Writing my way through the A-to-Z blogging challenge, I’ve tasked myself with creating a manifesto reflecting wonders, curiosities, and delights currently captivating me – all through the lens of unusual, obscure, or simply charming-to-me words.
J is for…
- another term for jasmine
- the color yellow as in yellow jasmine
- “jessamy” gloves – kid gloves perfumed with jasmine
I love jessamy, not only for what it means, but the fact that it somehow represents a beautiful, ever-unfolding journey for me.
As a natural perfumer and an aromatherapist, it’s probably not surprising that I like jasmine. Its fragrance is sublime and amazing, and with over 200 plants in the jasmine family, there are a wealth of plants to discover and love.
Almost twenty years ago I discovered a book by author and artist Ann Lewis that I found crazily inspiring. It’s called Confederate Jasmine and the Fat Tuesday Tree: A Poetic Herbarium.
Leaving the American Deep South when she was a young child, as an adult she returned on a journey of discovery, moving through the landscape and chatting casually with locals. The book is organized around various plants and a particular encounter she had with someone there. As part of each short essay, she created a mixed media collage incorporating an image of the plant discussed.
The book sparked something in me, a kind of thing I’ve never quite understood. It made me want to write a book like that. A personal exploration of something important to me that invited me to create a body of work of accompanying assemblages. I didn’t follow that call directly, although perhaps I still will some day. But the Muse’s whisper has always been there, and I’ve come to think of it as a wafting of jessamy woven through all my creative work. It certainly inspired me to start creating botanical talismans; it encouraged me to work with plants in deeper, more meaningful ways, understanding that we can create life-long relationships. And it was the beginning of my trips down many rabbit holes in my exploration of jasmine itself.
Although I mentioned there are over 200 varieties of jasmine, Confederate Jasmine (also known as star jasmine) and Carolina jasmine (also known as Carolina jessamine) both belong to different plant families, and neither is a member of the genus Jasminum.
In my years-long, continuing exploration of jasmines (and faux jasmines), one of the most delightful discoveries I’ve made was the existence of perfumed gloves very much in vogue in the 16th and 17th centuries. “Jessamy gloves” were those scented with jasmine, and it was particularly popular to gift them both as New Year’s and Valentine’s gifts.
I confess I love hands and have collected quite a few over the years,. Yet I remember quite clearly the delight when I found the above pictured larger white porcelain one in a bin at the American Science and Surplus store, home of the strange and wonderful hidden among the simply strange and peculiar and who-would-want-that?! stuff.
Given that I’m clearly not a minimalist and my home is not exactly appropriately expansive given my penchant for collecting, things do tend to have to multi-task around here. Hence she’s holding several other treasures. First there is the awesome glove – gifted to me by a mailart friend in England who was encouraging my fashionista fantasies. Alas the glove lost her mate somewhere long before she came to me, but it hardly matters because her singularity is totally made up by her fabulousity. She’s sheer and embroidered with pink and green squares! Be still my heart. To be honest I think having two such beauties together in the same room would probably burn your eyeballs out so I’m glad there’s only one. And of course, there’s no point in being a natural perfumer if you don’t utilize the scents you create, so of course my singular glove indeed carries a bit of scent. So I can officially claim it is a jessamy glove.
Yet a hand can’t just live by glove alone. No – there must be jewelry!!! And in this particular case there is an exquisite poison ring adornment. Not that I keep poison in the storage area – I prefer tiny tiny treasures, often, need I say, perfumed floral treasure bits. However, referring to it as a tiny-tiny-treasure ring lacks the certain mystique poison ring conveys. I certainly think it adds a bit of mystique as well having the ring perched up at top of the finger like that. It in no way suggests that the finger is too big for the proper placement of the ring. Perish the thought.
Needless to say it’s always ideal, no matter what the circumstances, to keep one’s head. In this case it happens to be a delightfully rouge-cheeked head. Which is always at hand when needed.
I celebrate living in a world of jessamy. I deeply appreciate beautiful fragrance and its magical ability to take one to both expected and unexpected places.
Do certain scents speak to you? Love jessamy yellow? Wonder what it must have been like to live in times of perfumed gloves and poison rings? Do tell – you know I love to hear.