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Things I Learned in 12 Years of Bois de Jasmin

12 years is quite a milestone for a project that I started as a political science graduate student wanting a creative outlet beyond politics and economics. I picked a name, Bois de Jasmin, Jasmine Forest, fantasing of a place where I would rather be instead of a small university town, and wrote a review of Guerlain Jicky, a fragrance created in 1889, the same year the Eiffel Tower officially opened in Paris. The tower received scathing criticism–“a metal asparagus,” as one reviewer called it, while Jicky was praised as avant-garde. So I wrote about perfume classics and the time during which they were created, Balanchine ballets and the links between scent and painting. I was having fun and I thought of Bois de Jasmin as a much needed diversion. Little did I suspect that soon enough it would inspire me to make even greater changes.

When I started thinking and writing about perfume, I rebelled against the idea of olfaction as a superfluous sense. “To which organic sense do we owe the least and which seems to be the most dispensable? The sense of smell. It does not pay us to cultivate it or to refine it in order to gain enjoyment; this sense can pick up more objects of aversion than of pleasure (especially in crowded places) and besides, the pleasure coming from the sense of smell cannot be other than fleeting and transitory,” said Kant. I was discovering exactly the opposite. Paying attention to my sense of smell helped me make connections that I ordinarily wouldn’t have noticed.  It inspired me to study new subjects, travel and even learn new languages. Using my nose more often made my world infinitely richer.

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