Outside Looking In: Guerlain L’Heure Bleue
You should know, I suppose, that I choose the illustrations for these posts very carefully–it sometimes takes me more time to do that than it does to write. When dealing with that most quintessential of dusky scents, L’Heure Bleue (“The Blue Hour”), it took the most time yet. I knew I wanted a sunset shot, but I wanted it to convey a very particular mood, which I was having trouble finding in the very many sunset photos available. I finally settled on this one for no other reason than its resemblance to downtown Riverside Drive in my own city. But once I enlarged and inserted it, I knew it was perfect. It expresses, in a way familiar to me, the feeling of a long road home.
L’Heure Bleue was created in 1912, so it has the built-in nostalgia factor of a bygone era, especially poignant for being before the World Wars. But its nostalgia value for me is more personal.
I wanted to try LHB, loving its name and image, but I was expecting to hate it. It features anise and carnation, two of my most-detested notes. And I did indeed loathe it the first time I tried it–visions of mothballs danced through my head. What changed? I don’t know. I’m not even sure why I bothered trying it again. But then…
…still anise, still carnation, but I found them unsettling in a weirdly pleasant way. This was alienation in a bottle. For some reason, it reminded me vividly of a field trip in the fourth grade. The only thing I remember about the trip was the bus ride home. It was winter, and the sun was almost down at 4:30. I was the new kid in school (my radio-announcer stepfather moved us to a new city almost yearly) and had no friends. I was lonely and misunderstood and self-pitying. It was, well, the kind of time you write about later.
LHB’s sharp powdery opening then swirls into flowers and powder and smoke, beautiful in a blue-gray sort of way, like the unhappy memory once you’ve had time to process and make sense of it (and perhaps recast it in a more appealing light).
And then…the happy ending. The scent changes to golden vanilla with an almondy cast, as if you end your journey in a brightly-lit kitchen, filled with the smells of your grandmother’s baking (rather than the smells of my mother’s wine-inflected sauces–appetizing, but not perfume material). Or, to change metaphors, the effect of the sun still glowing on the horizon, giving hope to mortals.
Well, it’s food-related, anyway.
–Manager at McDonald’s–“Where’s the sausage-and-egg biscuit?”
–Employee–“Right there, with the red side of the paper up.”
–Mgr.–“That’s not how you’re supposed to wrap them.”
–E.–“Well, how are you supposed to wrap them?”
Let me hazard a guess–WITH THE WORDS “SAUSAGE AND EGG BISCUIT” FACING UP?? Or, for the illiterate, the orange side of the paper up.