Petrichor is a word created by Isabel Joy Bear and Richard G. Thomas in 1964. The Australian researchers were studying oils and compounds that plants release during extended periods of drought. It is the result of this study that lead to the coining of the term Petrichor
"the earthy scent produced when rain falls on dry soil"
The word has Greek origins combining πέτρα petra (stone) and ἰχώρ īchōr (the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology).
We chose this word for the simple fact that it is beautiful. On many levels. The origins of it, the sound of it and the sensual connotation. It is a smell that many of us can relate to and at least for me recalls incredibly beautiful memories.
I remember working at summer camps in the heat of South Carolina, and particularly the weeks when rain was rare. One of these weeks brought a heat index of 120 F, so intense that it was actually illegal to have the children outside. We huddled in cabins and under whatever structures provided that coveted combination of protection and a breeze.
The first rain after days of hiding in shade was a gift. We all welcomed it with an excitement that rarely followed the rumbles of thunder and flashes of lightning.
It was so thick that we could barely see through it. Myself and some of the more, shall we say, vindictive staff members grabbed a rubber slingshot and water balloons. From the cover of the rain, we launched them into the crowds of campers sitting under an open air structure across the parade field.
I like to believe that every unsuspecting victim broke into joyous laughter and screamed impassioned thank you's over the roar of the rain. They certainly jumped up and yelled something at their secret summer Santas.
One theory for why this smell is so soothing is that for centuries, maybe millennia, it signaled to our ancestors that a time of want and increasing need was coming to an end. It meant that before long, the seeds and seedlings that had been waiting to germinate would finally be able to greet the sun as a welcomed nourisher instead of an infernal tyrant.
Stay tuned and stay curious.