Rain, Home, World

It started, like all overwhelming events, quite unexpectedly. First, the skies were tinged a pearly grey, then suddenly they whitened and broke into a rain of monsoon proportions. The staccato noise of drops hitting the roof, the surprising brightness of sunshine reflecting in the water, the steamy heft of air… Within seconds I knew that I might as well succumb–having discarded my useless umbrella and high-heeled shoes, I simply ran. When breathless and wet, I finally reached the apartment, the rain started to recede, turning mellow. The deep puddles were filled with green leaves and marigold petals, the street looked shiny and clean…

In Indian folklore, the first rain of the monsoon season symbolizes a release, the promise of spring and rejuvenation. Why did I—far away from the tropics and having just said goodbye to our own rainy spring–feel suddenly touched by this downpour? Perhaps because it has unlocked something within me, allowing me to feel carefree and lightheaded. And what an exhilarating feeling it was! Then it struck me—the scent of summer rain, the fragrance that reminds me so vividly of my childhood and of days long past. This scent was still in the air as I opened the balcony doors—mineral, heavy, and rich, composed of the salty-peppery odor of wet asphalt, the sharp bitterness of crushed leaves and the vegetal darkness of drenched soil. Despite having spent decades away from my ancestral home, wherever in the world I might find myself, the scent of rain never fails to connect me to my roots. Somehow, realizing it on this rainy day gave me a tremendous sense of happiness and comfort.

This reminder of home has been much needed. As I have been traveling over the past few weeks, I have missed my usual routine and my family. Yet every journey, however big or small, is life changing in a way. Every day I discover more and more sources of inspiration and scented mementos. Every morning brings something unexpected and exciting. I almost do not know where to start and how to capture my adventures. I have been wearing very little perfume, mostly because I want start out every morning as a blank olfactory canvas in order to absorb everything the day brings. Still, there are many interesting discoveries and rediscoveries that I have made, from Parfums de Nicolaï Weekend à Deauville to Christian Dior Dioressence, and I hope to share them all with you. Meanwhile, as I smell the scent of rain on my skin, I know that I am not as far away from home as it seems.

Image: Eiffel Tower, Paris, Rain. via wallchan.com



  • rosarita: I just love your evocative writing…..looking forward to more scented adventures. June 23, 2011 at 7:43am Reply

  • Suzanna: What a lovely post, Victoria! Such strong images that one can see them through your words (and the rain) and enjoy the same smells, but most particularly the special mineral quality you mention.

    Am interested in your impressions of Dioressence. With memories of the vintage version excited by a nearly empty vial, I gave my newer bottle away. The original was a jungly Oriental that got sandwiched between Opium and Cinnabar in the Oriental race of the late 1970s. I am not sure what to make of it now; it’s too dry and raspy for me. June 23, 2011 at 7:43am Reply

  • Marsha: I travel vicariously through your posts! June 23, 2011 at 7:59am Reply

  • key change: This was beautifully written, V. I’ve always been on the lookout for a perfume that can at least somewhat capture the smell of rain-soaked wind, and have thus far been unsuccessful. June 23, 2011 at 10:05am Reply

  • sweetlife: I like this new travel-writing schedule of yours very much, V! Hoping your feeling of release and delight carried on for the rest of your journey and looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts. June 23, 2011 at 10:23am Reply

  • gautami: Thank you for a beautiful post. It reminded me of my childhood and monsoons.Scent of flower bazar after a heavy downpour in July (Shravan) is amongst my all-time favourite scents. June 23, 2011 at 10:48am Reply

  • Reese: Gorgeous, as always. June 23, 2011 at 10:50am Reply

  • Carla: Beautiful! I too have been wearing less perfume because it seems to interfere with my day. Maybe it’s the warmer weather and natural beauty around me. (We moved to a smallish town after I lived a decade in the heart of large cities and now I have rosebushes to tend to!) I think I will need my perfumes more come cooler weather. June 23, 2011 at 2:23pm Reply

  • minette: rain is the best. we finally had rain after 100 days of no rain. it was lovely.

    and rain always draws me back to two places – north florida, where it rained softly and briefly every summer afternoon, leaving everything smelling incredible and steamy. and toulouse, france, where it mixed with bus fumes, a peaceful cloister, and a gorgeous man.

    enjoy your travels and your home! lovely article, as ever. June 23, 2011 at 2:32pm Reply

  • carole macleod: Thank you for the lovely read! It’s hot here-wearing Herba Fresca and loving it (my writing is not lovely, or evocative-just accurate !)

    Carole June 23, 2011 at 2:38pm Reply

  • Irina: You said it so lovely!
    I love rain. I grew up in Leningrad, Russia, where rain is the most usual weather, and I use to it – untamed curls, oily smell of asphalt, slightly dump clothes, foggy mornings, etc. I still love rain here, in New Jersey, even though it has after-taste – unbearable humidity, but it also has nice touch – smell of flowers become stronger.
    And I like delicate watery smell of Hermes’ “Un jardin apres la mousson”, which is, somehow, reminds me of rain. June 23, 2011 at 11:02am Reply

  • Andrea: Hey, I’m wearing Parfums de Nicolaï Weekend à Deauville right now! I LOVE it! Beautiful summer scent, and one of my few FB. June 23, 2011 at 11:04am Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you so much! I miss interacting via the comments with all of you. Not always convenient to carry the computer around. 🙂 June 23, 2011 at 11:11am Reply

  • Victoria: You said it so well–dry and raspy. I agree, the new version of Dioressence is exactly that. I was completely taken aback by the old version, when I compared them side by side. I hope that Dior is serious in their claim that they are working on bring it back as close to the original as possible. June 23, 2011 at 11:26am Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you, Marsha! June 23, 2011 at 11:26am Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you! I so agree, that scent is one of the most beautiful. And so elusive! June 23, 2011 at 11:27am Reply

  • Victoria: I love how traveling makes me open up in different ways and connect with people differently. I feel that in NYC I, like most of its denizens, tend to stay in my own universe. I hardly ever have spontaneous exchanges, which is exactly what made this particular trip was unique for me. I encountered so many fascinating people and made some new friends–the best souvenir to bring back, I think. June 23, 2011 at 11:29am Reply

  • Victoria: The description of monsoon in Tagore’s book, which I read as a child must have imprinted me with this romantic vision forever. I have experienced only a part of the monsoon season in India, and given how unbearably, hellishly hot the days preceding monsoon tend to be, I can definitely see why the rain would mean the most powerful form of release possible! June 23, 2011 at 11:32am Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you so much, Reese! I am so glad that you liked it. It really was an amazing experience for me. June 23, 2011 at 11:33am Reply

  • Victoria: Beautiful, Irina! You are right that the scent of rain in our area in the US has a different undertone. The humidity is certainly something different. It tends to be heavy and enveloping, almost like a blanket of damp wool. June 23, 2011 at 11:34am Reply

  • Victoria: I love the new Weekend à Deauville much more than the old one. Definitely a great discovery! June 23, 2011 at 11:35am Reply

  • bloody frida: lovely post – I felt transported! thank you! June 23, 2011 at 1:55pm Reply

  • Victoria: I love your writing, Carole! Always very thoughtful. June 23, 2011 at 4:19pm Reply

  • Victoria: Both memories sound wonderful. Isn’t is such an exhilarating feeling to smell the rain hitting the parched earth! June 23, 2011 at 4:20pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you! I am so pleased to hear this. 🙂 June 23, 2011 at 4:21pm Reply

  • Victoria: Having rosebushes to tend to is my dream. So far, I contend living next to the park, where there are wild ones. Their smell is incredible–hot raspberry jam and cinnamon. June 23, 2011 at 4:22pm Reply

  • Suzanna: Have you tried the original Must de Cartier (pour jour version) EdT? It was a latecomer to that Oriental market. This and Dioressence always struck me as being somewhat related. June 23, 2011 at 10:20pm Reply

  • Victoria: I just put some Must de Cartier and old Dioressence on blotters, and I completely agree with you. I much prefer Dioressence, but their characters are similar.
    The new Dioressence is not even a reformulation. It is a different perfume altogether! June 24, 2011 at 9:16am Reply

  • Andrea: I have the new one, I actually just got my FB last week. I didn’t realize there was an old one… but I’m happy with the new one, so guess I don’t need to go on a goose chase! June 24, 2011 at 12:37pm Reply

  • Andrea: Oh and this was a really beautifully written article. June 24, 2011 at 12:39pm Reply

  • Violaine: the words sounds like rain drops on a window…
    winds transporting essences of flowers in the indian summer night.
    thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙂 June 24, 2011 at 8:00pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you, Andrea! June 24, 2011 at 5:01pm Reply

  • Victoria: The original version had some oakmoss and more spices, but I prefer the orchestration in the new version. It truly gives a very radiant and uplifting impression. June 24, 2011 at 5:02pm Reply

  • Victoria: Violaine, thank you so much! Your words are also so evocative! June 26, 2011 at 3:51pm Reply

  • Yelena: Welcome home! Hope you had a wonderful time.

    Your article has touched my heart as fo few do. For me it is rarely the rain, but rather the way the sun hits once in a while, the way the snow smells when it is extremely cold and crisp and a certain moemnt in September when the sky is bright blue, and it is still warm, but there is the merest hint of fall in the air- and that mysterious brief whiff of a childhood afternoon whizzes by. All of a sudden I am back home for a second, and then everything is gone and I am back here. June 27, 2011 at 11:17am Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you, Lena! Your beautiful impressions really touched me. Isn’t it amazing to find that key, to see or hear or smell something and suddenly discover oneself traveling back in time! June 27, 2011 at 9:10pm Reply

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