Marja-Leena Rathje
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scent of rain


While doing some photography, I'm suddenly captivated by a scent in the air, forgotten for a while but oh so familiar. The scent of rain awakens a flood of memories of cooling summer showers. Only some time later do I see a few drops on the skylights.

The discovery of a new word for this phenomena, petrichor, delights me. I'm not sure though that this really applies to just a few sprinkles. Perhaps there's been more rain not too far away from whence the scent drifted here.

More please, for the sun is out again and the scent is gone. The sky has a dirty whitish cast to it, probably caused by smoke from distant forest fires. We need lots of rain here in BC for we have numerous forest fires, mostly caused by lightning in tinder dry forests. And I'm getting tired of watering the garden.

Marja-Leena | 03/08/2010 | 16 comments
themes: Canada and BC, Neat stuff


Ah, I guess that's where our summer escaped to, BC! We have plenty of moisture coming in with the fog every night and lasting through the better part of the mornings, so I am forgetting what it's like to water the garden.... Wishing you more rain, and not just the scent of it!

It's odd to think that as language devolves in the face of television and texting that words like petrichor slip away. When we lose words to describe our world we lose parts of ourselves.

Nothing beats the smell of rain when the sun comes out at the same time and the earth begins to steam and you can smell the oils and resins released into the air by plants.

Maria, it's odd that your summer is so poor this year. Ours is usually good though not always quite this dry for so long.

Susan, the loss of languages, especially that of minority groups is an interest of mine. But the loss of interesting words in our media crazy world is another aspect of that, a dumbing down of the language, isn't it?

Joe, absolutely! And I'm still waiting for the full version. That brief moment has left me with a craving.

It is so rewarding to distinguish and appreciate scents. We are so overwhelmed by a constant onslaught on sight and hearing that taste and smell are neglected. Rain is such a wondrous bringer of delights to the nostrils and the imagination.

We too have been short of rain, despite a short sharp shock of it yesterday, leading to spots of flooding, but not penetrating much into planted pots.

I like the part of that word that refers to the fluid that flows through the veins of the gods! I often smell rain before it arrives - I think that's something to do with ozone in the atmosphere. We could use some cooling rain here after a few days of hot and humid, though we did have gorgeous weather over the weekend, dry and in the 70s. Wishing you much fluid from the veins of the gods, Marja-Leena!

Olga, yes, scents are such a pleasure, isn't that one reason we love gardens and nature? We had a very short misty rain last night that did nothing.

Leslee, ozone! yes, that's what I smell before rain! It's hotter and more humid again here with a heat/smoke haze, just unbearable fr it did not even cool down last night. Waiting for that fluid from the veins of gods, thanks!

What a wonderful word, new to me too! And then yesterday I smelt it, and have just posted a photo of it on my blog.

Also, I really love your photo above - a classic still life.

Thanks for the new word, Marja-Leena! I like geosmin, too and was astounded by the following: "The human nose is extremely sensitive to geosmin and is able to detect it at concentrations as low as 5 parts per trillion." That book in your still life looks intriguing ...

Britain has a temperate climate. Like the universal tool, it suits no one's needs (except mine). Thus there's an opportunity to moan every day of the year. I lived in Singapore which is on the equator where the only time the sun doesn't shine is when it rains. The climate might be said to be invariant, same with sunset and sunrise. One good good thing: weather ceases to be a topic of conversation. Good because it isn't a fruitful topic.

Pittsburgh had an extreme climate: low temperatures and lots of snow, followed by great heat (not surprising since it shares the same line of latitude as Madrid (that's Spain) and more or less Istanbul (another country entirely)). The onset of rain in BC will probably wreck the garden you have sought to protect with watering. Thus you will slide from one quadrant of the human condition into another. It is man's fate never to be satisfied (I cannot offer an opinion on woman's fate) which is a good thing since dissatisfaction triggers progress. Untroubled by gradualistic changes of weather I must find other ways of expressing my dissatisfaction. And thus... THE END.

For me though, the internet can increase the potential to learn new words; if it hadn't been for you and Wiki I would never have learned 'petrichor', which is a relatively new word it seems, nor its companion 'geosmin'. The rain smell often seems strongest on metalled roads, I'm never quite sure if I really like it but I think I must...

And that is indeed a lovely picture.

Jean, thanks for this and for the mention on your blog!

R, I didn't check out the geosmin link - wow! But I still go with the scent I experienced as being more ozone-like because it came before the rain.

BB, next time I complain about the weather, which I do a lot, I'll remember your words!

Lucy, yes to learning from the internet!

The photo doesn't really relate to the subject of the post but I rather like it, glad you all do! The book is an excellent one I'm currently reading, maybe I'll write about it sometime.

Yes, that is a great photo. How I envy your talent!

A brand-new word for me, too! And our summer has been glorious, which makes me very grateful.

You've highlighted one of my favorite words. In fact, it is written in marker (by my child) on a mirror in our house so that we could learn its spelling. I was amazed to read that it was a relatively new word—how could it have taken so long to come up with a word for such a remarkable and memorable thing?

Beth, there's always something new to learn, isn't that great? Glad your summer is so good. We've finally had some rain here then it will be hot again.

mb, wow, so you know this word already!

Oh, I smelled petrichor up at daughter's place near Kamloops the other day!