Saturday, February 15, 2014

Signs of fall already? Officially autumn doesn't start for another month, yet…cooler nights and mornings, the sun at a more northern slant, sycamores already shredding leaves and my petunias looking lank and leggy. Then to break the sameness of hot summer days, the sky clouded over this afternoon and – what do you know – a shower! Brief and wimpy – a tease – but bringing with it the unmistakable scent of rain, though not enough to wash the grit off the foliage. How to describe the scent of rain? My nose recognizes it, my brain labels it rain, but cannot provide a word to describe it. Poets compare the scent to things (earth, leaves) and emotions. I found this definition of the scent of rain:

Petrichor. That's the word that describes the smell of rain on dry earth. The term derives from the Greek words petra, meaning "stone" and ichor, which is the fluid that flows in the veins of Greek gods. The word was coined in 1964 by Australian researchers who found that the smell was created by an oil that is released by certain plants during dry periods. When it rains that oil is released into the air, giving us that wonderful smell that brings Spring time to mind.

Perhaps the smell of rain is really a collage of scents, released when stone, leaf, earth, wood, cement are touched by water. It takes on its greatest potency in the presence of vegetation, and each blade of grass, leaf and tree must haves its own particular scent, creating a blend our noses recognize as rain.

Our reptilian barometer, Speedy Gonzalez (our tortoise), knows change is in the air. He appears from his sleeping quarters (a depression in the ground behind the bougainvillea trunk) later in the morning, moves about less in the garden and retires earlier. Like sunflowers, he seeks the sun.

I say this rain is a tease because another year of drought is predicted for central and northern Chile – the fifth. There is much reference to the drought in the media – but where are the campaigns to conserve water? I feel guilty watering my garden, but it’s my refuge in this dry landscape.

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