Olfactory Fatigue

Don’t panic if when working with perfume, you suddenly lose your sense of smell. It happened to me last week.

Completely freaked out, it took me awhile to realize that I was surrounded with intense aromas. I had just opened a new vial of Rose C02; smelling strips from a bottle of aged ambergris tincture were sitting on the counter, and I had also been sniffing some rare ouds. My head was spinning.

The next day, my sense of smell was better, but my heart wasn’t into my usual smelling routine. My nose had had it. So had my brain; I was exhausted. 

I set about concealing aromatic sources in the lab. I now keep all my working materials—some test-tube racks and bottles in various trays—in a covered box when I’m not using them. My “organ” of little bottles now resides in covered drawers. I don’t leave anything out except ethanol. When I’m done with my smelling strips, I seal them in one of the tin boxes we use for sending out samples. 

Kate says the smell has lessened. My sense of smell is coming back, but my brain needs a reset, a short period of rest to regain needed points of reference and a bit of distance. I need a fresh look.

To further reduce the olfactory muddle filling the room, I want even purer air. It’s too cold in Brooklyn to open the windows this time of year. A hood would help, but that’s complicated and expensive.

I bought an ozone generator, but haven’t used it yet, because it scares me. Having ozone float around my old books and other prized possessions leaves me a bit unnerved. 

I’m taking a break from working on Black Iris, I need to see it from afar. I need a little objectivity— and a little more air.