Thunderstorms

I enjoy a good thunderstorm. When I was a kid, I would sit on Dad’s lap on the large wrap-around front porch of our home in southeastern Ontario. We would listen to the thunder and smell the rain as it pounded down around us.

Storm over the Trans-Kalahari Highway

Thunderstorm over the Trans-Kalahari Highway, 2012

Ten years on Vancouver Island meant ten years with thunderstorms being few and far between. A thunderstorm is an event there: one crack of thunder or one lightning flash sees all taking to twitter: “was that thunder?” or “did anyone else see that lightning in downtown #yyj?” It just doesn’t happen very often at all. For a city surrounded by water, thats not a bad thing. I would not want to be on a sailboat with a tall mast in the middle of a thunder storm.

One memorable night in the Solomon Islands, the Pacific Grace was surrounded by lightning. We had to turn off all of our electronic equipment to ensure it wasn’t destroyed if we were struck. (See Offshore Documentary, part 2, starting about the 2:30 minute mark for the footage.) It was a little unsettling to be in the midst of it, but also an amazing reminder of the power of nature.

Driving into a storm, southwestern Ontario, 2014

Driving into a storm, southwestern Ontario, 2014

We’ve had a lot of storms in southwestern Ontario over the last week. Sunday, after church (and after the Dutch beat the Mexicans in World Cup action), Matthew and I drove up to Lake Huron. We were hoping for some beach time and, since we’re about equal distance between Lake Erie and Lake Huron, we can pick and choose where we want to explore each time! This time it was Huron’s turn. It was a beautiful blue day when we set out. Soon, we noticed an ominous cloud towards the Lake. Then, the wind began to pick up. Next, I saw several bolts of lightning streaking down towards the ground (Matthew was being a safe driver and watching the road so he missed them). Pretty soon we were in the middle of the storm. The rain was coming down so hard that we nearly pulled over to wait for better visibility.

Lake Huron, 2014

Lake Huron, 2014

Then, just like that, the rain stopped, the sky cleared, and we were at the beach to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.

Yesterday was another one of those days. I was nearly caught in three torrential downpours whilst cycling around town. After missing the first, a London Hydro employee encouraged me to buy a lottery ticket…I guess that first deluge was a big one! It intrigues me how localized the weather systems are in London. While I could see that there was a magnificently dark cloud over part of the city yesterday, I couldn’t tell that it was raining elsewhere. While I smelt the rain when I got to a different part of the city, and witnessed the second downpour from the safety of my favourite coffee shop in town, I have no idea if it rained a third time in a different part of the city. One neighbourhood: bone dry. Six blocks away: rivers in the street from the rainfall.

One thing is for certain: thunderstorms are fun to listen to, but I’m glad I haven’t been caught outside in one yet!

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Snow…

Today we’ve finally been getting snow that sticks and stays. There isn’t a lot, but there is enough to call snow! This intrepid cyclist is still out and about on her bicycle and having no trouble getting from A-B. Tomorrow, however, may be icy in the morning…

(This picture doesn’t capture the snow other than the snow remaining on my bicycle wheel after I brought it into the shed. The ground is completely covered! Really!)

Spring on the Island

It feels like spring today: the sun is out, it is actually warm-ish, the flowers are still blooming, and I can hear the birds chirp away as I cycle and walk around town. It is such a nice change from the last few weeks – I can actually feel and hear my body give a huge sigh of relief as it gets nicer outside and it doesn’t have to deal with cycling everywhere in the rain.

I had a comical exchange on twitter the other evening. Just before I headed off to bed, the rain that had been intermittent all day picked up and began to pound my exposed third floor window. Not long after I complained about it on twitter, so did one of my friends, saying, “Here comes the rain again…” I responded with a modification of the next line of that classic Eurythmics tune (yes, I just used “classic” and “Eurythmics” in the same sentence) and our exchange continued on that line for a few minutes.

There are a few song lyrics like that, songs which always come to mind in specific situations. Curiously, they are mainly weather related. On my cycle into town this morning, the warm sunshine on my back made me go all John Denver, “Sunshine, on my shoulders makes me happy…” The sight of spring coming into bloom brings me back to car rides on the East Coast with Buddy Wasisname, “Its spring on the island…”, though he is referring to a different island on a different coast.

Whichever Island and whichever coast, I’ll continue to sing throughout my day. Enjoy spring, enjoy music, enjoy life!

Snow Day

We kind of had a lot of snow yesterday (enough that Victoria and snow were Jian’s opening essay on Q this morning). I ended up walking to work where about six of our staff of over 20 made it in for staff meeting. Of fully booked schedules for the doctors, about six patients showed up. I went home early.

I don’t remember having seen that much snow all from the sky here for that long of a period of time (virtually all day from 5:30 onward) in a long while. With the snow, it has gotten cold, cold by Victoria in February standards. It is well below zero outside at the moment and the snow shows no sign of leaving any time soon.

Consequently, I stayed home today. So far, I have gone up and down between floors, made bread, caught up with the computer work I’ve been avoiding for a few days, did some knitting, and contemplated doing some research for my clients. I am still in my pjs. Did I mention it is half past noon? Snow days are a glorious thing and since we get so few of them on the South Island, I am milking it for all it is worth.

That isn’t to say that I am doing nothing! Last night I cycled across town to meet a friend for dinner. She is visiting from out of town on a work trip and it was easiest if I made my way to her. The roads looked alright (and the main roads were fine) so I headed out on my bicycle. It would have taken me easily three times as long on the bus.

This afternoon, I again have to cycle across town towards the highway to help out at an after school club at an elementary school. Then I’ll head downtown, again on the bike, to meet friends for our weekly coffee gathering. Then it is the opera this evening. So I’ll be out in the cold soon enough. Until then, I’m enjoying the warmth of tea and a fireplace from the comfort of my couch.

#yyjsnowapocalypse

For those of you not in the Twittersphere, the title of this entry is a Twitter hashtag. What is a hashtag, you may ask? It is a way to create groupings on Twitter. For example, people “tweeting” in Victoria often use #yyj to signify that the content of that tweet relates to the city of Victoria. YYJ is our airport code.

Monday, the Victoria hashtag of choice, however, was “yyjsnowapocalypse”. Plain and simple, this means that when it snows, we freak out while the rest of the country enjoys a good laugh at our expense. What constitutes a snowstorm in Victoria has the rest of the country merely increasing the speed of their windshield wipers. Jack Knox, of the Times-Colonist, wrote a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek piece about this in his article last week.

Consequently, I’ve devised a step-by-step guide to Victoria’s snow weather:

  1. Environment Canada issues “Heavy Snowfall Warning” for the region.
  2. Mass hysteria and panic ensues: salt and snowshovels sell out, stores close early, people leave work early, a run on tire shops occurs as people rush to get tires installed.
  3. The first few snowflakes fall.
  4. Hysteria continues and the weather is now all that we can talk about.
  5. It continues to snow. Perhaps a collected accumulation of 4-6 cm.
  6. Public transit is running 1 hour behind on the routes which are still open. Many routes are suspended or have altered routes.
  7. CRD Police forces close down certain roads, specifically anything with a slight incline or decline.
  8. Anyone who did not  already leave work early, does. Shops close, meetings are cancelled. Taxis make do a roaring business driving everyone who was too afraid to drive their own car home.
  9. Three days later, the city is still reeling and Gillian is still riding her bicycle.

The Breath of Nature

I read this poem, from The Way of Chuang Tzu by Thomas Merton, last night. It is an incredibly accurate description of the weather around these parts for the last week. We’ve had some crazy wind and storms: boats beached and capsized, trees blown down, driving rain… you name it. It is both beautifully awe-inspiring and kind of freaky all at once.

The Breath of Nature

When great Nature sighs, we hear the winds
Which, noiseless in themselves,
Awaken voices from other beings,
Blowing on them.
From every opening
Loud voices sound. Have you not heard
This rush of tones?

There stands the overhanging wood
On the steep mountain:
Old trees with holes and cracks
Like snouts, maws, and ears,
Like beam-sockets, like goblets,
Grooves in the wood, hollows full of water:
You hear mooing and roaring, whistling,
Shouts of command, grumblings,
Deep drones, sad flutes.
One call awakens another in dialogue.
Gentle winds sing timidly,
Strong ones blast on without restraint.
Then the wind dis down. The openings
Empty out their last sound.
Have you not observed how all then trembles and subsides?

Yu replied: I understand:
The music of earth sings through a thousand holes.
The music of man is made on flutes and instruments.
What makes the music of heaven?

Master Ki said:
Something is blowing on a thousand different holes.
Some power stands behind all this and makes the sounds die down.
What is this power?