Wednesday, May 27, 2009

past present future scents

you can smell the past

you can make tomorrows' memory-smells

The intelligence and humor left in a bottle, vial, ring, amphora, pomander, snuff box can now be archaeologically reconstituted with today's technology.

Some recent public examples of archival reconstitution of perfumes include the Titanic find.

Adolphe Saalfeld was a German born Edwardian perfumer who left England on the RMS Titanic, embarking to sell his fragrances world-wide. They met a watery holding tank in 1912, while he survived via lifeboat number 3 and returned to Manchester, England, living until 1926.

In 2000, 62 bottles of his concentrated perfume oils were recovered. He had boarded with 65 test tube like bottles. At the time of the Titanic sail he had been 47, chairman of the chemists and distillers Sparks, White and Co. Ltd. 

Though he did not pursue the perfume business, his rose/violet composition has been copied using the scent's "fingerprint" of the original chemical composition and debuted at the Edinburgh Science Festival.Scents of Time Series brings us Ankh: reconstructed from written formula found at Edfu on the Nile, derived from Kyphi incense.

Nenufar: Blue Lotus is visible in many hieroglyphics. Sacred to Pharaohs and Pharaohesses, guess what? The flower's chemistry contains the hallucinogen myristicin. The petals were steeped in wine and then the wine was drunk and then the drinkee drank in the hallucinogen stories. The perfume uses nutmeg spice, which contains myristicin. Remember studies show how much men enjoy the scent of pumpkin pie, which is loaded with nutmeg. I hail from the Nutmeg State.

Pyxis: named from a pixie fresco on a wall at the House of the Vetii in Pompeii. Based on floral, herbal and spice spores found in the garden of a perfumer, believed to be called Sperato, at Pompeii.

Scents of Time's David Pybus worked with perfumers from Givaudan on these scent reconstructions. He has authored several books.

I have not yet smelled any of these, so, the infinite perfume hunt continues.

Painting: Electric Sunrise Lura Astor

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Nothing In Nature Abstains

The new birth control degenderizing of women is dangerous. Natural cycles of lust, recreation, procreation and just plain creation are messed with when we fear the women's internal bloods so much we don't want the externalization. Such sanitization as we spill others' blood onto the earth for such stupid, greedy non-reasons is officially out of balance.

Numerous hormonal birth controls have women thinking they are pregnant all the time, struggling with 50-plus side effects, up to and including death. No wonder the women then need and want to nest, even if prematurely, with that particular man. Rather than enjoying her sexual well-being, the body continuously says, "baby coming, make nest, baby coming, make nest". And, the sense of smell changes.

We can categorize time in calendars that disregard lunar cycles and circadian rhythms at a cost. It is documented that Daylight Saving Time causes havoc, including sleep disturbances. Sleep Study institutes reveal sleep deprivation to be a main cause in many "accidents" including major oil spills on the oceans.

Nothing In Nature Abstains

One can call something not sex, can call it something else, can term anal sex, oral sex, armpit sex, etcetera, as forms of abstinence, but again, at a cost. Saying something is not sexual does not make it so. Additionally, this remove diminishes aspects of foreplay and carress, and ... the relational.

You can say 2 plus 2 is 5, but, is it?
To mother earth may all your sexy little beings get better and better at love and loving.

From whence all came Wu Wei
the male
the female

Ellison Adger Smyth - Civil Rights/Virginia


ROANOKE TIMES & WORLD-NEWS used with permission
Date: Sunday, February 14, 1993
Section: CURRENT
Page: NRV-1

Please contact me if you have the corresponding photos to this article.
The article came out on a Valentine's Day Sunday and the photos were a wonderful retrospective.

"I was a hillbilly born in Blacksburg," said Ellison Adger Smyth, who's seen a lot of the world in his 89 years.

From his vantage point comes a book, "RetroSpect: Growing up in Blacksburg and Other Tales Through a Long Life." Changes and challenges filled those years, and so does a charming tale of romance. The book, published by Pocahontas Press, is due out in July.

When he retired in 1968 as pastor emeritus of Blacksburg Presbyterian Church after 21 years, he and his wife, Mary Linda, traveled the country in search of their retirement home.

Those travels were a new chapter in their life together that began with a traditional Southern courtship that began in Charleston, S.C. On the retirement odyssey, "Mary Linda collected plants and I collected rocks and butterflies," Smyth said.tell

They visited Mexico and Canada, and after four years put their feet back on Blacksburg soil, settling in the Warm Hearth retirement community. It was his second Blacksburg homecoming. The first one had brought him to town as a young pastor in 1948. "There's no place like home," said Smyth, who was born on what is now the Tech campus.

Mary Linda Smyth, who holds the distinction of being Virginia's oldest employee, works in the Virginia Tech herbarium. She urged her husband to join a writing workshop at Warm Hearth led by poet Nikki Giovanni.

Mary Linda Smyth
said she believed her husband needed more in
tellectual stimulation. "He's always worked with words; why, he's written thousands of sermons." Ellison Smyth thought otherwise. "I had enough to keep me busy, what with my gardening, woodwork and lapidary work . . . besides, what was I going to do with a gang of old women?" he asked, laughing. "But I was intrigued and Nikki Giovanni is a genius." And many of the group turned out to have sharp minds. Now he teasingly refers to them as his "over-aged harem."

"Oh, he's a treasure, wherever he goes," Giovanni said. "He reads for us every week. . . . He's used to writing and speaking. We can count on him to start the discussion for us. "And he's a charmer. I'm glad Mary [Holliman, of Pocahontas Press] is doing the book. He's writing valuable essays" on the beginnings of Tech, where his father was dean of faculty.

Smyth also found some male reinforcements in the group. "One fellow had traveled around quite a bit, Texas and so on. One of his stories was in dialect and I asked, `What part of the Southern Appalachians are you from?' He said, `Illinois.' " Smyth seemed tickled that the joke was on him.

Why did he want to write his autobiography at this point? "Writing is a good outlet," he said. It forces a person to be true to himself and follow his own counsel.

Smyth didn't start as a minister. After graduating from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1925 as an electrical engineer, he moved from Blacksburg (population then about 700) to Schenectady, N.Y. (population 18,000.) A dozen years and a career change were ahead before he would marry Mary Linda.

Schenectady was quite a change for a country boy, he said. For several years he worked at General Electric. Then he discovered he was more interested in people than in electrical research. "I found I could listen. People would come to me. . . . They just needed a listening post." About this time, he said, "The hound of heaven dogged me and I couldn't escape."

Smyth followed in his great-grandfather's footsteps and entered a seminary, studying first in Richmond and then in Edinburgh, Scotland. His great-grandfather was a pastor in Charleston. One of the couples he married there had a son, whom the grandfather baptized. The son later had two daughters.
Smyth by 1935 was doing ministerial work in Lexington. His supervising pastor was married to one of those daughters.

Smyth drove his boss' wife and two of her friends to Charleston for Garden Week that year and met the other daughter, Mary Linda, who was sick with the flu. Sparks flew anyway. Mary Linda had a suitor at the time, but Smyth indicated his interest should she ever be free. Before long, she was, and she came to Lexington to visit her sister. She and Ellison were married July 1, 1937. Now, Ellison Smyth likes to tell people they "met in bed," because of Mary Linda's flu.

While serving in Lexington, Smyth took several liberal arts courses at Washington and Lee to fill a lack in the humanities. He received a master's degree in history. The first dozen years of ministerial work took him to several churches: Warrenton; Nitro, W.Va.; and Hartsville, S.C. In 1947, he was asked to preach at Blacksburg Presbyterian Church. He became pastor there in February 1948.

Years later, Hampden-Sydney College gave Smyth an honorary doctorate of divinity, which he laughingly calls an "ornery degree." He said he thought it was bestowed because some of the Tech faculty and administrators in the Blacksburg church were Hampden-Sydney alumni and wanted the sermons preached by someone with a doctoral degree.

His book, "RetroSpect" includes memoirs of his studies and travels in England, Scotland and France during the 1930s. He writes and speaks of the people he met during his lifetime.

"People are people," he said. "Wherever you find people you find the same problems . . . selfishness, lack of vision, pride. You name it, we've all got it. Includin' preachers . . . sometimes, especially preachers."


After posting, I received this correction, printed here with permission:

I stumbled across your articles about my parents Ellison Adger and Mary Linda Vardell Smyth. There was an error in the write up about my father.

Although mother’s father was born and baptized in Charleston, South Carolina, my mother was born and raised in Red Springs, North Carolina. Grandfather Vardell was the founder and president of Flora McDonald College in Red Springs, and the family spent their summers in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Blowing Rock is where my father first visited my mother “in bed”. I don’t know where the idea of “garden week” came from. Mother and Dad were married July 1, 1937, in Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church, a church named after mother’s grand father, Rev. Jethro Rumple.

Father’s first ministry was in Saskatchewan, followed by a church in Nitro, West Virginia. Then came Lexington, Virginia, as an assistant to Dr. J.J. Murray, the brother-in-law of mother. Then Warrington, Hartsville and finally, Blacksburg. I was born in Hartsville and grew up in Blacksburg.

The article about mother was pretty much accurate.

Best regards,

E. Adger Smyth, Jr.

Minding Breather

click here, then click video

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Virginia Tech Herbarium

In recent talks with friends in the fragrance, tea, herb and medicinal worlds, I remembered this story and would like to share it with you now. 

The memory begins with Mary Linda opening one of many sliding drawers of flat files to pull out herb samples on their archival paper.


In the 1990's I was a freelance journalist for the Roanoke Times and World News, for a few years. Wonderful people worked there; I had a great editor, Ray Reed, and a fellow, who's name I've forgotten, who used to write the best captions and headlines. He was almost bowled over when I complemented and thanked him one day; so many people and details go into any finished product.

Please contact me if you have information on the photos accompanying the article, I would love to include them

Page: NRV-1

BLACKSBURG, VIRGINIA - While most of us have grown up believing retirement is mandatory at age 65, here's Mary Linda Smyth working away at Virginia Tech's herbarium at the age of "almost 88." Three mornings a week, Smyth does something she's good at and loves doing. People around the world benefit from her work.

The herbarium houses samples of all kinds of green plants as well as herbs, Smyth said. Many people think it's limited to commonly known herbs: peppermint, basil, mustard and such.
It's the ideal place for capturing her experience. In 50-plus years, Smyth has taught at colleges and universities, including Radford University and Virginia Tech. She's been with Tech for 30 years and was an associate professor as well as essentially the acting curator of the herbarium.

Smyth never knows what the workday will bring. A wide range of projects transpires in the large room, which smells faintly of the mothballs that are used in its storage vaults. She may be holding a delicate frond, covered with glue, when the phone rings. If no one else is there she must decide: frond, phone, or both? It's both. "Anything that turns up, I do," she said. She works six hours each week. That might make her Virginia's oldest state employee, but the personnel office in Richmond couldn't confirm that.A herbarium is a busy place. Virginia Tech's houses more than 86,000 plant specimens. Smyth is familiar with their Latin names, and "you wouldn't know the name if you didn't know something about its properties," such as its healing potential. "That's the way you classify them, by the properties."Plants arrive needing to be identified, a process that can take days of research. Plant specimens, looking as though they've been removed from a poetry book after being pressed under the weight of encyclopedias, need to be mounted, labeled, numbered and filed. A global scientific language is used to organize plants; the numbers mean the same thing from country to country.

Smyth sees plants from Japan, Europe and remote islands, as well as the many found throughout Virginia. She often has helped newcomers to the area. Smyth has taken people into the woods for on-the-spot lessons.

One recent morning she was mounting dry, flat plant specimens. She moved with the grace of an artist, placing the dried ferns on special herbarium paper, using special herbarium glue. In her lifetime, Smyth has collected 6,000 plants from Canada, the United States and Mexico. More than 600 were collected from the property she and her husband, Ellison, former pastor of Blacksburg Presbyterian Church, own in Blacksburg. She says it's not an impressive collection.

"Look at this number here. Ninety-eight thousand some." It's the identifying number on a plant given by a man who had collected a sample for each of its preceding numbers.
The first of her 6,000 collected items came during her college years at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where she received a master's degree in botany and taxonomy in 1930.Smyth still was doing graduate studies, working toward her doctorate, when she met her husband-to-be, a Blacksburg native. She collected plants; he collected butterflies. It seems a perfect match. Seven years ago they celebrated their golden wedding anniversary with their four children.

color photo: jon sullivan

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Understanding the irony that perfumery
is full of ingredients that were once alive
in one form
and now in the ethers
into a different alchemy of form

Interest in Patrick Süskind's book and subsequent movie Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is helped by a lack of literature to satisfy growing interest in smell and scent.

Online perfume boards and blogs fan fragrance interest, pulling back curtains, peeking behind scenes.

Scripted "Reality" TV validates the interest in seeing behind the seens: everything from the making of cars and robots, to saving a beached whale or marriage.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer's behind the scenes fantasy perfume story repulses me. My relationship to perfume is different than Süskind's story of killing.

My relationship with perfume, fragrance, scent, and the art and science of smelling is about life and, beauty; about craftsmanship, containers, packaging, artistry, mundane details; intelligence for a mind that bores easily as a body moves through what we call architecture.

With smell's varying volatiles, I get to be entertained on many levels as I move through the world.

Loathing the combining of sex with murder and/or torture, my interest with fragrance is not about killing femininity to "possess" it, or hunting and killing virgins whatever gender.

The movie? The book? Scraping bodies of killed virgins to jar up scent.
A fictional fallacy for death changes odor, fear changes odor.

Perhaps a take on an old vaudeville joke?
No good virgin except a dead virgin?

Once one is no longer a virgin, to anything, a chapter of life has in essence died. Metaphorically, la
petite mort, the little death, references orgasm, post-orgasm, times when something dies inside of one, times when one dies and is reborn, as in the arms of a lover.

No telling necrophiliacs that the exchange of feminine and masculine energies is better live. A reminder for anyone who got tweaked in life - the feminine and masculine live within each us, at all times ...

While helping run a niche fragrance boutique, people came in asking if I'd seen the movie. Many were visibly shaken; men, women, old, young, representative of many cultures.

Responding, I have a different relationship to perfume, I'd embrace the wonderful bottles on the glass shelves with a sweep of my arms, it is about life, not death, and, I'd see calm grow visible.

I wasn't running a little shop of horrors with perfume equivalents of human meat pies. It got me to thinking that human memories of cannibalism and human sacrifice may be closer to the surface than thought, given the ratings of these stories.


look forward to
of the phases and cycles
of life-death-life


Pruning plants not killing them,
cutting hair not cutting the head off

an aspirational being about life and
the relational, inclusive,

rather than inabilities to fulfill;

one-sided, narcissistic,
(though I love the scent of live narcissus flowers)
demand of control of life and

control of death.

For that

I turn to Nature

if I'm lucky and
pay attention,
might learn something more

painting: Flieder und Tulpen
Lovis Corinth

Friday, May 15, 2009

Perplexed? Pupation Incubation?

And Now A Children's Story for Adults today

Once Upon A Time someone needed ...
Need Some Pupation Incubation?

if you think TRANSFORMATION is challenging

look what can happen in One Minute
of an Inachis io European Peacock caterpillar
here seen pupating seen above in reverse from bottom right corner we're not crawling back into the cocoon womb

photo: taken in Austria by thinkaholic GNU Free Documentation License
Perplexed? take a note from Dana
Danaus plexippus

Steep Awhile

mercury is retrograde
a good time
to rest
re think
re edit
re vise
re evaluate
re do review

photo: GNU Free Documentation License

and, you may just find your tribe and

photo: Mila Zinkova, migration in Santa Cruz, California

and go hang out at a perfume bar

mmmmm sniff sniff

spruce, fir, pine, what'll it be today, bartend?

this tribe is in New Jersey during a migration
photo permission: Gene Nieminen, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

here they go go go 'round Mexico

photo: Raina Kumra creative commons

Sunday, May 10, 2009

day of the mothers

a toast to Mother Earth Grandmothers, 
Great Great Grandmothers Mothers to Be, 
Wu Wei, 
Nature's Fecundity, 

Great Mama Earth on whose belly we pounce

photo: permission

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Just Take Five

Just coz

a break from all the color ... here, in black, white and greys

Dave Brubeck plus in 1966

Green Aria

Green Aria
storytelling delivered through scent and music

In this ScentOpera the scents will do the singing

The scents will tell the story as the audience is introduced to a new grammar, a new form of art.

The libretto, the written story and structure, encompasses chords of perfumes/scents. Music and sound design play a supporting role and will be precision coordinated with the release of scents.


Each seat is outfitted with a scent microphone.
As the scents are inhaled, the human body will play them. Each scent will have complex chords of scent with the unique capacity to carry symbolic and associative meanings and memories.

For example, some scents may be associated with
tastes, others with flavors. Some are recognizable - the smell of fresh air or smoke, others, though less definable, become so through conditioning and context.

In click Green Aria the scent libretto will evoke associative meanings as well as create new meanings defined within the context of the unfolding narrative.

As of today, both performances on each day, May 31 and June 1, are sold out. Bet the performance gets another go round.

Stewart Matthew collaborates with renowned fragrance designer Christophe Laudamiel and composers Nico Muhly and Valgeir Sigurdsson.

click here: Music from some of the musicians - starts in at minute two 

Illustration: Green Secrets Lura Astor

Thursday, May 7, 2009

this week Rochester, NY May 8-17, 2009

Lilac Festival

Artists, musicians such as Dr. John, Joan Osborne, Rickie Lee Jones, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, plus events

Over 500 varieties of lilacs to smell! white,pinks, purples.
Poster for sale at the site

American Society of Perfumers' Annual Symposium

Today, 7 May 2009
is the American Society of Perfumers’ (ASP)
Annual Symposium

9 AM to 3 PM
New York Marriott Marquis
1535 Broadway
New York, New York 10036

Monday, May 4, 2009

NYC end of May Scent Opera

The Guggenheim Museum in New York City, a magical place, one of the few places to experience the vertical spiral. Thrilling as a kid seeing playful Calder wire circuses.

31 May 2009
1 June 2009

The Guggenheim 7:30 PM & 9:30 PM
(to date, the 7:30's are sold out)

The ScentOpera introduces a new art form created by Stewart Matthew based only on smell and sound.

send me reviews, photos, programme, smells!
I accept samples

Stewart Matthew collaborates with renowned fragrance designer Christophe Laudamiel and composers Nico Muhly and Valgeir Sigurdsson.
Original scents and music will be performed in the dark via a customized scent organ for a world premiere unlike any other. ScentOpera’s creation is supported by Fläkt Woods, Thierry Mugler Parfums, Arup and IFF.

3 June 2009 Correction/Addendum: Avery Gilbert cites Firmenich, not IFF, as the scent sponsor; IFF as Laudimiel's former employer.

more info at Critical Dance

Merde to all! Leave the spiders to live. As a youngster, I received a Ford Foundation Scholarship from the Balanchine School of American Ballet. I spent countless hours at the Lincoln Center library in Alice Tully Hall with the Henry Moore sculpture bathing outside in  marbled waters. Past the main fountain, countless more hours scoring a seat at intermission after paying minimum price tickets for Standing Room. Though a Southern California gal now, I love the imprints of that time.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

cha cha cha

change is good

drop dead gorgeous

The stinking hellebore, as its name implies, has a most unpleasant odour, and the leaves of the tooth-leaved maiden plum of the West Indies, when bruised, emit a sulphurous smell, and birds that happen to break them are said to fall asphyxiated and are unable to fly away for some time afterwards.

from The Mystery and Lure of Perfume
C.J.S. Thompson 1927

photo: helleborus foetidus, dungwort, bear's foot 2007 wildfeuer
image: hellebores officinalis, Ferdinand Bauer 1795 (?)



Specimens: from Simon Garbutt's garden, his scan of helleborus foetidus, with cross-section, helleborus viridis; several different helleborus x hybridus;
includes 2 double flowers; pale cream bred by Ashwoods; dark purple bred by Harveys 2006

Friday, May 1, 2009

ye ol' Rudyard Kipling quote


Scents are surer
than sounds
or sights
to make
your heart-strings

Illustration: Lura Astor

Mystery & Lure of Perfume

First published in 1927,  C.J.S. Thompson's book is a delightful read. Quote from Mystery & Lure of Perfume:

A curious circumstance connected with the perfumes emitted by certain flowers, is the development of the odour at the time when some insects are most active.

Some plants, like petunias, have only a slight odour during the day, but have quite a strong perfume in the evening, when they are attractive to certain moths
The dark pelargoniums also, which have no odour in the daytime, smell like hyacinths at dusk, and are then visited by night moths.
Other flowers which are odorous in the sunshine and attract bees, give off no perfume after sunset. This of course can be explained, and is no doubt due to the warming influence of the sun on the essential oil in the plant.

It has been conjectured that there may be some connexion between the colours of flowers and their odours, and Cohler, in making some experiments on the subject, found that white flowers come first among those giving sweet odours, by a large majority. Yellow flowers are next, and those of a red colour follow closely. Those of blue, violet, and green come far behind, and last of all the flowers of orange or brownish hue.

So far we have only mentioned flowers that emit a sweet-smelling perfume, but there are others that give off repulsive and evil odours which are not so well known. Among these are the mouse mushroom (Tricholoma myomyces), which has an odour like that of mice, a species of orchis smells of goats, and the leaves of the Spiraea ulmaria have an odour similar to carbolic acid.

The stinking hellebore click here as its name implies, has a most unpleasant odour, and the leaves of the tooth-leaved maiden plum of the West Indies, when bruised, emit a sulphurous smell, and birds that happen to break them are said to fall asphyxiated and are unable to fly away for some time afterwards.

The Arum dracunculus, which has a large liver-coloured flower, exhales an offensive odour so like putrefying carrion that blow-flies and other insects mistake the flower for decomposed meat, and come to it from all quarters to deposit their eggs.
There are several other plants which, owing to their repulsive odours, although their flowers are of considerable beauty, are called carrion plants.

There are also some plants which give off odours that are more curious than actually offensive, such as fungus or morel of the marchella species, which on being bruised smells like roast beef, and some varieties of crane’s bill that have an odour very like roast mutton.

The flowers of the yellow water-lily (Nuphar lutea) are sometimes called the “brandy-bottle,” on account of the similarity of their odour o that spirit, and the catkins of the goat-willow have the same smell.

The horse-shoe vetch (Hippocrepis comosa) has an odour like cheese click here, and the Philadelphus coronaries has a flavor and a smell similar to cucumbers.
There are instances in which very dissimilar odours are emitted under certain conditions by the same plant. Thus the Tritelia uniflora aspecus, a species of white lily that grows in the neighbourhood of Buenos Ayres, has the perfume of violets, but when the plant is bruised it has an odour like garlic.

What true Londoner does not welcome the smell that salutes his nostrils after a prolonged stay abroad – that curious odour, a blend of petrol, tar, and smoke, peculiar to our streets, that may be called the smell of London?

The story has recently been recorded of a certain planter who lived in the up-country in India, that when the manufacturing season was on, he would go into the engine-room for a smell of hot oil which reminded him of the ship that brought him out from England and which he hoped one day would take him back. This smell of hot oil was a link between him and home.
To another individual the odour of burning wood from a newly lighted fire will recall a much disliked schoolroom in which he passed unpleasant hours when a youth, forty years ago.
The smell of tar will sometimes recall a certain ship or a sea-port, and many other instances might be mentioned where an odour or perfume will bring back the memory of persons, places, or events that happened long ago.
-C.J.S. Thompson Mystery and Lure of Perfume 1927

Photo: California Poppies Lura Astor
Photo: Green Whitebuds Lura Astor
Photo: Naked Pink Ladies Lilies Lura Astor
Photo: Mystic Seaport larry g   click here for my link on related post

May Day, May Day

beautiful weather predicted!

Bright Bouquets Your Way
a tisket a tasket
A May Basket
A nosegay of muguet
Bright Wishes and Fragrant Dreams