Rain comes to the desert: Chris Clarke

The ecologists never fail to describe coastal Southern California as a semi-arid region, which all too many residents transmute into "desert." It's not! Big difference between a land of some rain and a land of no rain. Trees, for one. As Chris Clarke, who has an interesting gig writing for KCET points out, rain often skips the desert entirely. But when the rain does come, it's transforming: 

If the wave of scent that precedes the storm is strong enough to be euphoric, the scent when the rain actually hits can be mind-altering. The first drop hits soil. It dissolves the accumulated resin and dust of a year, or two or three, and releases it: a small wet grenade exploding in perfume. Then another hits. Then another. Before the marks of the droplets even begin to merge on the ground, they fill the air with volatiles: the air becomes like turpentine, but less choking.

And then a new scent overwhelms the others, literally washes them out. It can take a few years in the desert to notice it, but it's not subtle. It's just that outside the desert you're never away from that smell. It is the scent of water itself, rendered overpoweringly noticable by its absence — until now.

The presence of that writng!


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  1. Jon Nelson

    I tried to comment but the elaborate sign in procedure ate my comment and announced that my sign in attempts were void.
    Anyhow, this reminds me of Gary Paul Nabhan’s book, “The Desert Smells Like Rain”, which reminds me of a fond memory. There is nothing more beautiful than a snowstorm in a Saguaro forest.

    February 2, 2013
  2. Kit Stolz

    Sorry about the sign-in, Jon. I try to make it easy, but I’ll ask TypePad about what else might be possible.

    I admire Nabhan, though I (obviously) don’t know that book. Thanks for opening my eyes — and the memory.

    February 4, 2013