"If it's not fun, why do it?"

Petrichor and Me

As an observer, I’m always cataloging my experiences. Even at a tender age, sights, smells, and sounds became embedded in my memory. Sometimes I tap into those sensual impressions and am transported to a different time and place. Here’s an experience that brought me much joy. I wasn’t quite dancing like the dog in the photo, but maybe some other time I could join him.

 

As the building’s porter hosed off the warm sidewalk last week, a particularly welcome scent tantalized me. “Wet pavement” is one of my earliest scent memories, slightly metallic, with a tinge of the organic. The smell of wet pavement or rain is called petrichor. It’s caused by the aerosols released by water droplets–plant oils, bacteria and their products, organic  matter from soil, and perhaps ozone. The calcium in cement, too, may contribute to the smell. Yum!

The scientist me wants to analyze  the smell and quantitate the sources. The observer me wants to smell and sniff and breathe deep, never stopping. It’s heady, like Chanel No. 5. It’s sensuous, like the first bite of a ripe fig. It’s the smell of the city at her best.

I’m waiting for a promised thunderstorm to bring on the sharp smell of ozone to the air. Aaahh, one more summer scent to anticipate!

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