gift tins, beribboned chocolate coffrets, shirt boxes, dress cartons & old suitcases and amid clouds of dust and cactus sediment I began the sad but thrilling task of breaking the seals. At least, I thought to myself, I shall have a few delicious surprises; old dear forgotten friends reunited. How bittersweet and emotional ( I thought to myself ) it will be. “I’ll bet”, I thought ” I shan’t be able to bring myself to throw out one single item!”
Do you know, there was nothing in any of it!
Well I don’t mean there was a void, a vacuum – at least, not literally. What I found in there were 1000’s of post cards and letters from folks long since dead, silenced or forgotten; endless newspaper clippings the significance of which I had quite forgot; and a few tatty photos. A three minute sermon, in fact, thunderingly delivered on my own bedroom floor! Never was a clearer and more shattering exposition of St Matthew Ch. 6, v.19 ¤. Most everything was quite without meaning. I had evidently moved on: so much for those expectations of being unable to part with any of it. Instead, all went unheeded into the recycling in short order and I felt much the better in consequence: just as the lifestyle therapists always say.
Now, there’s a moral here I think. Don’t fall into the same sort of trap with your prized perfume collection. Perfume, like our food, our skins and our emotions, is a living breathing thing. It is to be used, experienced, cherished and explored. It is an enhancement and nutrient of life. While all we scent-lovers build up a collection of favourites and curiosities over the years we must always remember to curate with care. As we know, properly stored (no heat, no light) fragrance will keep well for years. Still, we should keep it circulating and active; like beautiful garments it should be aired, inspected, shaken out and worn. Don’t bury your exquisite bottles too deep and dark against a rainy day or the Special Occasion that never comes. Use your perfume archive to adorn your daily life and activities.
There’s another snag to stockpiling. Everything changes: no doubt we wearers alter more than our scents, though they too undergo various metamorphoses over the years, both chemical and perceived. But our brains, bodies, dreams and perceptions all constantly mutate and the scent that once was couleur de rose may turn into a nightmare a year – or ten – later. Or, more excitingly, vice versa. This is one reason why at Les Senteurs we are continually smelling, wearing and re-evaluating our precious cargoes. Nothing stands still, the scent experience is always fluid, and like Pandora the perfume fancier often finds that the ultimate occupant of the fragrance bottle is Hope. I trust I shall never lose that sense of thrilling excitement as I whip the cellophane off a brand new perfume. Great expectations indeed but LW is no Miss Havisham. At least, not superficially so…
¤ “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt…”