A Long, Dry Spell (Petrichor!)

Photo by peasap


The thunder is rumbling reassuringly somewhere in the sky overhead, while the rain does a drum roll on the metal roof above me.  Today is the first time in many weeks that there has been measurable precipitation outside my door and, while it is not enough to break the drought we are in, for tonight, I am content.  It has been a long, dry spell. 

As I went outside to experience the joy that the earth must be feeling right now, the scent of a long delayed rain on the thirsty ground hit my senses.  I never knew that the smell of freshly fallen rain had a name.  It does.


The scientific name comes from the Greek word for stone–petra–and the Greek word for the liquid said to flow through the veins of their gods–ichor.  I like it!


The scent certainly has an emotion attached to it this time, too.  I breath in deeply–well, as deeply as I can with the borderline asthma which the weather pattern has stirred up–and the feeling of well-being returns.  It has been a while.  Yes, a long, dry spell.

Interesting how that phrase is tossed around.  A long, dry spell.  The word spell is used to mean an indefinite period of time here, and is not from the same root as the word which means to use letters in the forming of words.  I am always amused at how our language is arrived at.  What’s that?  Oh, I’m sorry; must have had a spell of geekiness.

Long, dry spell.  We use the phrase to describe many things.  Some of them are from a more base and more coarse perspective than we will touch on here, so we’ll skip past them and get quickly to the ones which speak to our experiences.

Salespeople talk of a long, dry spell when they’ve not been able to convince anyone to purchase their goods for awhile.  It is a time when they don’t have the income, but more to the point for many of them, a time when their egos are fragile, especially if other, rival salespeople are not going through the same dry spell.  The successful sale which breaks the drought is cause for jubilation, frequently in the form of a celebratory get-together with friends.

Athletes go through long, dry spells when they are not successful at achieving their goals in the sport in which they participate.  A batter who cannot get a hit is in one; the basketball guard who draws down on a three-point shot again and again, but can’t hit the side of a barn (much less the backboard) is in one; the quarterback who hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in several games is certainly in one.  It usually takes more than just one success to break the dry spell, but sometimes the first one is what the athlete needs to break the mental barrier which is holding them back.

As a wanna-be writer, I understand the idea of long, dry spells.  Many times, I have sat myself down to write, but have been foiled, as no cogent train of thought will cooperate and make its way in an orderly manner to the page.  There are some writers who spend weeks, months, even years, awaiting that first downpour of inspiration which will break their mental drought. 

There are many more examples of this dearth we call a long, dry spell.  You’ve experienced them.  Perhaps you’re in the middle of one right now.  You’ve been stuck in a rut for longer than you can remember.  You haven’t felt the thrill of discovery, of success, for ages.  You may even have resigned yourself to living in this barren desert of tedium; may have abandoned the hope of rain ever refreshing the dry, cracked soil of your life.

Ah, but the rain will come again!  And then?

Petrichor!  Blood from a stone!

Where there was no hope, seemingly no chance of joy ever raising its noble head from the dust, the showers come.  Refreshing, cooling, life-giving water cascades down from on high.  We don’t bring it.  We can’t force it from its lofty vantage point.

Just as we observe in nature, our Creator brings the relief, the invigoration from His vast, unmeasured store of blessings.  Sometimes, we just have to wait out the drought, have to face the long, dry spell head on, knowing that there is a time of relief, of rejuvenation ahead, perhaps just around the corner.

Stay the course!  Keep the Faith!  Rain will come again!

I’m not naive enough to believe that the drought which our part of the country is suffering through will be broken by one short rain.  I am confident that this is the way it will happen, though.  One rain, followed by another, and then another, will see the end of this long, dry spell. The earth will flourish once more.

I’ll anticipate that future time with enjoyment, storing up in my memory the smell of the thirsty earth as it welcomed this first healing rain today.

It’s a hope worth keeping alive.  Both in the natural world, as well as in the spiritual.

Hope springs eternal!

“There shall be showers of blessings,
Precious reviving again.
Over the hills and the valleys,
Sound of abundance of rain.”
(“Showers Of Blessings” by Daniel Webster Whittle~American evangelist and lyricist~1840-1901)

“For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.”
(Matthew 5:45b~NLT)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012. All Rights Reserved.

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