Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Mr Yin's patchouli always precedes his elegant arrival. His wife buys it, he tells me. He doesn't know where from, but I can tell it is the real thing. There is such a thing as 'wrong patchouli'. Sometimes, whether the manufacturers have dodgeyed the mix or the plant herself is having a bad week, a bottle of patchouli can be a bit wrong. But when patchouli sings, it sings the essence of warm and sensual beings, of lightness in spirit and journeys into the deep, musty secrets of the earth.

I've followed women around in supermarkets with my nose, sniffing out wandering trails of heavenly scent, usually to find an old friend, dressed in Gypsy Rose market gear in the shampoo section, puzzling over the 'natural' ingredients that swim in sodium laureath sulphate and plastic. I met a Sanyassin man once in my dizzy youth, who was short and giggling and wore purple pants. It was not his pants, or the relentless laughing or the exotic beckoning of other worlds and spiritualities that suckered me. He was drenched in patchouli and I just wanted to have babies with him because he smelled so damn good.

"We had to watch a rat dissection, in year ten science," a staunch vegetarian told me, "And the girl sitting next to me was wearing patchouli. The smell makes me want to vomit to this day."
In my year ten, no one had heard of patchouli. Three dollar aerosol cans of Impulse were the scent scene. This nasty epitome of the utter lack of earthy inspiration that was the 1980's combined nicely with Madonna, George Michael, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran ... I had problems during high school. For some reason, I just didn't fit in.

A conversation in a cafe:
"What perfume are you wearing?"
And his eyes went on a quiet little journey into past love affairs. When he finally returned, he told me, "I used to know a girl who wore patchouli."
A few weeks later, I noticed his wife smelt ... rather good. "Yes, ---- bought it for me! He wanted me to wear patchouli."
No, I did not say a word, just put it in my little story bank and left it there.

Image (they are badges! very groovy!)


  1. Ah yes, patchouli. Curiously, I wear it nearly every day...because I like it. But the number of times someone has walked into a room and said "Oh it smells so good in here" are countless. I am never the suspect. Apparently, I don't look like a girl who would wear scents.

    I love patchouli and I'm not a hippie. That can go on my badge.

    Nice reflection Sarah. It has me thinking.

    Thanks for the post.

  2. Nice. Yes, smell holds such powerful memories. My nose is extremely sensitive and it can make me feel repulsed by some people who just don't smell right. It can be a disadvantage, particularly when they think the chemical perfume smell is so good. Yuk, that makes me want to vomit. I reckon the difference might be that something like patchouli adds to the body smell, drawing out the natural odours, the other stuff tries to cover it up and that makes me think people are trying to hide something.

  3. Thanks for your comment Sontag, and Michelle, you are so right, I think you got the patchouli thing just right!