Fall: All Its Argillaceous Petrichor Glory

fall rain

Source: wallpaperose.com

This post was written in mid-September, in hopes that October would bring our drought-parched Valley its FIRST rain of the season…well, it is Oct 1 and guess what? It is raining today! As I sit here enjoying a cool breeze I am waiting to smell one of the most pleasant scents of Fall. I will let you in on what that scent is…I have been waiting for it…here is what I had written last month…

Fall is THE favorite season for many people, myself included. The crisp cool change of weather. The colors and the scents of Autumn are so distinct. One of my favorite Fall scents, here in Central California, is the argillaceous petrichor. No, that is not a seasonal drink at Starbuck. Hum although, that would be a great coffee name.

“What is argillaceous petrichor?” You may not recognize the name but you have experienced it…more commonly referred to as that earthy odor you smell right after it rains. People often will say, “it smells like it is going to rain.” That’s the smell that they associate with rain.

Definition: Argillaceous: (ar-jill-lay-shuz) related to or referring to clay. Petrichor: (petr-eye-core) Origin:1960s: blend of petro- ‘relating to rocks’ (the smell is believed to be caused by a liquid mixture of organic compounds that collects in the ground) and ichor. the scent of rain. Coined by 2 scientists, 1964, who studied the cause of the Smell of Rain and wanted to give it a definite name. They believed it comes from oils and chemicals that are released, mostly from  clay, after a dry spell, when raindrops hit the ground.

Source: Wallpaper.com

Source: Wallpapers.com

Not that most people are as fascinated with this sort of stuff as I am, but I will share it anyway : ) Our sense of smell is powerful when it comes to memory and when I think of Fall, I have many nose-memories associated with the argillaceous petrichor.

Now, for the first time, scientists at MIT have used high-speed cameras to show how that “rain smell” gets into the air — and you thought I couldn’t possibly find a video on this subject!

Unfortunately, here in central California, there has been a long drought, so the trees are in a state of stress, the lawns are mostly brown, and flowers are seen only in public areas. However, I am still optimistic that we will have our first rain in October. And if I’m right the smell of rain will be the best ever, right!   So when I say, “I am optimistic it will rain,” it is more HOPE. In a normal Fall it usually rains at the beginning of the October and at the end. Just a teaze of the wetter winter to come.  I go back to that memory of Fall: in all its Argillaceous Petrichor Glory.  A day when everyone opens their windows & doors, walks outside and breathes in that distinctive earthy scent of the, almost forgotten, argillaceous petrichor.

The last time I experienced petrichor was when we traveled last Spring to Germany. I smelled it when we were looking over the ancient city wall in Rothenburg.

View of wall and tower

It began to lightly sprinkle as we walked the covered portion of the Old Towne wall. As we descended the covered wall section, the rain had stopped so we continued walking, now beside the old wall, to the far side of Old Towne. I noticed the scent of rain, argillaceous petrichor, as we looked over the wall at a wooded area below, with a pretty church and small buildings. We could see the Wall’s tower and view the wall almost as an outsider. But that familiar scent…I immediately knew what I was smelling. It was coming from below, the smell of wet clay ground emitting the secreted oils of the bushes and trees. Nothing like science to ruin the moment : )  Apparently, the more senses that are connected to an experience the deeper its memory will be. I should have that memory for a long time : )

View of wall from castle area

Enjoy the (smell of) Rain

See you Friday!

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