Memories of color whine
A silver pin drops.
In the age of fact seeking, it could be said that storytelling is an integral part of not only our heritage, but also of our survival. Our own stories exalt good storytellers with great reward. Scheherazade purportedly told 1,001 stories to avoid beheading. Our predecessors chose their mates based on which narratives about protection and progeny held the best value propositions. Throughout history and folklore, people have always told tales to get themselves out of sticky situations or into other people’s heads, pants, or wallets.
Then there’s the matter of taste. Some people like romance. Others prefer sci-fi. You might be able to adapt one plot to another genre, but it may or may not fit. It’s not straightforward at all.
I’ve been coming to terms for some time with my limitations when it comes to storytelling. Unlike some of my friends, who have a natural talent for recounting the most mundane aspects of their day in excruciating detail haloed with unbridled exuberance, making a trip to the laundry room sound like a grand escapade, I tend to express an idea in the fewest words that I can find to get it across. I just don’t have the patience for a lot of irrelevant minutiae. My embellishments are not objective nouns and verbs, but rather subjective adjectives and adverbs. Like a barista leaving room for milk above the coffee, I give plenty of space for the reader or listener to adapt the tidbit to their own experience. (At least, I think so. I may be contradicting myself here and there.)
The same goes for stringing a logical sequence of discrete facts into a “story.” When the string seems obvious to me, I focus instead on polishing the facts so they shine. Inevitably, the connection isn’t conveyed, and I end up with a bunch of shiny marbles tumbling to the floor. (My other talent—or folly—strange and spontaneous metaphors and similes galore.)
In line with my love for visual art, I much prefer to paint a scene, rather than a journey, with words. That’s why poetry is wonderful. A poem can say so much with so little.
Of poems, the haiku challenges this aspect the most. I’ve been partial to the iambic tetrameter ever since I first learned it as a child, and was never particularly attracted to the haiku before, but it’s recently become an acquired taste for me. It draws a picture in 17 syllables—a physical, present-tense snapshot of something that stirs emotion, without describing the emotion itself. It’s like a puzzle that the reader solves with their own ability to relate, and by this very nature it is interactive.
Most perfumes want to tell a story. It may be told through the symbolism of ingredients, or the history of the countries where the ingredients were sourced, or the turning points represented by skillfully designed transitions from the top to the heart to the base; or any number of ways. Many brands will tell it to you visually, with carefully selected words and provocative images.
But really, perfumes are more like poems.
Poems are stories, too.
Spritz me a poem.
I recently got to smell some Floraïku perfumes, and particularly liked One Umbrella for Two in the Secret Teas and Spices O Cha collection, with blackcurrant absolute, genmaicha tea, and cedar oil. These ingredients form an interesting contrast, like a familiar musical chord with an unexpected sharp note that somehow creates a refreshing harmony. The blackcurrant is bright and juicy, its youthful energy bolstered by the grounding genmaicha and smoothing cedar. This is one I would like to spend more time with.
I also love the idea of coupling each perfume with a haiku and beautiful illustration. It gives you a little more to think about. The more you think, the more personal the perfume could become. It’s simple and elegant.