Lori Borgman: Rain, rain, stay today

Nothing smells quite as wonderful as the outdoors after it’s been through the gentle rinse cycle. Rain is such a pleasant fragrance that makers of perfumes, body oils, lotions and even household cleaners all try to replicate it. But nobody can. Not fully.

Try as they may, it always ends up smelling ever-so-faintly like the inside of an old purse once carried by a woman fond of loose face powder.

I had an uncle who claimed he could smell “rain was coming.” Skeptical at any early age, I wondered how that could be. Maybe he could smell rain coming. Or maybe he’d been rummaging through somebody’s old purse.

A high-end hotel chain boasts that their rooms smell like fresh rain. They even sell it in a bottle. Their rain fragrance comes with “notes of jasmine and grapefruit.”

When was the last time you stepped outside after a good rain and said, “I think I smell grapefruit”?

As the man hawking the Veg-O-Matic on late night television used to say, “But wait! There’s more!”

Rain comes in a variety of fragrances. There’s fresh rain, clean rain, spring rain, November rain and soothing rain. I imagine soothing rain is the opposite of non-soothing rain that comes with tornado warning sirens. The last thing you’d want to do is mix up your rain fragrances.

The scientific name for the smell of rain is petrichor. As I understand it — and I could be soaking wet on this — petrichor forms when bacteria in the soil and on plants is hit with water droplets, releasing a pleasant scent.

The process sounds remarkably similar to when kids dig a hole in the dirt and then flood it with the garden hose. I’ve done that laundry, and it does not smell like rain. Not even faintly.

It’s not always easy to explain the things you cannot see.

I can explain why the sponge on the kitchen sink smells like mildew, why clothes reek after a workout and why antique shops smell like expired Chanel No. 5, but the scent of rain is clouded in mystery.

The best way to ruin something beautiful is to beat it with the club of over-explanation. So just do this — the next time it starts raining, don’t try to explain it, don’t try to understand it, just open the door and breathe deep.

You might catch a whiff of jasmine.

Lori Borgman is a columnist, author and speaker. Reach her at [email protected].