Sunday, December 16, 2012
this is winter on the coast
We don't get a lot of snow out here. Sure, it piles up in the mountains above us, often tantalizing close, just a couple hundred feet up. But down here on the coast of Vancouver Island the white stuff rarely falls. A couple of times a year the biting chill of an Arctic outflow comes down out of the mainland inlets, settling in for days with bright, clear blue skies and frozen temperatures. But soon enough the prevailing southeasterly winds find their way back in with their dark clouds dense with moisture, and a heavy snow falls on the frozen landscape. The white blanket lasts a few hours, sometimes even a few days, but eventually, always, it turns to rain. In all my 33 years, I think I could comfortably count on one hand the number of white Christmases I have seen.
Winter on the coast is a lot more like yesterday. Waking in the wee hours all snug in my bed, the wind careens past the house like a freight train. I roll over and tuck back in, but the rush of wind and driving rain on the window keep sleep away. All morning the puddle fills up where the driveway meets the road, and little birds puff up and try to keep warm in the wind, flitting through the bare honeysuckle branches by the hanging suet. I keep expecting to see an old woman riding a bicycle fly past the window. Finally, into the afternoon, the rain lightens, just a little. Bundled up, I head out to explore. Here on the coast we don't often get the frozen winter temps so many other see. But there is a persistent dampness to the air that helps the gale howling up the strait cut through to the bone. In the forest the trees sway and shudder, the creek rushes its way to the sea; the outside world disappears in the wind. A couple brave souls pass me on the beach and we exchange frozen smiles before tucking our heads against the wind again.
This is winter on the coast. We hunted for a Christmas tree for my parents this afternoon in between the rain drops, winding our way through dripping branches. The tree brought home, lit up and covered in decorations, a holiday contrast to the grey and brown world outside. We ate æbleskiver and celebrated the third Sunday of advent as another storm came in. The seas rolled underneath the ferry as we crossed the water again to get home.
And yet...as if to make an exception, prove me wrong...on the drive home the rain looked distinctly thick on the windshield in the dark. As we turned inland there was no denying the snow, piling up on the road in front of us and flying toward the car in a hypnotizing swirl. Back at home closer to the ocean, the ground was still mostly mud, but the white stuff continued to fall heavily. Now it has piled up quickly and we're considering a night walk around the block. Because around here, you never know how long it is going to last...