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.

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