The Dark Ages


I have been on the coast for close to a week now and I have yet to see the sun. I may not see it at all before I fly away in the New Year. That’s okay. I didn’t expect it to show its fleeting face. I spent more than a quarter of a century staring into the great grey maw of the Pacific winter. It will suck the very marrow from your bones. I never got used to it. I fought it all the way. It drove me into the ground like a tent peg and now that I must, once again, leave it behind, I do so willingly.

And that’s just fine with our coastal brethren. They don’t want to hear people complain about the rain. “At least we don’t have to shovel it” , they will stridently say. Oh, they’re shovelling it folks. Believe me..they’re shovelling it!

It’s not exactly a dirty little secret that this time each year is akin to a nuclear winter of the purest yuck on the coast. People put their heads down, aim their umbrellas into the wind and soldier on. They wear their gumboots and their yoga pants and still manage to sip coffee at sidewalk cafes with sodden golden retrievers leashed nearby. They chant the strangely delusional mantra out here that rain is simply a form of ‘ liquid sunshine ‘.  It seems you can’t live in the middle of Canada’s Pacific rain forest without becoming part sanctimonious salamander. Some do flee to the Mexico and Hawaii. Some poor souls will jump off a bridge. It happens.

While other parts of the country are digging out from snowfalls of biblical is always the webbed ones who will gloat and giggle and point their mossy digits and feel somehow meteorologically superior. Trust me, they lead their newscasts with it. I never much enjoyed playing that game. It’s too easy.

Vancouverites know that if they want to sample the fluffy white stuff they need merely head for higher ground. It’s up there on the mountains to be temporarily embraced in a powdery amusement park. When a few centimetres does happen to crystallize on the lower roads, there is a type of pandemonium that simply defies description. I lived through enough of those dysfunctional displays too.

Nothing is ever crisp on the coast…not between the months of November and March. I don’t know how cracker manufacturers stay in business although, laundry-wise, it does save ironing.That damp will go into your bones and cause you to mould from the inside out. No amount of vitamin supplements or wattage from a special lamp will reverse the tide. And it will stay damn well soggy and wormy until the flowers push up and the cherry blossoms burst..ages before the rest of the country digs out..and that will be cause for another round of gloating.  It’s how people survive. You couldn’t stare down the interminable dankness otherwise.

If you seek a bracing, blinding snowbound terrain you have to get away from the ocean. You go East to the Kootenays. You head north for the Cariboo. I recall a glorious winter wonderland with children skating on frozen farm ponds (like a Peanuts cartoon) in the Pemberton Valley. Of all the time I spent in British Columbia (aside from those irreplaceable summers noodling up the coast in a boat) it was the forays away from the tidal flow that I enjoyed the most. Winter was winter there. You dressed for it appropriately and your long-johns were never soaked through.

It may be the oldest chestnut of human conversation..the weather. It divides and unites and defines our limitations when we choose to wander beneath a wide open sky. You may like the wet and the mild. I now opt for the cold and the clear. You know what works best  for you. As for me..I have seen the light. And at this time of year…it isn’t here.


7 Responses to “The Dark Ages”

  1. Michael Frey Says:

    Enjoyed your riveting, rain-soaked rant about our wet coast weather. Grey is our winter white. Hope you are enjoying the nostril-freezing sunny weather in Toronto. Sorry to have missed you in Vancouver over Christmas as we were enjoying a white Christmas in the deep freeze known as Ottawa.

  2. Great to see you post about our dismal west coast weather. I prefer it though compared to the frigid cold white winter. It has been somewhat mild this winter so far. The Rhododendrons are blooming and the snow drops are poking out of the soil in the garden. Happy New Year!

  3. Arleigh Chase Says:

    I completely agree with you, Dave. Vancouver is really only livable for six months a year; the rest is all soul-destroying bleakness in shades of gray.

    I’ve always thought that Vancouverites were in on some sort of hive-mind-like confidence game – deny the obviously grim weather in the hopes that some hapless extra tourists would wander into the snare. And woe betide – sorry, I so rarely get to use this phrase – the outsider upstart who dares to state the obvious – it pours rain in the winter monsoon season. The local media whipped the walking comatose in our populace into a frenzy and made David Duchovny the most-hated man in Vancouver for going on Letterman and declaring he hated our downpours. They only eased up on him when he kissed the ring and grovelled an apology to a local weatherman. Only then were the pots of tar and feathers put away.

    ‘Best of luck to you, Dave, and thanks for all the chuckles, snorts and guffaws you gave me over the years.

  4. Mike Taggart Says:

    Reminds me of my early years in the North of Ireland.We had a saying as regards the rain,”it’s only a shower,but it will take all day to pass.One other good point about inclement weather conditions,sure as hell created a wonderful pub scene. 🙂

  5. hi Dave,

    Down here in the south (Leamington, ON) we don’t seem to get much sunshine lately. It’s been very wet and dreary. When we do get a sunny day it’s a Godsend. I think I would rather have snow and cold than this non-winter we’ve had so far. I never thought I would say this but I actually miss winter.


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