With the sand squishing between my toes, I raise my head to find mountains just beyond the horizon, close enough to touch. My hair flows behind me, crusted with salt air and sunscreen residue. I take a deep breath of ocean breeze and catch the distinct sharp taste of the seafood tanks at a Chinese supermarket. The water is still cold but the sun on my face tells me that summer has arrived in Vancouver.
When the sun shines, the city is beautiful. No matter where you are, you only have to turn north to see the plentiful mountain ranges. I first learned that as a young immigrant moving to Vancouver and almost two decades later, I recall that fact better than the back of my hand. And if mountains are not your calling, there are bodies of water for your choosing. From the lapping waves of the Pacific to the Fraser River that separates Surrey and Langley from the rest of Greater Vancouver, you can have your pick. The glistening water twinkles, flirtatiously asking you to come inside to its cold embrace. People step into the warmth of the sun, eyes closed, like Edward showing his sparkly chest to Bella for the first time.
But it’s when it rains that the city’s charms shine, even through the grey clouds that darken the sea.
Cyclists brave the hills, unaware that they should be staying home now that the roads are slippery. Troves of volleyball players dive into the wet sand at Spanish Banks with raindrops on their faces, blissfully unaware that perhaps indoor courts would be a better choice. Pedestrians walk the roads in their sensible rain boots, faces shielded by nothing but a hat, because umbrellas are reserved for actual rain and not this pitiful thing called a drizzle. One by one, I observe people who have embraced this dreadful weather as if raindrops are no different from air, and I feel my heart churning.
Ontario winters can be brutal. The shortened days, the biting cold air that cuts you zero slack even during the walk from the front door to the car, and at times the snow that falls like a bucket of knives, each snowflake cutting into your skin. All of it are reasons that limit my activity during the six months of winter. They keep me indoors, comfortable but sad that it’ll be another day before I get some decent Vitamin D exposure. But after Vancouver, having witnessed the beginning of summer with the unseasonal rainfall, and its residents who don’t bat an eye at the wetness of the air or the freezing breeze, I wonder if I can take the same attitude for the upcoming winter that will knock on my door come late November.
Optimism lingers in the air even on a grey Vancouver day. There’s a suggestion of a clear sky behind the thick clouds. The tides don’t slow even without the sun. And the mountains welcome you still, albeit a bit wet and muddy. Perhaps what I need is not sunshine, but a better jacket and waterproof shoes. What I need is not good weather, but a sunny attitude. After all, life still goes on, rain or shine. And if there’s anyone who understands that, it’s a Vancouverite hanging out in the rain.