Monday, we covered 5 new synthetic raw materials, quite normal, but one of them, isocyclocitral, was particularly intense. Almost everyone, including the teacher had a headache. Only the Japanese students and I were not effected until one day later, yesterday. In the afternoon, after the class with synthetics, I continued working, but with the naturals, all in 10% dilution in alcohol and on tester strips, smelling and relearning all of the rose family, the balsam family and the aromatics. (my nose or sense of smell has changed profoundly in the last few weeks and I must relearn everything on a much deeper level) I left school realizing that i had worked with the most raw materials in one day ever.
So then, yesterday, Tuesday, I hit my first overload. I was just into a test of 10 raw synthetic and suddenly I got really light headed and felt my blood pressure drop and heart rate speed up a bit. It was like the air got sucked out of me. That was it, for the first time, I had to call it a day and head home, chugging water, to lie down and let my body process. It was interesting to experience.
Since the beginning of the course, all of us have developed a capacity for processing/understanding/remembering more at a time. Essentially, from working so hard, we are stronger now. Interestingly, although we are stronger, we are also much more sensitive. Many of the materials that I could barely smell at the beginning are now quite strong to my nose. Now when I go for a hike, I really do feel like a blood hound. It is so easy to smell- everything and with such ease. I get nuances that I only had the faintest hints of before- and I now have a fantastic language for what I smell . For example, I can smell fresh crushed wild thyme between my fingers and realize the fruitiness of esters and the licorice of methyl chavicol as well as warm sweet notes of hay and musk with the green of cis 3 hexanol. I can dissect scent, teasing it apart into its diaphanous fibres of effect. And I know nothing yet! This is only the beginning. This is a life-long exploration.
The last few days have felt like Summer here in the south of France. Today was upwards of 25 degrees C and this evening is lovely and balmy. Finally the palm trees that dot the region actually seem appropriate! It has been so cold until recently- still winter really; just like other parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Now the leaves are budding out on all the huge old, until now, stark trees and the other day, when I was up in the mountains for a picnic, I saw that the lilacs are opening and the wild thyme that covers the rocky hillsides is beginning to bloom. The wisteria I referred to previously is just peaking in its ravenous sprawling purple splendour and the early blooming fragile pink roses that are scattered along hedges and wrought iron gates are just dropping their petals.
However, for me, none of these are as magnificent as the heady fragrance of the lemon and orange trees that are now in full bloom. On Sunday, I went to la Fete du Chocolat in a suburb of Cannes, and despite the distraction of the various chocolate vendors, I was drawn like a honeybee to the intoxicating heavy honeyed sweetness of an overgrown deserted garden that contained three large orange trees in full bloom. Rebecca had to drag me away, as I would have happily spent the afternoon there becoming more and more drunk on their perfume! This was truly my idea of heaven.
I sit here now with the windows wide and the sounds of the narrow streets below interspersed with a new bird song. Until now, the only birds I could see and hear were the pigeons, but suddenly, on Saturday afternoon, a new sound pierced the air with rather alarming shrillness. The first time I heard it, I ran to the window thinking a baby pigeon had fallen from its nest and was calling in distress. But no, this was only the beginning of a consistent presence of these small birds who flit between the buildings and shreik their incessant little songs all day long. Perhaps some sort of lark? Je ne sais pas, but I suppose they are another indication of the definite change of season.
I have wireless internet now- finally! My friend Rebecca came over this afternoon and unravelled for me the configuration so I could connect. Sometimes even a French/English dictionary is not nearly enough! Now my reports will return to some level of regularity.