I grew up in Northern Ontario where lakes and trees abound and wilderness, true wilderness, is right outside your door. The towns we lived in would look remote and rustic to city dwellers. But our families would seek out even more remote locations for our vacations.
So what was the draw of standing on the end of a dock? We were thrusting ourselves out away from the shore. We were extending ourselves out onto the water as far as possible to meet the edge of nature and surround ourselves in its beauty. Our feet were on a solid man-made foundation but our bodies were exposed and immersed in nature’s expanse.
As a child I spent a lot of time outside. I suppose parents in the 70’s needed their space. They had figured out that a little fresh air would not only tire us but it would allow them time to recuperate before we barged back in on their bliss.
I remember tumbling out into the yard to see who had arrived to play. You see, the weather was merely a playmate and brought along her special toys. She was sometimes the brooding child who pouted, stormed, and sobbed but who brought along puddles and sidewalk worms. She was sometimes the bright and shiny child who kept you out of breath and sweaty as she beckoned you with her tall grass, wildflowers, and leafy trees. She was sometimes the wicked child who pinched your cheeks but who you forgave because she brought along giant mold-able mounds of snow. She was an ever changing companion who added a special something to your fantastic games.
We didn’t wish the weather away we embraced it. In the sunshine we squinted into the sun and let it kiss our skin. We laughed while we blistered and then lazed under the shade of a tree when our skin was too tender to take more rays. We let water run over our boots and down our necks and into our shirts. We gulped at the wind and ate the gusts filling our lungs and snorting out dragon puffs of air through our noses. We wondered at a snowflake on our mitts and the glint of light as it caught a crystal in snowbank. We knew weather as a best friend and let her into our lives as she was.
Sometimes you noticed the weather when it came up beside you. There was a breeze before the clouds moved in that ran alongside you and whispered wet nothings into your ear. You could feel its humid breath and you didn’t know why but you no longer felt like biking further from home. You turned around and raced the wind back to your yard. The wind didn’t yet mess your neatly coiffed hair or spoil your freshly raked leaves. It was a rival to be raced and a co-conspirator of secrets.
In winter you stuffed yourself into your snow clothes and lulled around like a stiff legged zombies. Your knees just couldn’t bend with all the extra fabric and the weight of your over-sized boots made you shuffle like the walking dead. But you could fall exhausted into the open arms of a snowbank and lie there eating snowflakes falling from the sky or suck ice balls off your woolen mitts. Cold wasn’t cursed yet, it was just a different playmate - one that let you fashion tangible representations of your imagination into forts and friends. There was never enough time to build everything you thought of in the time you could knead and pat together the snow between pee breaks and short days.
You didn’t yet curse autumn as the harbinger of winter to come. Fall was a pungent, ripe, and spicy child whose freckles and wild tantrums made you laugh and romp in the leaves. She had a kind of perfume that still makes me think of maple trees, first frosts, and pumpkin pie. It felt so good to slip a sweatshirt on over your over-tanned skin and snuggle into bed on the crisper evenings. We still swam in the lake but the cooler air would cause you to run for a towel or quickly dive back down into the soupy warm water for another underwater dip. The seeding flowers were our wishes to the world, dried bouquets for imaginary weddings, and batons for our long parades.
Rain was another friend altogether. She beckoned us to come out and feel her oily slickness wash our arms and legs. We let her thunder rumble in our chests faces turned to the sky and then we turned and played in the puddles and rivulets she left for us. Rubber boots, splash suits, swimsuits, and bare feet. She didn’t care how you showed up. She showered you with her sweet nectar just the same. The beads of her love dripping from the wet strands of your bangs or off the rim of your hood. She’d find a way to send shivery fingers into those cozy places.
Weather wasn’t a forecast on the news we scorned. She was just a playmate that showed up that day - sometimes the warm and cozy girl next door, and sometimes the breathless and raging girl who never let you rest. Whoever you stepped out onto the doorstep to find, you welcomed. You just clasped their hand and skipped off on an adventure together.
Then somewhere in the miniskirts and heels or the too-cool high tops and jean jackets we began to shun her. We refused to adjust to her whims and wanted her to adjust to ours. We sneered at her wintery winds and pouted at her blue clouds. We created separation between us and her and drove our friendship apart.
But I wonder if we still had knitted scarves our grandmothers made out of our favorite colours or brightly painted rubber boots would we romp with her more joyfully? When we are hiking or camping we can feel her familiar presence and a piece of her friendship seeps back into our souls. She comes alongside us and whispers into our ears again. This is why we feel nostalgic around a campfire and at peace alone in the woods. We are with a long lost friend and are laughing again at her childish fancies.