In spite of rare and scattered rain, this is the middle of a drought. Summer weather has become desert heat. Yesterday’s high temperature was only 97°F. It felt like a respite. Tomorrow is set to go for 105.
We’ve been watering every day, using rainwater harvested from the roof. It’s a sweaty chore in the mornings. The newer plants are struggling. Even the lemon balm is showing signs of distress, although ragweed is flourishing along the roadsides.
I don’t want to write about plants in this heat. Describing the wilted pitcher sage leaves and the drooping skullcap is too depressing. Rejoicing in the blossoms of blackberry lilies and black-eyed susans might backfire and work as a jinx. The relentless sun blows out half my attempts at photography.
I learned a new word today: Petrichor — the smell of the earth when rain begins. The term was coined in 1964 by Australian researchers. During dry spells, some plants exude an oil that slows plant growth and seed germination. Rocks and clay soils absorb the oil and release it under rain. Petrichor combines the meanings of stone and the ichor that flows in the veins of gods.
A simple rain spell consists of pouring water over stone. I did that this evening under the crescent moon, remembering a verse from Stanley Lombardo’s translation of the Iliad:
“Think of lightning: Hera’s rich hair streams
In the sky when her husband builds storms.”
I want clouds to stream in the sky, hard soil to open under showers and stones to flow with oil. I want the earth to release her birthing scent into the rain.