South Park Self

bless the rains down in Africa

Mental Floss has just given me the word I always knew I needed. "Petrichor: The clean, pleasant smell that accompanies rain falling on dry ground. It’s from the Greek petra (stone) and ichor (the blood of Greek gods and goddesses). The term was coined by two Australian researchers in 1964."

Hooray for Australian researchers. That rain smell is one I associate strongly with highveld thunderstorms and the start of the rains - it's particularly vivid when it's the first rain after the arid heat of the dry season. But even Cape Town rains manage to recreate it, especially at the moment with the alternation of hot and rainy. It's a sharp, keen, vivid, slightly wild smell, rife with generative promise, and I love the way those Australian researchers have constructed the word - petrichor is perfectly believable as the residue of a slightly otherworldly power. Like most instances of precipitation, it makes me very happy.

(And, yes, I'm quoting Toto lyrics. I like that song. So sue me.)

For some reason this year's Christmas seasonal stuff hasn't annoyed me as much as it usually does. It all seems a bit subdued: the city isn't packed with tourists to any unacceptable extent, the shop displays are not generally as in-your-face as usual, and my homicidal mutterings about the inappropriateness of jolly snow-encrusted Santas in African summer are more than somewhat below par. It might be that I'm still too tired to work up a good head of irritation steam, or that I'm working later than usual into the month and am tucked away neatly in an ivory tower away from the shopping frenzy. It's also helping that my sister and I have a no-presents-except-for-the-niece pact this year1, and I am spared the usual harrowings of present-acquisition. This is a surprising sense of release, and caused me to reflexively go off and donate madly to charity instead (Wikipedia, and St. Luke's Hospice - the former because its citation-needed refrain is wildly useful in explaining plagiarism to students, the latter because they were really lovely to my dad).

In a neatly circular conclusion to this wayward-puppy post, Toto have recently re-formed for a benefit tour for one of their members, who is an ALS sufferer. ALS was what my dad had. Everything is connected.

1 Presents for Da Niece are not a problem, because I acquire them off Teh Internets through the year. One of this year's books was Look! A book!, which Cory Doctorow recommended on the basis of its success with his 7-year-old daughter. It's wonderful, detailed artwork with a lovely sense of whimsy; Da Niece seems very taken with it. She's 6 this year, so it's proving a bit of a challenge to hit the right level of either complex enough to interest her when it's read to her, or simple enough that she can start to read it herself. I think this one works quite well in the latter category. In the former, she's about to hit the stage where she's ready for Diana Wynne Jones, and for Ursula Vernon's Dragonbreath series. Heh.

  • Current Mood: calm poised for the holidays
  • Current Music: Dyonisis, Intoxicated
Hm. I'm sure that the word Petrichor occurs in the latest season of Doctor Who.

Edited at 2011-12-21 01:09 pm (UTC)
It does? with this particular meaning? Excellent. Words need exercise.

And thank you for Tuesday's dinner, was lovely!
Yes, that's the only meaning that the word has - "the smell of dust after rain". I'm told that oils from plants are released back into the air by the rain.
Oh, my word. That has just made me laugh for ten minutes straight, as much out of sheer pleasure at the weird genre-bending as out of amusement at their antics. It's actually a lovely cover.
I love that smell too. Don't really get it here - rain doesn't stop for long enough :).