by Justine Crane
I don't get it often, that perfumer's block. In fact, I don't believe I've ever really had it. What I get, usually, is perfumer's anxiety. First things first; are there enough of diluted essences A, B, C, D, E, F and so forth to create this olfactory masterpiece? Second, if not, are there enough dilution bottles in stock to make them? Third, if so, how the hell long is that going to take? Fourth, four days later, when all these tasks have been completed to fruition, do I have any damned energy left to formulate?
Jesus said, and I'm paraphrasing here, "Don't stress on tomorrow because today is stressful enough." (Matthew 6:34)* To me, the reference to "tomorrow" can be fifteen minutes from now, when I'm checking volume levels in dilution bottles and realize I have to "whip up" a few extras. Why trip now? I usually call this next step "procrastination". To defer action. To put off till another day or time.
So this is how this creative thing usually goes down: I build a brief or one is handed to me. I think about it a while; a few days, a few weeks, a month or two. I write notes. I dream on it. I might sniff a few bottles. I write more notes. I write a bit of poetic prose to go along with the brief, to liven it up, give it breath, and then I think about the creation some more. I sometimes talk about it to my peers, or to someone I don't know while bagging my groceries at Winco. I discuss it with the Jehovah's Witnesses who come to my door every other Tuesday at 9:30 am sharp. We make trades. I hand them scent strips and they hand me The Watchtower. For the first time in history, they're the ones stepping away from the door hoping I'll close it on their faces.
I converse with my mother's ass as she's face down in her garden pulling weeds. I ask her ass the delicate questions; issues of using champaca golden vs. davana or magnolia. "Patchouli essential oil or absolute, mom?" I ask after explaining their differences. Her ass does not reply.
She lifts her head from the weeds and says, "When are you taking that damned mimosa tree? Every time I look at it, I just want to weed whack it." Her anger toward mimosa's fragile flowers falling on her carefully manicured lawn shows in a flash. She continues pulling at the weeds. I do not get my answer.
I speak about the newly formulated in my mind perfume with my daughter, sharing scent strips drenched in heart notes. "How is this?" I ask.
"Smells like pickles," she replies. And I remember that this is her patent answer for every scent strip thrust under her nose. In teen-talk it means, "Leave me alone. I'm not the least bit interested in your hobby."
I chase down my grown live-in son, the perfume whore, in hopes of finding a partner in crime. "How's this?" I ask, spritzing his arm as he cringes.
"'S' okay," he says, noncommittally.
"Okay good or 'just' okay?"
"It's okay. Now will you get out of the bathroom? I have to wipe my butt."
So after all this research, writing, and trial formulating, I finally have it. The finished fantastic product. Three years after I started.
*The real verse in King James reads: Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.