Carob Blossoms

Carob in Bloom
There are two carob trees by my house, a long-married couple, male and female, probably centennials. The male lives right beside my porch and dining room windows. I built the house right next to it on purpose: It gives shade and privacy, and lowers the temperatures in the building  by almost 5 degrees. But nothing is for free in this world, as they say, and the price we pay comes when the carob trees are mating, trying to make little carob "beans", also known to some as St. John's Bread. Carobs are generally edible, but this female produces dry and bland fruit, which only grafting could fix.  

Carob Blossoms
Carob buds, red and innocent, before the open and assault the senses with their pollen and perfume. As you can see, the tree doesn't waste any space and brings flowers from every inch of its body: branches large and small, and even the trunks shoot out little tine columns covered with sulfur-yellow pollen. The female flowers are scentless and just look like clusters of tiny green carobs...

Carob Blossoms

The smell of the male flowers is a nostalgic memory from the many falls I spent as a child playing under these trees and resting in their shade. To me it's a basic childhood memory like glue, pencil shaving and your favourite ice cream bar. However, anyone who comes into contact with these trees after reaching sexual maturity, would find the aroma vulgar if not repulsive. This botanical replica of the juicy secretions of male and female copulating is bang-on. Except for one thing: this botanical orgasm will last for about a month.

P.s. There is a scientific explanation for the sexual smell of carob blossoms: They contain the polyamine Cadaverine,  which is also found in human semen (and cadavers...), which is produced by breaking down the amino acid Lysine. Of course the carob tree does that in order to attract insects that typically feed on cadavers.



"C'est drôle, l'absence... Il me semble que Guy est parti depuis des années. Quand je regarde cette photo j'oublie jusqu'à son visage, et quand je pense à lui c'est cette photo que je vois. C'est tout ce qui me reste de lui.
(Absence is a funny thing. I feel like Guy left years ago. I look at this photo, and I forget what he really looks like. When I think of him, it's this photo that I see." 
- Jacques Demy's Geneviève Emery in Le Parapluie de Cherbourg

Absence leaves a negative space that at first feels like a soaring pain. The silence hurts the ears and sends shivers down the spine like creaking chalk on a blackboard; the empty seat is a constant reminder of anticipation for something that cannot be. Every bit of the routine when that person used to participate has the sense of a phantom presence - the mind fills in the gap with an internal dialogues and scripts.

This void is painfully palpable when it has a trail of scent behind it: A grandparent's scent in their home after they've passed away, lingering after their last breath was exhaled - reminding of the life they've lived, the food they cooked, still nourishing those who are left behind; A lover's scent on their pillow or the scarf they've left behind.

Whether if the person's return is anticipated or not makes the perception of it either immensely painful or pleasurable (though the latter in a bittersweet way). What used to be a comforting, nostalgic perfume that creates the illusion of closeness to grandma, now pinches the heart because she is now gone.

But if the hope is there - I savour every bit of Eternity that clang to the T-shirt that you forgot to pack, and more importantly - your own smell that is hiding underneath. And I am afraid it will disappear every time I smell it. I'm wondering if you'll return before it loses its scent completely. Yet I'm consoled that at least in your suitcase there are the healing oils that will accompany you on your journey. Scented things that maybe will make you feel like I'm by your side sometimes.

Who Wears Who?

Finally, scientists took the time to discover what I knew all along from my "clinical" experience: Our body chemistry enhances perfume's odour. We pick scents based on how they interact with our body chemistry. This is supposed to have some biological functions on choosing mates and what not.

Unlike most mass-produced perfumes on the market, which are designed to interact with paper strips and fabric ribbons - I treat the wearer's skin as the finishing touch to my creations. It is the "last ingredient" - only that it is not added to the vial (most perfumers do not work like Grenouille!) - but serves as the receptacle itself, upon which the perfume will develop and unfold.  

Monkey Monday: Stinky Humans

Let's welcome Stinky!

What is your natural body odour and is it really all that bad? Good questions, which is tough to answer in our scrubbed-clean world. What part of our perception of body odour is due to cultural restrictions and norms? And what part of it is true biological/scientific fact? That would be hard to tell.

Unfortunately, most of the instances when we encounter unwashed people, they are not necessarily healthy. Unfortunately, the limited access to hygene and showers is more often than never a side effect of drug/alcohol abuse, and comes with side effects of bad nutrition and other ailments.

For the sake of science - perhaps you might consider this exercise: try to not bathe for a week, and see if you like what you smell... Or you may bathe, but use water only, just as animals would in nature. No soap, detergents, or any man-made accessories that might temper with one's true natural odour. See how you really smell...

According to Avery Gilbert's The Nose Knows, humans are stinky by default. We are better at stinking than skunks, because unlike their enemy-activated stink release mechanism, we stink 24/7. We don't make that great of a meal, and animals would have to be very hungry to consider us as prey... The Jungle Book also alludes to that matter, as the animals mostly have great respect to human's flesh, and it's considered a tabu to eat it (except for the ruthless tiger in the story).

In fact, we stink so badly that through years of evolution humans have developed complex strategies for reducing their natural scent to a more toned-down, palatable state: we invented soaps and scents to remove our body odours and mask it with that of other, better-equipped animal scents such as whale vomit, sexual secretions of deer and civet cats, and even the aromatic feces of hyrax!
And, of course there are also the more romantic sounding sources such as plant genitalia (aka flowers), and their other organs - roots, bark, fruit and leaves.

In our many years of  distancing ourselves from our real (disgusting) scent, we have romanticized body odour to the point that some of us crave it - though unknowingly, only in its muted states. We tend to think of body odour as this sexy, uncontrollable aspect of our beings, full of irresistible pheromones. There is some of that, true. But mostly - we stink. Honestly, if it wasn't for the healthy amounts of soap to wash the sweat daily, it will build up to a rather ungodly size of oily, rancid sillage (or shall I say silage? The scent would be about as bad...!).

People tend to talk about perfume as an article of pure luxury, an unnecessary addiction, an auxiliary supplement that is frivolous and excessive. I beg to differ. Perfume is necessary to overcome the human stench. Little doses of it are ok, if they are scrubbed off on a regular basis within a human bathing establishment - rituals of which take place for thousands of years in most civilized places. Other animals might enjoy cleaning each other with their tongues. Humans usually recoil at the idea unless the person is smeared with chocolate, or was freshly bathed.  

In less civilized places (i.e.: Europe), perfuming with lavish amounts of Aqua Mirabillis (aka eaux de cologne) would replace the act of bathing, and thank goodness at least they did that in the days of open sewage. These alcoholic-based tinctures of bacteria-combating compounds found in citrus, herbs and spices had a triple-purpose of  masking, deodorizing, as well as disinfecting.

Now, thanks to the rise of both hygiene and perfume technology, humans have gone to the other extreme - where we sport very little scent of our own if at all. It's always tempered by our surrounding, which is highly scented whether if we like it or not. As an aside note - I'd like to mention that unlike the increasingly popular belief that fine fragrances are the enemy of your environment's purity; I believe it is more so the functional fragrance practices of scenting anything from plastics, paints and toys to house cleaning products and laundry detergents that is bombarding our systems with toxic chemicals - not to mention the pollution from cars, factories and industrial farming; multiple-chemical-sensitive people are picking on the wrong target, in my humble opinion).

I hope by now you're not all completely grossed out by our smell... We certainly have some good spots. Our babies smell amazing, for one thing. And body odour is not just one gigantic mass of stench. It can be broken down and analyzed to different body parts and sources of human odours - some of which are pleasant and beautiful. Like a baby's crown and mother's milk; and when getting to know your lover I'm sure you will notice a lot of wondrous scents in secret places. But that should probably belong to another post...

Now, to this week's contest: leave a comment with your thoguhts on the subject - are humans just plain stinky? Or are we too used to smelling "clean"?
Winner will receive a beautiful deluxe package of Persephenie's scented body products in a silk pouch.
Back to the top