I was out walking last autumn. It had been a wet night and puddles dotted the path from verge to verge. A pool of no particular grandeur caught my attention, for little other reason than place and time. I got to my knees and peered into its shallows. Leaves of russet, amber, primrose and hazel lay darkened and still two inches below. I blinked. Silhouetted branches swayed lethargically from shore to shore and clouds, as bold as anything, migrated across the sky. And that is when I realised, focus changes everything.
A few weeks back I went walking in the Sooke Hills on the southern tip of Vancouver Island. It hadn’t rained for a number of days, but midway through the hike I began to feel raindrops tinkering on my sunhat. The smell was magnificent – earthy, organic and raw – but I didn’t know what was causing it.
Keen to determine the answer, I raced back home, slipped on some cosy clothes, made a hot chocolate and got to researching. The exquisite scent, it seemed had a similarly handsome name: petrichor.
- Plant oils – secreted by plants, these oils are released buoyantly into the air during a downpour
- Bacteria chemicals – created by those hard-working bacteria in the planet’s precious soil systems, these chemicals are freed into the atmosphere as the first few raindrops hit the ground
Other aromas that inspire me to strap on my boots
- Baking pine trees in the late summer sun
- Honeysuckle in the spring
- Autumn leaves on a riverbank
- Mushrooms in the undergrowth