Scent Semantics is a new monthly perfume blogger collaboration curated by Portia Turbo to bring together six writers from around the world to meditate on a single word, and then write about a fragrance they’ve chosen that best represents it.

Semantics (from Ancient Greek: σημαντικός sēmantikós, “significant”)[a][1] is the study of meaning, reference, or truth. The term can be used to refer to subfields of several distinct disciplines, including philosophy, linguistics and computer science.”

This month, Portia has asked us to apply the word BRAVE to a single scent.

When I first saw this month’s word, my initial thought was that I have not felt particularly BRAVE for the past year and a half. 

If anything, I have felt the opposite of brave: I have felt SCARED.

Scared and anxious for my family, friends, colleagues, and students. Scared for the future in the face of a seemingly endless pandemic, extreme weather due to climate change, increasing misinformation, distrust of institutions and experts, and entrenched political polarization. Resigned to possibly never feeling truly relaxed on a plane, in a train, or in an automobile ever again. Saddened by the possibility that hugs will always be cautious and kisses on the cheek will continue to feel unsafe.

But the more I considered it, the more I realized that there have been BRAVE moments. Not big acts of bravery like saving a trapped child from a ravine (don’t ask me why that example came to my mind first), but a myriad of little ones. These micro-acts of bravery included going grocery shopping in those early days of the pandemic when the world was shut down, locked up, and under quarantine. Ordering in to support my favorite restaurants when we weren’t sure how the virus was spread and contactless delivery seemed frightening to both deliverer and deliveree. Shivering six-feet apart from a friend on a park bench before vaccines were widely available.

It’s funny to think of how different the world is now. 

I’m back on campus for the first time in 2.5 semesters. Is it still strange? Yes. Not only does every masked face remind me of that, but also every sweaty, reduced breath through my K-95 mask (especially during long lectures). To be honest, sometimes I have to duck into an empty classroom just so I can take my mask off for a few precious minutes and exhale.

In those moments, especially right after I peel my mask off my face, I can really perceive the fragrance that I am wearing. K-95 masks blessedly filter out virus particles, but they also filter and muffle scent molecules too. Not all, but enough that when I remove mine, it’s like smelling in full color again.

My BRAVE fragrance for this month is Ormonde Jayne’s Montabaco — which has been my go-to teaching scent of the Fall 2021 semester. Sometimes I think about Montabaco as not being my tobacco fragrance since the French language teacher in me considers Linda Pilkington to be the actual owner of the possessive adjective “mon.” That being said, I’ve come to think of the “tabaco” less like “my” version of tobacco, and more like MY protector: strong enough to wear like a suit of armor, but soft enough to soothe and comfort. Montabaco is also a study in contrasts: dark and light, shadow and shine. All of which encapsulates how I’m feeling right now: more hopeful but not completely at ease.

I can’t wait to read my new crew’s individual takes on BRAVE. Please visit their blogs and subscribe to support (links in menu and below).