Petrichor

John looking to Qualicum
John McLachlan looking at the rain clouds developing over Qualicum on Vancouver Island, circa 1971 (photo by George McLachlan)

From the album Call It Home (2016)

Petrichor* is the scientific name given to the scent that one smells when rain hits rocks, pavement, logs or grass after a long dry spell. My first memory of this is being a small child in August playing out in front of the cabins my family rented on Hornby Island. After days and days of the sun baking down on us, the weather would change and dark clouds would start to form over the Vancouver Island mountains to the west. There was a different feel in the air. The wind would switch to what was called a “Qualicum” which would come sweeping across the channel and shortly after, bringing with it, the first drops of rain.

After all the hot weather and heat, I didn’t want to go inside but rather wished to stay and feel the rain begin, and smell some amazing new scent that would get etched in my brain forever. That strong reaction would repeat itself in other times as well such as when I was twelve and it began to rain at the beginning of “Sports Day” at school thus meaning the cancellation of the day (yay).

Rain Clouds approach
Rain clouds approaching on Lambert Channel (photo by John McLachlan)

Maybe the strong, etched emotional response humans have to the scent of Petrichor is that for a million years of evolution the coming of rain after a dry spell was such a welcome and needed event. It signalled things could grow again and life could flourish.

It sure was feeling like I’d had a long dry spell when I wrote this song. I went through a 20-plus year dry period of no songwriting before the wind switched and life changed enough—like moving to the place that I first experienced the effect of Petrichor—to allow the rain to fall again. It sure felt refreshing.

* Petrichor: The word is constructed from Greek, petra, meaning “stone”, + ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology. (Wikipedia)

Petrichor

It’s been a long dry summer, the wind is on the rise
Blowing in from Qualicum, salt in my eyes
Mom calls to come inside before it starts to pour
But I want to stay right here and smell that petrichor

It’s so strange with inspiration, like climbing a steep hill
Like crossing a great desert, it takes all of your will
Despite best intention to reach in to your core
Sometimes it just means waiting for that scent of petrichor

The fluid that flows in the veins of the mighty gods
Raining down from heaven to fill my mind with awe
Goes down deep inside then comes forth from within
The mystery of creating where I begin again

I stand upon these rocks and logs, the years have been so bare
The dry spell with soon be over, I can sense it in the air
The first drops to descend fall upon the shore
It’s all bursting forth, the scent of petrichor

The fluid that flows in the veins of the mighty gods
Raining down from heaven to fill my mind with awe
Goes down deep inside and comes forth from within
The mystery of creating where I begin again

It’s been a long dry summer, the wind is on the rise
Blowing in from Qualicum, salt in my eyes
Before it’s time to say goodbye and when I am no more
I hope I get one last chance to smell petrichor
Yes, I hope I get one last chance to smell petrichor

© John McLachlan (SOCAN)

Rain clouds over Vancouver Island
Rain clouds over Vancouver Island, British Columbia