Saturday, 25 February 2012

Wind in my face...

I was rudely woken up this morning by high winds. They have been wailing around off and on all day, though they must be southerly, because it's not necessarily cold out. But what struck me more than the fact that I wanted to punch that wind in the face, was that I knew from the sound of it that it was NEWFOUNDLAND wind.

Ok, I'm not going crazy. Or rather, not going crazier.... Wind is wind. Rain is rain. Snow is snow. Sun is sun. I get that. But there is undeniably a different quality of wind, rain, snow, sun in different parts of the world. Yes, this is kind of obvious, and I'm not stating anything new here. Travel writers, novelists and other pretentious bloggers discuss the quality of light in Tuscany, that it seems warmer, brighter, more rich. The warm rains of New Orleans versus the cold, chill-you-to-the-bone rains of England. The hot, spicy winds of the Mediterranean versus the cold, destruction of Atlantic Canada. The softly falling snow coating pines in the Pacific Northwest versus the frozen tundra of the extreme North. Yes, yes, it's clear that "weather" can both be the same and vastly different depending on geographical region, season; even on whether or not you are experiencing it in a city or a rural setting. But there is that quality of "home" in weather that I was struck by today.

Thomas Appleton said, "A Boston man is the east wind made flesh." Norman Mailer said that "America is a hurricane," and then said that White Protestants were jerks standing in the eye of the storm or something...cause, you know. It's Mailer. Seneca, that wiley Roman philosopher, said "If a man knows not what harbour he seeks, then any wind is the right wind," but also, "If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable." I think these quotes are the ones I harken to at the moment.

The closer I get to knowing I will be back on the Pacific side of the world, the further it seems to be. And, as I stated in my last post, the fact that I will be in four extremely distinct parts of the world in a year are starting to sink in. As I work on my resume for a Northern contract job, it's sinking in even deeper! And I am longing for the feel of wind from home. And rain. And sun. Snow...well...I'll take it if I have to, but....

I can remember the first fall I was here, dealing with the Newfoundland wind for the first time. Being raised in Kamloops, British Columbia, I was no stranger to wind. In a valley inside the Thompson-Nicola region, just past the lush Okanagon, and riding a strange divide between nice-growing river-valley and semi-desert scrub, at certain times of year the wind could ride through like a fleet of freight trains, bringing sand and lightening and heat and rain. I remember visiting home a few years ago and going in to a grocery store for a few things, and coming out literally about 15 minutes later to find the sky gone dark, the wind whipping a shopping cart across the parking lot, and my mom in her car shouting, "Get in!" She had seen the sky darken and rode up to get me like a tiny, round saviour, and I barely made it into the car before the wind drove a ton of sand and heat across us. It can get biblical in Kamloops, sometimes, and a hail of locusts riding those summer storms wouldn't even cause me to blink.

But the wind is hot, sudden, and fickle. It drives up, sandblasts your short-clad legs in the summer, and then recedes again. Newfoundland wind is a steady, driving, constant force. It's the guest that will NOT leave, and only had moments where it gets a little drunk after dinner and starts telling slightly racist jokes in a too-loud voice. Sometimes it tries to start a fight with your uncle, and then it grabs it's head and slumps into the couch to just moan quietly about the headache-inducing qualities of low-cost gin. And you hate it a little, but you tolerate it, too. You get used to it, and talk to your friends and family behind it's back, but deal with it all the same. It's a wind that annoys you, but sort of builds character.

When I was in Harlow, the wind smelled good. I'm sure it stinks of city and cars and trolleys and pollution sometimes, too. But to me it smelled like gardens and flowers and growing things. Vancouver smells like that to me as well, depending on where you're standing, of course. Again, smog and dirt and despair can get carried on that wind, but so often it brings clean smells of rain and trees. The Pacific has a mustier, more "fishy" scent to it than the more crisp, salty Atlantic. But it's a smell of home that gets carried on the rain, and it smells GOOD! And rain that falls down, instead of in your face, is also a pleasure I have done without for too long.

I can remember walking in summertime Vancouver, people in shorts and summer dresses, shopping tourists, honking cars and everyone busy. Then, the sky grew grey with rain clouds, the clouds opened, and a torrent of hot, straight-down-falling rain poured over the streets like someone taking a bucket and just tipping it over. Everyone calmly stepped under awnings, into doorways, sharing space with the ever-present homeless. No one opened an umbrella, it was only a summer shower, but everything stopped for just a few brief minutes. People chatted quietly with their friends, or made companionable gestures at strangers, rolled eyes at dashing tourists, tried to ignore the crazies you might be sharing a space with, and the rain came down like a curtain. Then, just as suddenly as it started, it stopped, the curtain parted, and an immediate blast of sunshine rays came down to brighten the wet pavement. Everyone stepped back out into the street, and went back to whatever they had been doing, bustling along like nothing had happened, except now they had to dodge puddles and dripping eaves.

Now, obviously Vancouver is not existing in some sort of 1940s musical, with this sort of thing happening everyday. But the rain that everyone complains about in the Lower Mainland is the rain that those who live there understand. It is THEIR rain. They know when to open an umbrella, when to step aside and let it pass, when to break out the rubber boots (or pvc stiletto heels). The only thing to understand about Newfoundland rain is that using an umbrella to try and keep dry will make you look like a fool and a tourist. It took me a while to understand what THIS weather meant.

And yes, everything is now making me wax poetic. I'm acutely aware of the weather, the smells, the people, the taste of food, the availability of product, the quality of the light, the sound of the wind. I'm in a limbo state, where I am not really IN this place anymore, but not really anywhere else either. I am going to experience so many "tastes" and states of rain, wind, earth, food, people. I will have to continually adjust, and by the time I understand THAT wind, THAT rain, THAT sun, I'll be off again getting used to it all in a new space. But the closer I get to going "home" the more I think about the wind and rain there, the light coming in my high rise windows carrying the musty smell of the Pacific. And I guess there is some fear there, as well. IS that the smell of home? Or is home the wind making me cranky outside my window right now. Or the hot rain that might possibly drive a giant beetle into my rented apartment in New Orleans, causing screaming and crying. Or will some new, yet unknown zephyr bring me a clearer sense of where my place in this world is.

Yep, the wind is making me moody. As Catherine the Great once said, A great wind is blowing, and that either gives you imagination or a headache. I guess Newfoundland wind brings both. As long as it's not an "ill wind that blows no good," I guess I'll ride it out.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Oh Lord, where has the time gone?

Sometimes I feel as though I roll over in bed, open my eyes to look at the clock, and am faced with a whole new calendar year instead! When did it get to be 2012 already? And why is it almost MARCH? Did those Mayans come and pull some whammy on me?

I clearly didn't finish all the adventures of New Orleans, so those will just have to be interspersed among the--hopefully--new blog posts. Some close friends (Crystle Reid, Anya Zub, Heather Read) have been working on their own blogs, and I'm shamed to have had one for so long, with so few posts. So, now I'm going to try and update at least once a week in order to keep the ol' hand in the writing jar, so to speak.

Plus, more travel is coming up. Including MORE New Orleans!

Yep, the intrepid traveller is gathering up this freak show called My Life, and heading out into the world again. At the end of April, things will be shipped back to the Western region of Canada, I will be heading somewhere North....waaaaaaayyyyyy North for the summer, and then back East and South to New Orleans in the fall. By the start of 2013, I hope like hell to be back in the Vancouver Lower Mainland somewhere, starting a new chapter of my life, and writing my thesis as if the devil was waiting for!

I'm teaching my second course this Winter term, and we've just passed the half way point. Rather hard to believe. This...from a gal who used to get panic attacks...travelling and teaching and studying like mad.

Oh, and I turned 40 this year. But we won't make a fuss over that.

Well, ok, a little fuss. Yes, I turned 40. It's weird, hard to believe, slightly lame, and rather wonderful, all at once. I once read in "Anne of Green Gables" or "Emily of New Moon" (read your L.M. Montgomery, y'all!) that the character wrote a letter when she was a child, 10 or 11 or something, and addressed it to herself as an adult. I'm terribly, terribly glad I never did that. It seems ridiculously awful to read a letter from your prior, more rosy, more youthful, more full of piss and vinegar, more naive self at an age where you GET how very naive you actually were. Even the character in the book has this reaction, and the letter only serves to make her more tired, and a little sad. The thought of even my 30-year-old self writing this slightly more embittered, yet strangely jauntier, 40-year-old self makes me damned glad I never bought into that saccharine crap!

At 30 I was just getting out of a marriage, living on my own for the first time in my life, going back to school and wondering if I even had the ability to learn or retain knowledge anymore. I was working at a job that sucked a lot of my soul out, suffering from occasional panic attacks, meeting new friends, and trying to remember that just because my husband and I had not made it work, that I was not broken at the core of myself.

At 33, I got a plane for the first time in my life, as this blog will tell you. I left my province for the first time in my life (I had previously only travelled to the States on two day trips, and Saskatchewan with my mother at an age where I don't remember the trip at all), and headed clear from one coast to the other, across the second largest country in the world. I started a new life with nothing: no furniture, no friends in the area, no dishes, no job. All to start a folklore program in a province I didn't yet understand.

Now, at 40, I have lived almost 10 years in Newfoundland, have travelled to and lived for six weeks across the pond in England, have lived for three and a half months in New Orleans, Louisiana, have travelled to Churchpoint and Halifax in Nova Scotia, Montreal and Quebec City in Quebec, Toronto in Ontario, Baton Rouge in Louisiana and Bloomington in Indiana. I am now planning on living for four months up North in the territories, then going back to New Orleans, and finally, after a decade away, moving back to my home province. And yet, I have no idea if that will be where I permanently hang my hat, and am prepared to move again as jobs, opportunities and conferences arise. I get up and teach 57 undergraduate university students in my Folklore 1000 class, and am working on the final (though biggest and baddest) stages of my doctoral program in Folklore, and I'm hoping by the end of 2013 I can be called Doctor!

I think I would shoot myself in the head if I had to read a "letter to myself" from 30, 20, dear god...could you even imagine reading one from your teen years??? The horror. But taking stock is always interesting. As I gear up for a final push off the island of Newfoundland, back into the world, I realize that I will once again be without a bed, without dishes, without a job, but with the knowledge that I can start anywhere, at any age, and make it work. It's damned nice, when you're feeling rather lonely and overwhelmed with work and planning and logistics and...well...fear, that you've felt those things before and ended up here: in an apartment, with good friends in the area, and dishes, and a job.

The point? There is none...this is a blog. A self-indulgent online diary. Sheesh. And it is definitely NOT a letter to myself at 50!!

However....if I could say something to that person...that greying wreck...I'd say that wherever you are, you have come very, very, very far to get there.