It is said the Inuit have many words for snow. I think we need to apply this to the rain we are so famous for here on the West Coast. Having lived on the “wet” coast for 8 years now, I have realized having just one word to describe the water that falls from the sky is limiting in the extreme. To my mind, we need to add at least half a dozen new words to our vocabulary.
I grew up in Southern Alberta and when I was younger, I loved the rain. As perpetually parched as the prairies are, every rain storm seemed like a reprieve sent from on high. Usually accompanied by spectacular thunder and lightning, billowing thunderheads in shades of grey, black and even green would roll into town, darken the sky and, on a good day, may me jump a couple of times. The storm would conveniently water my lawn and clean the dusty roads and then sashay on out of town. Everything would become perkier- washed of its dirt and grime- and magically, the sun would come out again and life continued as if nothing had happened. When we decided to move to the West Coast, the first thing most Albertans would say to us is “Won’t you mind the rain?” or “It rains so much there!”. To this I would say, “Bring it on! I love the rain!” Eight years later, like most of my fellow lower mainlanders, I now love to hate the rain. Well, let me amend that. I hate some kinds of rain. Like the Inuit, we “wet” coasters could use a few more terms to describe the rain.
As winter is the rainy season on the wet coast, I will concentrate on its wet misery. I’ll start with my least favourite- January rain. It is cold, strangely colder than snow in my experience, and very, very dark. The clouds drape down to the ground and you rush from the car to anywhere inside with your head tucked into your collar, turtle style, trying unsuccessfully to keep the frigid stuff from rolling down your back. You want to curl up on your couch under a blanket and stay there permanently. The water washes away all the colour and energy from the world as it rushes down the sewer grates. I actually don’t mind the next kind of rain, as long as I don’t have to sit on any horizontal surfaces while outside, and providing I am wearing the appropriate layers and waterproofs. Perhaps because January rain is so bleak and energy sucking, January showers seem like such a joy in contrast. These showers are especially nice if you can see sunlight in the distance; it seems a promise of something better in the future. Much less bleak than the oppressive shroud of a true January rain. The rarest kind of winter rain is a true treat. The much wetter sibling of the elusive prairie chinook because it rolls into town so much less frequently, the aptly named Pineapple Express. A period of intense tropical rain and mild temperatures gifted to the wet coast by the Hawaiian islands, bless them! After weeks of bleak, energy sapping, bone chilling, sheeting January rain, balmy temperatures like 12 degrees Celsius are warm by comparison. So it rains a month’s worth of precipitation in one day! At least you can walk it it without scrunching your neck into your coat and your fingers don’t freeze onto the handle of your umbrella. It brings people out of their shells too- usually filling sand bags to deal with the inevitable flooding, but its still a treat after the isolation of a miserable West Coast winter.
In my eight years on the West Coast have learned that rain can be gentle, raging, cold, warm, slushy, horizontal and even wet (yes, there really is a “wet” rain). I, like all wet coasters, endure the rain, complain about the rain and even plan Mexican vacations to get away from the rain. We talk about it endlessly with our limited English vocabulary. But you know what? I’d take rain over a real Canadian winter any day!