Sunshine Compressed

hayNot everyone grew up on a farm, so I can’t blame people for not recognizing August or the first week or two of September as the time when the second haying occurs.  Hay, for urbanites and suburbanites, is something abstract, something horses eat, something you once smelled while visiting cousins who had it in a barn.

For the rest of us, hay is a remarkably versatile product.  If your parents had the kind of hay bailers that bound up the hay in dense elongated cubes, then it was the basis of an impromptu architecture that you erected in the barn yourself.  You could make hay mansions, with windows, and look out onto your summertime world.

None were lasting.  Remember the fable of the three little pigs?  The little pig who built his house of house of straw soon had it blown down by the big bad wolf, this in contrast to the pig who built of bricks. I remember the story and yes, I’d choose brick myself for permanent structures, but what is permanence?

Perhaps I’d understand if I were immortal, but being ephemeral myself, I know that all structures ultimately are built of hay, no matter what we think, because the hot breath of Time blows everything down in the end. It doesn’t matter what we use, and straw, compressed like the memories of a past summer full of sun, is just as durable as mud dried brick.  That’s my guess, anyhow.

So that was what I thought of when I first smelled the old sample of Andy Warhol’s favorite fragrance, With Pleasure: hay, compressed sunlight in mown meadows, I said to myself.  I don’t know of course if that was what Andy smelled.  There is no asking him now, but the old perfume had a discreet beginning that fooled me into thinking that it had been damaged by the decades and had no radiance left. That was why I was so floored when the mother of all perfume rushes hit me about twenty minutes later.

The perfume had gained lift, and opened out, like the view under a plane that has hit cruising altitude, and the countryside that fanned out hundreds of feet below was the summertime green of meadows seen after you cross the cliffs of Dover and know you are over England.  Green saturated with blue, and after the baking of a sunny July, almost equally toasted gold.  This green was the color of With Pleasure, a rural smell of great naturalness and infectious joy.

With Pleasure is one of the happiest scents I’ve ever smelled.  There is something about it, the hay, the grass, the flowers, that reminds you of barn swings and the exuberance of  one good swing out into the bright sunlight of a late summer afternoon.  Honestly, I can’t think of another fragrance so full of high spirits.  Perhaps happiness is out of style, but in a world full of anti depressants, I can’t help but wish With Pleasure were still in production.

It’s unfair to write about a perfume that doesn’t really exist anymore, and you’re right to complain, but if we none of us know how wonderful scent can be at its best, then we no longer know what standard to hold the best perfumes to. With Pleasure answers at least one question I had at the back of my mind for a long time.  Did Warhol know what beauty really was? Or did he stop at silk screened soup cans and self promotion?

Now I know. He did.

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10 thoughts on “Sunshine Compressed

    • Mostly, I know a chap who knows a chap- as my husband puts it. This was a little sample of an old boutique. (Notice I was sloppy and didn’t say Caron.) The scent dates from 1939, though my sample came from the 80’s. Andy Warhol was a fan and used to buy it frequently. He also loved Estee Lauder’s Beautiful, or so I’m told.

      We none of us discuss Beautiful, and I don’t know how you feel about that one. I’d bet you’d like some of the old green Lauder’s like Private Collection.

      • Yeah, I looked it up and figured out you were writing about Caron’s perfume.
        I like Beautiful on other people but it doesn’t work for me and I’ve never smelled PC. The only EL I like and wear is Tuscany per Donna.

        • Mals swears she can’t wear any of them because of something in the dry down. Tuscany per Donna is pretty though, and I don’t get anything weird in the second part.

          Have a bro in law who always wears Tuscany for Men. Like that too, though it’s assertive.

      • I love the classic Lauders: Youth Dew not so much, but Beautiful, PC, Pleasures and White Linen. The trouble with them, esp. Beautiful and Pleasures, is that they have been so wildly popular that they have become cliches. I’m always a bit worried that I’m going to annoy someone near me with a memory of some scary school teacher or overbearing, over made-up aunt. Elizabeth Taylor’s perfumes carry the same danger. A pity. In themselves, many of them are superb pieces of work.

        • And who wants to smell cliche-ed?

          I take your point. The Lauders have changed over time, though White Linen very little to my nose (which may be off here). Beautiful when first done in -the 80’s was it? Was actually beautiful. I don’t blame Warhol for loving it.
          Private Collection is lovely and a family member wore that. Love it, and if it had not been a Lauder could very well see it having been a Chanel, somewhere in between Givenchy III and No 19. Gorgeous.

  1. ‘Compressed sunshine’ sounds so evocative. I can barely imagine this fragrance, but I do get the imagery of the world opening up from under the plane. Always breathtaking. Lucky you to have found this. If I could draw you a little sun with rays sticking out on my computer, I would.

    • Love the idea of the little sun drawing! This is a very sunny perfume indeed.

      Now I am trying to think of anything modern that approximates it. I was going to say Serge Lutens Chergui, but C is not green at all, and With Pleasure is very green and has a lot of jasmine in it. Say, child of Chergui and La Chasse aux Papillions. Does that sound crazy? It works, though!

  2. Such beautiful writing, Blacknall. Even though I hated “haying time” and the job of stacking those scratchy bales in the high heat and humidity of a Pennsylvania summer, I knew that hay was the most important crop on our farm – far more essential than field corn, even, though we grew that too. And my sisters and I did love the hay loft come winter time, when we did just what you said: made our hay mansions.

    “With Pleasure” sounds sublime and like it lived up to its name. And I love how you ended this post, with the question (and your own reply to it) about Andy Warhol. I always wondered the same thing, and now I know.

    • Sorry that this is one comment I overlooked. My bad, indeed.

      It’s nice to know that someone else in the perfume world had the same experience with hay. I’ve always loved the smell and associated it with much the same part of the world, Maryland and Pennsylavania those states with rolling green fields. I expect Warhol did as well and maybe this was the smell of part of his childhood… At any rate, I hope it was.

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