This afternoon I sat relaxing at my kitchen table reading a magazine. (It's not something I find time to do very often.) To make the most of the relaxing mood, I lit some incense and started thinking about how I like incense better than scented candles.
I like Japanese incense the best. It's much more refined than the stuff they sell in head shops that's imported from India. Awesomely enough, my wonderful boyfriend found Nippon Kodo's website and ordered a ton of incense from them. It's the same incense I sometimes bought when I lived in Japan.
There are several reasons why I prefer incense. First of all there's the scent itself. I've got a lot of olfactory memories of Japan intertwined with the fragrance of incense-- temples, walking past high-walled graveyards, the altar at my ex-in-laws house, Kyukyodo in Kyoto, even my old apartments. I like the smoke. I know they sell "smokeless" incense, but the smoke appeals to me. I like to watch it drift, to see how the air currents are flowing in my room. Incense has a beginning, middle and end. With scented candles you have to think about when to blow them out. And you have to remember if you extinguished them before going to bed or leaving the house. Not with incense. It gets lit. It burns down. It's done. If you want more, you light more.
Incense is all fragrance, not much light. Candles set a mood. Maybe I like them better when the days are shorter. They're cozy in the winter. Incense takes me someplace else. I don't know when I'll get there again in presence. For now an olfactory journey is about as close as I get.