by Dr David, Editor / Publisher
Someone who is really smart almost always denies it: "You're very smart." "No, I'm not." Not that clever myself, I can only guess that this is because people who are smart know that there still is a lot that they don't know.
I see the opposite of this on social media during my brief forays into the Twitter-verse. There, especially in the comment sections, are a lot of not very bright people revealing it publicly. If your world is very small, I suppose you can imagine that you know it all.
It may be that our appreciation of genius, like our appreciation of beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Joe Cocker's "You are so beautiful to me" would be stronger praise without the last two words.
To my eye the vast majority of actresses and models are only almost beautiful. On the other hand, I had a girlfriend, Alyssa, before whom other women would stop and stare, immobilized mid-stride in the market or on the street. And Alyssa never wore any makeup, took time getting dressed or, as far as I knew in our seven years together, even combed her hair, which she chopped off periodically without regard for fashion, without even standing in front of a mirror.
I am in the awkward position of being able to recognize beauty and genius without myself having very much of either. I do have a talent with words, an ability to explain, which I hope will be somewhat demonstrated herein.
Yesterday, I went to visit Aaron Reisfield in his lofty home at the top of Colonia Ojo de Agua. There are houses higher up the hill than his, but you have to reach those from above, using Calle Xichu. So far Aaron has only built, and now resides in, his first floor, the "basement" as he calls it. I'm not going to go House and Gardens on you, but the "basement" is gorgeous; open, airy, light-filled. Still, it is his garden, on the other side of the windows, of which Aaron is particularly fond. Although, as with smart people regarding their intelligence, Aaron is modest, quick to point out that this is his first try at landscaping.
Aaron invited me up to talk about publicizing his scent salons and to show me the garden where he plans to offer them. Jasper Johns once walking by a classroom where William de Kooning was lecturing (but I may have those characters reversed) stuck his head in the door and asked derisively, "Are we talking about art again?" So too, it is difficult to talk about scents, but let me try.
On a previous visit to Aaron's prior abode he produced a smallish white box. Opening it he revealed several dozen clear glass vials. Like a musician reverently selecting a note, Aaron took and opened a vial, dipped in a strip of paper and gave it to me to savor the fragrance. What I inhaled, far from a single note, was a symphony of perfume, scented themes twining and separating, rising and falling, overtones and harmonies. As the final act (one cannot repeat this ecstasy many times as the nose soon becomes overwhelmed) Aaron took up a small piece of some tropical wood and put a match to it. Blowing out the tiny flame produced by this act, he urged me to inhale the thin band of smoke, the brief trail of incense rising from the splinter. Without doubt, it was the most exquisite olfactory experience of my life.
Aaron is not much easier to put into words than are his scents. He is a master regarding aromatic plants, having published papers on botany and a trilogy of books entitled The Perfume of Life.
If you haven't attended any, the salons he hosts are hard to imagine. They're not anything like a typical essential oil meetup. The subjects covered go deeper than most essential oil enthusiasts are used to. The salon is based on the premise of Aaron's book series, that the fundamental language of life is fragrance, that plant perfumes are uniquely suited to relate the story of life on earth, and, then, the state and fate of living nature.
Aaron reminded me that biology is a fluid science, lacking the axioms and proofs of mathematics or physics. With biology, with living nature, there is always something, something important, left out of the scientific description.
Genius and madness have a lot in common. The madman gets lost in and is tormented by the infinite possibilities that the genius somehow manages to surf and arrange into beauty.
The myriad complexities of existence: dimensions, levels, ramifications, implications... need a focus. The intense revelation of truth requires a vessel to contain it. His salons provide that focus. His garden is an arena to reveal nature's aromatic truths. Aaron himself is an initiate, a psychopomp, a guide to another world.
Unable to hold fast to such high levels of genius myself, the proof of such exalted revelations has always seemed to me to be how well they translate onto ordinary life. Smell is the most primitive sense, preceding sight by hundreds of millions of years. Smell affects us humans in the most primal way. Yesterday, coming down San Miguel's little mountain, descending from Aaron's lofty abode, in the gathering twilight, the heat of the day already past, the world indeed seemed different, in some primal way, to exhale a different aroma. Come yourself and pick up on the scent.
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