Creosote on my nose

November 26, 2008 at 1:33 pm Leave a comment

It rained here today for the first time in months. Rain is irritating in the east, but in the west, it’s a godsend, giver of life, a living being and object of awe. And it smells so damn good.

After years of living in the desert, I can smell a scosche of humidity anywhere within a square mile. In the east, rain and wet are the prevailing smells, and dry doesn’t smell like anything. But here, when the rain comes, the dust and mold and spores and crap are washed away, and the smell of wet is inescapable.

Some of this is due to the smell of creosote. Not the carbon that builds up in chimneys, nor the stuff you paint on wood to protect it, but the desert creosote bush, Larrea tridentata. The smell is spicy, moist, green, brown, industrial, natural: impossible to forget.

For years after I left Arizona and toured the country with my microphone and my dog, I smelled creosote.  In my dreams, during work, while walking, I developed the ability to call it up when I was homesick for the place I wasn’t born in, but belonged to.

I wish I could insert a scratch n’ sniff strip right here, but so far, smellcasting has yet to permeate cyberspace. Better add that to my list of great ideas that will never go farther than my mouth or my keyboard.

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