Huge rain, torrential rain; I love the smell of rain. Smell is memory. Memory is emotion. This is a sense that by- passes both the left and right hemispheres. It is more feral than the others. Memory comes down to pleasure or aversion. I steal words from sight, sound, taste and touch to describe the feeling a scent evokes but I can just as well name emotion. In the humid of this soggy day arises the smell of wet dog, incense and cat pee which are oppressive, sensual, infuriating, in kind. Why not put the cat, who has taken to destroying this rug, outside: Because it is raining and because I love this awful cat. Rain smells like love.
On this damp day I think of my husband’s usual complaint when he stays in cheap hotels, no matter how dry the climate. It smells like mildew. Where does that come from, that imagining of and sensitivity to mildew? Was it the young years he spent in Hawaii whisked away in a VW bus by a mother running from an alcoholic father? My husband born under a Cancer sun is always alert to the smell of water either stagnant or rushing.
My neighbor’s home is at the edge of a precipice butted up to the wilderness preserve. I cut through his property today to find an Airstream camped at the edge of that precipice. It says “Land Yacht” on the side. I think; Ride on Noah and picture that Airstream sailing down a waterfall that may soon be this backyard. The smell of rain is the smell of excitement.
I walk into the woods despite the lightening and threat of tornadoes. I don’t care. It will keep everyone else away. The smell of rain is the scent of my willful isolation. I smell energy beside this rushing creek. The fragrance of rotting cedar is intoxicating. The woody perfume of the natural world of owls and otters, deer and eagles, turtles, ducks and loon and plants and trees infuses a magic kingdom. This is the smell of safe haven.
I’m thinking that rain smells like rest and quiet and peace. Those words; rest and peace remind me of death. This evokes the words to the song I’ve been listening to; Sink me in the river at dawn. Send me away with the words of a love song.* Rain is the smell of rest and peace and the river and melancholy and I wonder about my own send away song. I imagine my song would more likely be the battle song “One“ by Metallica than a country love song. “One” reminds me of a student of mine; 6 foot 6 inch football star, Kevin Carter, who listened to that song before every game! And the smell of the rain is the river and the song and death and an old friend. And I yoke one thought to another to another as the smell of rain begs description.
I will buy plants in the pouring rain. The gardening store will be open, employees huddled inside. I will be a lone shopper. Plants love rain. I will buy plants that are in love.
The traffic lights are out at a busy intersection. Turning lights, stopping lights, starting lights, cautionary lights are black. The power is out. The smell of rain is powerlessness. But wait, where it seems so it is not but even more powerful as without the force of law, we silent citizens telepathically communicate from crossing cars; which will go and wait and stop and we begin a dance of complicity and kindness to make this work. The smell of rain is gratitude.
The power outage this close to home tells me I may be next. I have plans to make an ailing friend her favorite cookies. I rush in and start the oven. The smell of rain is the smell of compassion. I will treat the storm as a worthy opponent and beat it. The smell of rain is the smell of vanilla and comfort.
I open the drawer that holds candles and incense for the garden and home. The smell of the drawer is a spice cabinet of yoga class and party memories. It smells like community. I pull out candles in case of a power outage. The rain smells like romance. I pull out incense to mask the markings of that confound cat. I had thought I had eradicated every sign of her destructiveness. The rain smells like frustration.
The smell of this warm humid rain is the Berkshire country home of an old boyfriend and the taste of blueberry pie we always stopped to get at a roadside stand. Do I imagine I can even smell the once familiar scent of that man? And another man and another country home in the Catskills comes to mind and by God I can smell the sweet oatmeal scent of his beard and the worn wood floors of the bar we spent so many nights in. The smell of rain is the smell of sensuality.
This smell of rain is ecstasy when it stops my schedule and forces stillness. It’s raining so I’m taking the time to pop in the C.D. of an old yoga teacher’s class that a new friend sent me. The smell of rain mixes with a tactile memory of L.A. where I used to take the teacher’s classes. And the smell of rain is the joy of a new friend.
Walk into the soaking garden and crush mint for jubilation. Rosemary’s next and the aroma both bitter and bright is a shot of adrenaline. I pick a leaf from the sage brush and rub it between my fingers. This earthy acridness takes me back to California. I am the happy mother of baby boys. Life is wonderful. Sage smells like contentment. I bow to walk under the rose bush fallen heavy with rain and smell my mother’s perfume and my mother’s love. I run my fingers through the lavender and the sweetness of rose mixes with lavenders’ clarity to impart a sense of calm.
One rain brings so much light with the gloom and bluster! I am awakened by the smell of rain.
* “If I Die Young”- The Band Perry