Grit Blogs > One Foot in the City

Ahhh, Smells Like Rain

Smells Like RainJoan Pritchard HeadshotWhen I was in the early days of my career, I moved from Kansas to a desert state and thought I would expire from homesickness. Some people thought I was just missing family, which was true, but it was more complex than that. My sickness started in the fall, particularly when I was too far south to see the season turn. It would then peak in March, about the time my nose told me there was a change in the soil temperature and I could not smell Kansas.

I suppose every state has a distinct smell, but the smell of Kansas is one of musty humus. We don’t plow much anymore, but to get the full impact of the smell I’m describing, just stand at the end of a field when a farmer pulls a plow across it and throws the dirt over. The smell is of old plants breaking down and mixing with all manner of bacteria to make more soil – a distinct “stick-your-head-in-a-bag-of-garden-soil” smell.

The weather forecasters say we are having an early season this year, and on this mid-March day the geese are flying overhead going northward. The migration of others has already begun and is ten days ahead of normal. I bet they yearn for the smell of the soil from their home nesting grounds just as I did.

By the time I was able to move home again – and I never was home until I came back to Kansas – the world as I knew it had changed. There wasn’t much family left, there were new neighbors, and people farmed differently, but I knew I was home. The seasons seemed to work with the earth like they were supposed to, and people cared about things like weather because it was a part of a way of life.

When the sky clouds up and moisture begins to fall, any of us can lift our nose in the air and say “Ahhhh, smells like rain.” When a March day begs for me to put my hands in the soil, I say, “Ahhhh, smells like Kansas.” And to me that also smells like home.

nebraska dave
3/13/2012 3:17:39 AM

Joan, I too moved away from my home state of Nebraska for seven years. When I came back home, I vowed never to move away again. The one thing I missed the most and didn't really realize it until I moved back was the four very distinct seasons. Each one has it's seasonal things to enjoy. My favorite is now. The spring time coming to life of all the plants; the earthy smell of the moist soil; the clean fresh smell of a spring rain; the rolling thunder and flash of lightening that rattles the widows of the house are all things to be enjoyed in the spring. New animal life whether it be domestic or wild seems to revive hope that the world can survive all the dominate issues of the times in which we live. Thanks for reminding me there's no place like home. Have a great Kansas day at home.


charles mallory
3/13/2012 12:41:07 AM

Nice post. I think there is something primal about humans and their connections to the smells of rain, of fresh earth, of plants etc. As we "advance" and become more technological, and more people choose to live in cities, we lose this very basic connection. Don't you think there is something in our minds that knows these comforting and familiar smells are part of our DNA? It's an ancient memory embedded into our very being, and that smell of fresh earth or coming rain is ages-old familiarity.