Terre d'Hermès (Hermès)

As I look back on the trip now, as I try to sort out fact from fiction... to relive those memories that have been buried so deep, and distorted so ruthlessly, there is one clear fact that emerges from the quagmire. The trip was easy. It was no more dangerous than crossing the street...

--Robyn Davidson, Tracks: One Woman's Solo Trek Across 1,700 Miles of Australian Outback
In my early twenties, I had many Bibles. On the Road by Jack Kerouac... The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe... Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin... and Tracks by Robyn Davidson.

In 1977, Davidson -- a 27-year-old Australian woman with scant wildnerness training -- set off across the Great Victoria and Gibson Deserts accompanied by four camels and a dog. Rather than fight off isolation, she decided to follow it into the void. The curse of loneliness, she reasoned, might open up to reveal a blessing-- and a cure.

No magic moment of satori awaited Davidson under that vast desert sky. Her reality was filled with inescapable tangibles: ropes, packs, recalcitrant animals, sunburn, shit. As she struggled to maintain course, she often caught herself indulging in moments of self-pity-- but being the first to recognize her own follies, she never shied away from self-examination. The earthy dose of humor she brought to the endeavor certainly helped. (Did Henry David Thoreau ever regard himself in the mirror with tongue so firmly lodged in cheek?)

As Davidson's long, dusty trek wound west towards an unseen ocean, she continually grew lighter-- and her loneliness gave way to an intense appreciation of each living being that crossed her wide-open path. The lesson: invest it with dignity, and isolation no longer causes pain. Being alive is hard... but the trip is easy.

Today I'm wearing Jean-Claude Ellena's Terre d'Hermès as a reminder. Like its sibling scent Voyage d'Hermes, it describes a journey across an endless expanse-- but rather than the crystal purity of frigid air, Terre proffers floods of sunlight and drifts of hot dust. Described by Hermès as a "vegetable and mineral juice, made without animal by-products or musk", this airy cologne certainly enables the wearer to transcend earthly bonds, at least in his or her imagination. But while it may eschew animalic notes, it accentuates the mammalian aspect of the body it adorns, anchoring the wearer comfortably within the physical, warm-blooded world. You may start off looking for an escape, but Terre d'Hermès will bring you gratefully back home... body AND soul.

Scent Elements: Grapefruit, orange, shiso, flint accord, black and pink pepper, geranium, patchouli, benzoin, vetiver, Atlas cedar