Spring: 79 posts

My favorite springtime scents

Contemplating a Peony : 5 Perfumes for the Peony Viewing

Cherry blossoms may be the flowers most strongly associated with Japan, but the peony is another beloved bloom. If you visit Tokyo in late spring, you can spend your days wandering the most beautiful peony gardens. The most striking peonies are the ones called botan in Japanese, or tree peony. They indeed appear as if they’re growing on trees, and their flowers are much larger than the more familiar stem peonies known as shakuyaku. Their colors, textures and, of course, scents vary dramatically.

So I’ve selected several fragrances that use peony in different ways, ranging from fresh and light to dark and warm. I also would like to share several favorite spots in Tokyo where peonies are displayed in all of their splendor. While going there is not possible for most of us, we can still admire the photos on line and dream up our perfect peony perfume.

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Make Time for Yourself and Banish Guilt

If a person with children and living in an extended family were to write my article How to Handle Self-Isolation and Not Lose One’s Mind, they would instead title it How to Survive Quarantine and Not Kill One’s Family. Then again, they probably wouldn’t even write it, because they would be too busy being a career professional, cook, cleaner, and school teacher. All of this in addition to the general anxiety. Since most of the household responsibilities fall on the shoulders of women, many of my female friends are finding this period of confinement stressful. Whether they live in New York, Tehran or Kyiv, the problems are the same–they are under pressure from their employers, schools and their families.

Far more qualified people than me can give advice on how to manage home schooling, household responsibilities and children. On these pages I can only provide comfort, distraction, and a reminder that taking a moment out of a day for oneself is crucial. And that such moments shouldn’t be tainted by guilt.

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How to Handle Self-Isolation and Not Lose One’s Mind

My daily routine during intense writing periods is almost always the same. During the week, I wake up at 6am, start working at 7am and continue until 5-6pm, with lunch, coffee break and language lessons in between. I’m so preoccupied throughout the day that I don’t see anyone in person other than my husband and the local shop owners during the week. I usually save weekends for friends and other social activities. So, the new quarantine and lockdown rules that are becoming strictly enforced here don’t change my routine dramatically. This is not the case for many others. “How do you manage to work at home and not lose your mind?” my friends ask me.

Create Your Community

While I require solitude when I work, being part of a community is essential to me. Over the years I’ve gravitated to such communities of people. Those of you coming to Bois de Jasmin, for instance, comprise one of those communities. I enjoy the conversations I have with you, whether they’re about scents, books, embroidery or random observations on life in general.

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Haft Seen for Celebrating New Life and New Spring

Persian New Year is on March 20th this year, and as always, I set up my haft seen, or Nowruz sofreh–a presentation of 7 auspicious objects that start with the Persian letter “S.” I’ve written previously about this tradition, and why the celebration of the vernal equinox, the start of a new year, is such a meaningful custom. Nowruz is a secular holiday with Zoroastrian roots that is celebrated today by people of many different faiths not only in Iran, but in many other countries from Albania and Turkey to Afghanistan and India. Every community has its slightly different ways of marking the start of the new year, but what unites them is the celebration of life and renewal.

This year I’ve set up my haft seen quite early, during the last week of February, because I needed it as a reminder of hope and regeneration.

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Green Perfumes : Spring Inside You

I grew up in the city, but every summer I traveled to Poltava to spend several months with my great-grandparents. In the Soviet Union, grandparents functioned almost like a second pair of parents and such an arrangement was normal. My great-grandparents, Asya and Sergiy, lived in a village near Poltava, and their parenting was down-to-earth, literally. From an early age I knew how to prune tomatoes, plant beans and trim rose bushes to grow one perfect blossom. Asya and Sergiy are no longer alive, but we still have their garden. When I return to their village, I find myself remembering how to do things I haven’t done for ages–planting, weeding, or pruning.

February is still a month when one can only talk about new planting projects, but I like to walk around the garden and see how it’s wintering. Lately, I’ve been reminded of a scent I always associate with spring–that of fresh buds. Cut a few branches and place them in warm water. A couple of days later, the buds start to burst and their scent of green leaves, bitter sap and sweet woods is the embodiment of spring.

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