LILLIAN CROOK: WildDakotaWoman — Musings On Petrichor

Petrichor: The smell in the air before or as rain falls on hot, dry, stony ground (petra = stone; ichor = divine fluid. As defined by one of my favorite authors, Robert Macfarlane, on his Twitter account. Word of the Day March 18, 2017 by Robert Macfarlane

I love this word and I love the smell. My first memory of recognition of this smell was when I was driving one of the dusty, scoria roads near the Logging Camp Ranch in Slope County, North Dakota, with my maternal grandparents, in their blue Ford Galaxy, on a hot August day about 50 years ago. Although she did not use this word, my Grandma Lily explained to me what I was smelling. I would have been about 7 years old. To this day when I drive over the bridge at Deep Creek in that very spot, I have this intense memory.

My family went on these rambles on summer Sundays, ranging as far as we could manage, taking a picnic lunch. We went to the top of Bullion Butte. We went to Camp Crook, S.D.  We went to the Powder River country in southeastern Montana. We went to the top of Pretty Butte. We went exploring the western North Dakota lands where my maternal great-aunts had all homesteaded decades before, mostly just grassy quarter sections with scant evidence of their long-ago lives.

I’m quite proud of the fact that I went to the top of Bullion Butte in 1966, years before my husband, Jim Fuglie, or friends Mike Jacobs and Clay Jenkinson. In fact, I kinda like to lord it over them.

The photos were taken by my father, with his 35 mm camera he purchased in Japan in the years just before this when we were living in Okinawa.

You can see why I call this iconic butte, more mesa than butte, the center of my universe.

And why the word petrichor resonates with me to this day.

The aforementioned British writer Robert Macfarlane has published some wondrous books, including his award-winning Landmarks, travelogues, geographic meanderings, explorations of word meanings and musings on high points he has climbed. Here is a nice summation of one of his books and a splendid picture of him. Penguin also notes his biography as follows:

Robert Macfarlane was born in Nottinghamshire in 1976. He is the author of “Mountains of the Mind,” “The Wild Places,” “The Old Ways and Landmarks.” “Mountains of the Mind” won the Guardian First Book Award and the Somerset Maugham Award and The Wild Placeswon the Boardman-Tasker Award. Both books have been adapted for television by the BBC. He is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and writes on environmentalism, literature and travel for publications including the Guardian, the Sunday Times and The New York Times. He is currently working on an illustrated children’s book about the natural world in collaboration with illustrator Jackie Morris.

Personally, I’m eager to see his forthcoming children’s book. His daily word on Twitter is very educational. This brief New Yorker piece on him is worth the read too:   Pen Pals Provide Linguistic Curios

You can’t go wrong whiling away the hours with one his splendid books. They’ll give you wanderlust of your own. Maybe you’ll make your own personal journey to the top of the magnificent Bullion Butte. You’ll be the better for the journey.

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