I was perhaps only about 3 or 4 years old when I recall having my first experience of “petrichor” the scent of rain on dry earth. On that particular day, I remember running around the back of our house which was a huge open space with a forest and a narrow path amongst the grass and bushes that led to a small ravine. The previous days had been extremely hot and I felt elated when the rains poured down. I enjoyed splashing in the rain but I remember as I walked further away from our house into the forest, the distinctive smell which seems to be coming from the earth and which still remains very pronounced in my memory. I was too young at the time to make any associations but noticed as I grew older, that my nose usually picked up that scent after a burst of rain, if I am outside. I learnt later of the world “Pertichor” which is constructed from Greek, petros, meaning “stone” + ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of gods in Greek mythology. I have also learnt since that the term was developed by two Australian researchers, Bear and Thomas, who described that the smell is derived from an oil exuded by certain plants during the dry period and during the rain, the oil is released into the air along with another compound, geosmin.
About two years ago, my friend Marilyn Wilson had an art exhibition and I saw this painting above. Immediately, I felt nostalgic and was transported back to that distinct scent by simply looking at the painting. In that very moment, I also understood better why I bought my house overlooking the forest. Even when this distinctive smell is not present, the image of the painting and the trees in the back of my home bring back the smell to me, which quietly brings a peaceful feeling within me. Nowadays, I perhaps do more “shinrin-yoku” a Japanese term which means “forest bathing” and which brings a similar feeling of peacefulness just smelling the trees and the earth.