Under an orange cloud: Divine

As someone predisposed toward natural perfumes, I soon gravitated to the website of Providence Perfume Company, a botanical perfume company based in Rhode Island. I’d check their website from time to time, first telling myself “No. You have enough”, then musing “But…what would I buy?”

At first the choice seemed clear…one of PPC’s six perfume oils. Or maybe—just maybe—I’d make an exception to my hatred of alcohol-based perfumes and get the much-lauded Provanilla, with its notes of vanilla (of course) and melon. But something kept bringing me back to Divine.

Here’s how PPC describes it:

Inspired by a glamorous friend who is never without her red lipstick. Upon sampling this scent, she threw back her head and declared it, “Simply DIVINE!” A beautiful melange of Moroccan orange blossom, red mandarin, queen neroli, lush vanilla, natural musk ambrette and vintage oakmoss. Sexy, warm and feminine. A perennial customer favorite.

Well. None of that sounds very me, does it? Except I kept coming back and coming back. Then I noticed it did check a few of my usual boxes. Ambrette? Vanilla? Yes and yes. And vintage oakmoss? I’m not sure what that means, but it must be special, right? Sure enough, I placed an order in due time, hands shaking and conscience guilty.

When my package arrived, I have to admit I was taken aback by the strong scent of orange (mixed with alcohol, ugh) emanating from the bottle. I’m not generally fond of citrus scents, and this was one seemed quite sharp. I was worried. Then I put it on my skin.

This is no simple citrus perfume. It’s not fresh, it’s not invigorating. It’s not clean.

Something warm and hectic, a fever, underlies the fierce orange. The hot, sticky and unsavoury quality of a sickbed mingles with a sweet vanilla. I’m guessing some combination of the musk ambrette and the oakmoss makes this one so fraught.

But it’s not unpleasant. It gets under your skin.

It’s a dark orange cloud overhead on a dark day, a hint of bright sweetness in a fog. And though it rises up with startling projection when first applied (from a roller bottle in my case—another reason I love PPC just as much as I hate to spray—it settles quickly into a low-lying mist of soft and sweet burnt orange. Musk cotton candy, voluptuous and sad.

Maybe it’s just the name, but it reminds me of another Divine that pulls me in. I guess what I mean is, you could do worse. Much worse.


Packing my snow boots


Work called me back for a few days so once again, I’ll be visiting Ottawa.

It’s a funny thing.

When I first moved to Ottawa in 2007, I couldn’t wait to get out and get back to the West coast. Other than morbid fascination, I saw no reason to stay in such an inhospitable place.

Even when I resigned myself to staying a while, I didn’t have much love for it. Next to the glass and metal of Vancouver, Ottawa streetscapes looked old, worn and broken down.

Living in one shabby shared apartment after another, I whiled away the wintry days, wishing I was back home. Walking up and down the streets, to the public library and the grocery store, I couldn’t imagine I’d climb out of the hole the move had put me in.

But over the course of years, new friends, work and heartbreak brought me out of my icy cave. Then, I met someone who wouldn’t break my heart and we finally skipped town.

Today, I live in Vancouver while my phone and keyboard connect me to Ottawa nearly every day. Still, returning physically always brings back memories.

Zipping up and down bilingual elevators, waiting at a snowy bus stop in crowds of the bitter and resigned, walking home along snowy streets between tall brick houses.

The people I met, well dressed and amused or grimly ambitious.

But I came across a quote by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche today:

Self-deception means trying to recreate a past experience again and again, instead of actually having the experience in the present moment. Self-deception needs the idea of evaluation and a very long memory. Thinking back, we feel nostalgic, getting a kick from our memories, but we do not know where we are at this very moment.”

It’s something to think about. Vancouver was my Ottawa once and I suppose it will be again down the line.