Perfumed Letters

Reading the scent trail of fragrance and words

Slowly Going Slowly and Postcards from Summer 2013



A quiet beach at low tide on Prince Edward Island

For me, slowness usually has negative connotations. Laziness. Procrastination. Burnout. Depleted energy. But lately I find myself slowly embracing slowness. It’s not about a lack of desire or attention or passion or engagement. All of that persists, but minus the urgency and the pressure.

A few months ago I heard an interview with Elizabeth L. Cline, author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion and an advocate of slow fashion  Slow fashion can mean luxury in a largely forgotten sense of the word: hand-crafteed, high quality, timeless.  Think Hermès, not Louis Vuitton. Dana Thomas’s book  De-luxe deals head-on with the demise of quality in so-called luxury goods, and  the New York Times recently reported a revival of  an old-school approach to luxury. For those of us who can’t or don’t  or won’t invest in haute couture, slow fashion means a shift in consciousness and behavior, attention to where our clothing is made, under what conditions, at what cost to people and to the environment. It can be as simple as not buying that tank top in 4 colors just because it is so unbelievably cheap. Not hoarding more clothing than you can possibly wear on a regular basis. Choosing  quality and sustainability over quantity and short-term gratification. Not needing seasonal closet-cleansing for well intentioned trips to Goodwill, which may or may not need your discarded stuff.

The idea of slow fragrance has been in the air for a while now, too, though it doesn’t seem to have stalled the break-neck production speed of the perfume market.

Several perfume bloggers have posted in the last few months about a personal evolution toward slowing down in terms of keeping up with what’s out there, sampling and writing about the next new thing, and above all, acquiring new stuff. (I’m thinking of Another Perfume Blog on simplifying, Bonkers about Perfume on taking stock, and Bloody Frida whose summer has been scented by fresh organic produce. I’m sure others have blogged about this, too.)

I have a long way to go before I master slow fashion, slow fragrance, even slow food. But looking back over the past few months, I see how slowness has been creeping up on me. It started with a course in “Mindfulness for Stress Reduction.”  I signed up as a sequel to countless other strategies I’d tried for managing insomnia. Though the instructor was inspiring, I was a miserable failure. I know, I know, “we don’t judge here,” says the instructor; so my negative self-assessment makes it a double failure. I couldn’t shut off my mind during meditions. I made mental to-do lists. I felt even more stressed out after the class  than before, since I’d now lost two precious hours that I could have used to catch up on work, to exercise, to alphabetize my perfume samples…  One day I caught  myself singing  “Mindfulness Drop-Out”  (to the tune of “Beauty School Dropout”) as I multitasked in the kitchen.

While I was not ready or able  to tune in to meditation per se, mindfulness  gently shaped my attitude and everyday decision-making.

The result? I’ve enjoyed this summer  even more than summers past.

Summers are tricky for academics. On the one hand we are off the hook from scheduled tasks, free to stay home and build a work day around other commitments and pleasures. We are nine-month employees. My university will not even spread the nine-month paycheck over the year.  That can be a problem for careless budgeters like me, but  the lack of paycheck is a happy reminder that we are not expected to grace the threshold of our offices for a few precious months. As an “extreme commuter” (an awful term that I wish did not apply),  I’m especially grateful for summer’s vast horizon of unscheduled time. On the other hand, academics usually have a mountain of projects and deadlines  to get through in the summer.  It’s easy to turn the sizzling days of sun and cicadas into a pressure cooker.  Packing for vacation involves selecting which and how much work to bring. Things can get frantic, especially when August comes around.

In May, shortly after the last of my not-so mindful mindfulness classes met, I found myself leaning into slowness  little by little. The result has been less time on the internet. More reading and writing, more plays, operas, movies (in actual theaters) , more conversations and dinners with friends. Productive work, blissful play, less stress all round. Let’s see if I can keep this up come September.

How is your summer going?  Anyone else slowing down? If you’ve been blogging on a similar wavelength, I hope you’ll include a link with your comments.

Here are few postcards featuring the smells of summer 2013.


In the garden

Well, more like a weed sanctuary. But the peonies and gardenia were ravishing, and now morning glory’s sweet nighttime sister, the mysterious moonflower vine, has taken over.


My garden comes alive with moonflower as the blooms twist and shimmy open at dusk.


The vine eventually takes over everything in its way.

In the running park


About my speed: geese hit the running trail after a thunderstorm.

I’ve never been much of an athlete. To wit, my gym teacher warned that if I skipped one more class I would not be allowed to graduate from high school. It was only the horror of spoiling my summer with a make-up PE course that kept me line.

In my mid-twenties I started running and have kept up more or less since.  Although I was never a fast runner, I had endurance, and even ran a few marathons. In recent years though,  I’ve been less motivated. Part if it is that I’m even slower now than when I was in my prime. This summer I’ve accepted my plodding pace. I may be too antsy for meditation and yoga, but I have the patience to run for hours on end.  I know that eventually my body will protest, but for now running is my sanctuary. I look forward to it every day.

In Canada


Prince Edward Island: fresh salt air, pungent tide pools, and wild roses.

In the Library


The structure of the summer involved weeks of travel broken up by weeks of intensive burrowing into into library stacks, borrowed rare books, microfiche, and the archives of my own home office. This is the time of year when stacks of precarious book formations rise like stalagmites from the surface of my desk, each organically composed around a specific project in progress. Ah, the smell of books.

In Prague and thereabouts


Prague was all about lilac and linden and Kafka and Mucha.

In Paris

I did more reading, writing and talking about perfume than actual sniffing. Highlights included meeting the owner of Senteur des feés, finally testing those Iunx perfumes, (I so love an ingenious sampling apparatus and a smart travel spray design), and chatting with Antonio at Marie Antoinette, one of my favorite perfume spots.  Ask Antonio to spritz and tell his story for each Oriza L. Legrand perfumes.


Refillable travel spray buy Iunx. This is Eau blanche-a spare, fresh scent that seems to capture my mood this summer.


Iunx travel spray. Ingenious! Here it is closed.


Twists like a lipstick to reveal the sprayer



















See Undina’s recent post on everything atomizers.

All photos my own.

[Apologies for the edits. Formatting seems to have a mind of its own.]


15 thoughts on “Slowly Going Slowly and Postcards from Summer 2013

  1. Walk slow
    Watch flower grow

  2. Glad to hear it’s really working for you. I also find it hard to slow down and look around, and then I realized that the time I spend online (or worrying in my head, or planning for every worst-case scenario) is already slowing me down considerably 😛 Now I’ve got a little list going of the things I notice and appreciate. Feel free to stop by if you’d like:

  3. Sorry about the edits on this post. Stubborn formatting. I’ll leave it alone now, though it’s still not right.

  4. My accelerations as well as slowing down are not seasonal so I’m just trying to breath through the day-to-day life as it comes. I’m glad you’re enjoying your summer. And I really dislike geese.

    Thank you for the link.

    • HI, Undina,
      I’m generally cautious around geese, having encountered some bossy ones. This group was sweet as can be. They were neither afraid of nor territorial around humans. Glad I could finally show you the spray gadget I tried to describe.
      Happy August!

  5. I love this post on so many levels! ‘Mindful drop-out’ really tickled me and I can definitely relate. I went to a meditation class not so long ago run by an Austrian guru of some repute, and found myself wriggling in discomfort because of sitting cross legged on a cushion for so long. My lower back kiboshed the mindfulness there, but my mind was wandering anyway to ‘to do’ lists, much like yours.

    I am in awe of you as a dedicated runner, even if you say you are more of a plodder these days. I should really take up some kind of exercise and in my 30s managed to run 8 miles once, but never anything on the grand scale of a marathon. Running must help you tune out to a degree?

    Love the quip about the stacks of precarious book formations. My father (an academic!) died entombed by dozens of such stacks, like the Old Man of Hoy repeated many times over in his tiny flat. As his daughter I fear I could be going the same way, though I did reduce my book collection by about half when I moved here.

    • Hi, Vanessa,
      I had a feeling you could relate to much of this. The connection to urban stalagmites was bonus!
      I periodically re-shelve everything, but right now I need a pith helmut to find my keyboard. And yes, running is the closest thing to meditation for me. I’m not a social runner. I get lost in my thoughts, in a clam way. But I wonder how long it will be before my knees rebel. That seems to be the fate of –well, everyone, runner or not. I would take up swimming, but it’s such a high-maintenance activity. All the changing and dripping and drying.

  6. What a timely post! I continue to go a bit slower, and am in the midst of thinking about my “online life” for lack of a better word, and whether I want to cut back even further the time I spend online. I enjoyed hearing about how you are slowing down this summer, and what it is translating to for you. Thanks for the link, as well!

    • Hi, Natalie,
      You are welcome!
      You and Vanessa and others are such regular bloggers, with such a loyal following, it must be difficult to make the decision to cut back on “online life.”
      It seems auspicious that as sporadically as I’ve been reading blogs this summer, I did not miss your post on simplifying.
      Enjoy the slow summer!

  7. And moonflowers! Double thumbs up.

    • I’m crazy about them. I planted three. Each one took off. My garden is a mess, but the mess is covered in white blooms each evening. I can’t pass them without stopping to touch them, smell them, watch them.

  8. What an absolutely beautiful post, and the photos are lovely! I’m still moving slow (hence finally catching up with the post). You have no idea what a breath of calming air reading this has given me. Thank you for the gift!!!

  9. You are too kind, Bloodyfrida!
    I had a feeling the topic would strike a chord with you. As you can tell from the infrequency of my blogging. I’m still in slow mode. And throughly enjoying it.

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