We have all heard the old adage, “Ladies don’t sweat, they glisten.” Well, the dog days of summer are upon us, and glistening has become routine. A handkerchief, that most basic of accessories, has long served the purpose of dabbing a dampened brow. But the full span of its historical significance bears examination.
August boasts the brilliant red poppy as its signature flower. The poppy has been sought after for centuries for its vibrant hue, edible seeds, and narcotic properties. But in the early 20th century, it gained a whole new significance.
Pop the cork…today we celebrate the invention of champagne! The man responsible was a Benedictine monk by the name of Dom Perignon. As director of the abbey wine cellar, Perignon was charged with the task of ridding the abbey’s homemade sparkling wine of its pesky bubbles. Perignon failed to do so, but as legend has it, he tasted his failed vintage and exclaimed, “Come quickly! I am drinking the stars!” And so champagne was born…
“As perfume doth remain, in the folds where it hath lain, so the thought of you, remaining deeply folded in my brain, will not leave me: all things leave me: You remain.” -Arthur Symons
I believe the olfactory sense is the most underrated. Aroma arouses subconscious moods, unearthing ancient and nearly forgotten emotions of early youth. When I was little, Woolworths would offer tiny bottles of headache-inducing “Blue Waltz” and “Midnight in Paris” for a mere dime that I invested for well-intended Mother’s Day remembrances. I have fond recollections of my sisters and me smearing honeysuckle blossoms on our skin after extracting the bead of honey on our tongues. The mustiness of geraniums and irises conjures early summer bliss. Even sunshine had a fragrance that clothesline garments absorbed. The wild mint that grew profusely along our fence would infuse our tea with a tingling burst.
Signature scents remind us of someone we know who douses the fragrance because it speaks to them. A subtle scent lingered upon our mother’s handkerchiefs while the brand of soap or shaving cream our father used could be detected when he would embrace us. Spicy musk, innocent powders, romantic florals, clean citrus…our partiality towards a perfume denotes our tendencies. Christian Dior is quoted as saying “A woman’s perfume tells more about her than her handwriting.”
While the history of carnival celebrations can be traced across the globe over many centuries, the modern-day carnival concept was truly a 19th century invention, originating at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Shortly thereafter, carnival companies began touring the nation, performing at county fairs and civic events. They lured in the crowds with their tantalizing advertisements for a variety show of wild animals, “freaks,” minstrel acts, magic tricks, thrilling acrobatic feats, and a curated collection of exotic curiosities.
The sands are alive with sunshine,
The bathers lounge and throng,
And out in the bay a bugle
Is lilting a gallant song.
The clouds go racing eastward,
The blithe wind cannot rest,
And a shard on the shingle flashes
Like the shining soul of a jest;
While children romp in the surges,
And sweethearts wander free,
And the Firth as with laughter dimples…
I would it were deep over me!
~ William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)
Painting: “Shores of Bognor Regis” by Alexander Mann (1853-1908)