Rain v. Shine
Updated: Apr 26
We often make fun of conversations about the weather as being shallow-- small-talk. But inevitably when the Rugged Outdoors Women Write group meets on Zoom, we share what's going on where we are. Members in Maine and up-state New York get dumped on by snow, while those of us in Colorado and Canada are experiencing a cold snap. I'll be sitting in an air-conditioned coffee shop in Arizona, talking about the rising temps.
Joshua Tree just as a storm rolled in - March 2023
It's a way that we are able to connect over distance, to understand what the others are experiencing. It has become a part of the routine that I enjoy. So I was excited to hear their pieces on rain and shine, because I get to hear their thoughts about it every week, and now so do you.
Rain v. Shine
by Christine Reed
In my memory, 650 miles of the Appalachian Trail in the summer of 2015 was nothing but rain. I remember the way it pounded the top of my tent—demanding to be let in. I remember the perpetual dampness: my skin, my hair, my clothes never fully drying out. The day I refused to put my rain jacket on, because I was already soaked, and I let it pour inside and out. I remember the dark clouds gathering and moving in, the sound of rain chasing just behind me as I hurried to try to get missed, sloshing through tiny rivers that once were trail and would someday become trail again.
I remember every drop of rain as if I still carry it with me. Sadness gathered over the course of 10 weeks of hiking. The sun must have come out at times. There are photos of me on sunny days, or at least in sunny minutes. With a sunny smile on my face. But my memory is only rain.
On the Appalachian Trail, I was planting seeds. It was late winter. I was walking with loss. With endings and burials and cut ties. I was moving away from the past, but not yet toward the future.
6 years later, the Colorado Trail, in my memory, was filled with sunshine. My steps were as light as my heart. I was home in the Rocky Mountains. The sun felt close, but only because I was closer to it. I remember warm rays resting on my shoulders. I remember the sun burn that left my face peeling, showing me in crow’s feet and laugh lines what the future holds. I remember thousands of flowers, pink and yellow and blue and purple and orange and yellow, gazing upward. I remember gazing up with them. Ready to take the sun’s light and use it to grow.
I remember every drop of sun as if I still carry it with me. Joy and warmth gathered over 40 days of hiking. Rain fell from time to time. There are photos of me on rainy days, with a poncho over my body to protect me. But my memories are all sunshine and rainbows.
On the Colorado Trail, I was harvesting the fruit of my labor. It was fall. I no longer carried loss on my back. I was open again to joy and love and what might come next.
Find Christine on Instagram and TikTok @ruggedoutdoorswoman
Read her memoir Alone in Wonderland for a journey on the Wonderland Trail.
by Marty Cowan
I tried to Winter, really I did.
The stillness, the pause of being
It all sounded so enticing and easy.
I longed to put my life on hold
and reset in the cold.
But all it offered me was the time to
notice my inadequacies,
my lack of creativity, the physical pain of my injuries, and the extra weight gain in the darkness.
With every breath, every step, it intensified.
The emotional tally exceeded my threshold.
I headed for lower ground and the sun followed.
It beckoned me to come outside and sit.
It greeted me, thawed me, hugged me, and warmed me to my soul.
“What did you learn from the cold?” It asked.
Marty Cowan is the author of Table To Trail a collection of plant-based recipes for day hikers. You can find her on Instagram @tabletotrail
My Hydraulic Cycle
by Bronwyn Preece
my relationship to rain is as complex as is it resistant and celebratory; common place and
ordinary to downright depressing and discombobulating. raingear is a basic to me, right
alongside underwear, socks, toothpaste and toilet paper.
i grew up on the coast. spent 89% of my life living on, with, and in a coastal climate – though,
apparently dwelling in ‘rainshadows’, the overcast of gray, and pooling swirls of non-reflective muddied puddles still dominated for months on end – marking time’s slow, sky-heavied passage with ‘seasonal affective disorder’ – a nod to my placement, my being and living with and in place.
and so i moved.
in a bumper-sticker clad vehicle which should have had one that read: ‘Real Coasters know
Gortex is a joke’.
[cue the first three lines of the Eurythmic’s Here Comes the Rain again ...
*i can hum them in person, but in print, to include would violate copyright laws]
i moved to the mountains.
where, ironically, annual precipitation levels are higher than where i came from, from where i
was leaving. from where i left.
however, here precipitation is largely measured in metres of white. i began to learn a new
language, a new orientation...one where navigating requires new knowledges: changing from how to avoid hydroplaning, to the ones shared by locals: if you can’t see, pull over, wait for a plough to go by, and pull in after them. i have found myself doing just that. i have learned tricks to override the instinct to slam on the brakes when one hits black ice, fishtailing all over a highway of flurries and blurred vision.
[cue the first three lines of the second stanza of the Eurythmic’s Here Comes the Rain again ... *copyright laws followed]
accidents avoided. avoiding accidents.
but it rains here too. it did last week. a week of bright sun and t-shirts in april, followed by a
week of deluge which sent me for a tailspin.... depression, anxiety and 15 hours-in-bed kinda
days – the not-like-me-kinda-days. i disorient in the barometric shift, swing on the pendulum of positivity and productivity to lethargy ... in fact i swing so extremely that i become somewhat debilitated. my elemental synchronicity out of whack this <me around ... added to by the full moon’s fullness (and surely someone is liable to suggest that mercury was likely in retrograde) and i hit near bottom ...
but what catches me is a sense of buoyancy – my saline body intrinsically and inextricably
porous, able to float just as much as it is able to sink – a body made mostly of water – a body, my body, a part of the hydraulic cycle ... a fluid membrane – one that rises and falls – condenses, freezes and thaws – one that feels -- my swings as human as is the water that falls from the sky
[cue the seventh stanza of the Eurythmic’s Here Comes the Rain again ...]
it's raining with and within me.
Bronwyn Preece is honoured and privileged to live on the unceded Traditional Territories of
the Lil’wat # and Squamish Peoples in Whistler, BC. This awareness brings with it many levels of responsibility, humbleness, transparency, and collaborative possibilities. She is a site-sensitive poetic-pirate and multi-disciplinary, community-engaged arts practitioner. She holds a PhD in Performance, along with an MA and BFA in Applied Theatre. She has taught, facilitated workshops and performed internationally. She is the author of Gulf Islands Alphabet (Simply Read Books, 2012); and the forthcoming knee deep in high water: riding the Muskwa-Kechika, expedition poems (Caitlin Press, 2023) and Sea to Sky Alphabet (Simply Read Books, 2023); along with multiple academic and artistic publications. She is an avid solo, backcountry-backpacker who writes on the trail, with the word gratitude tattooed on her arm. Find her on Instagram @poetichiker.
by Belinda Arndt
The sun shone on my body as I floated in Cottonwood hot spring. I closed my eyes and deeply exhaled. At that moment, I felt my body slowly recharge under the sunshine for the first time in 8 months.
Since December, I had lived on a floodplain with nonstop water pouring down. I was wet, cold, and hardened from all the medical decisions I was having to make for my mother who had a massive stroke. My days and nights were long and spent largely in the hospital. I was a parent to a 52-year-old, in a game of role reversal, now teaching them their colors, numbers, and ABCs. As my mother slept, I would switch focus to drafting a slide deck of the
different types of US government sanctions. A true mind fuck that was.
Fast forward to July, and I was back in my favorite state, road-tripping and camping through
Colorado. I was excited to return to Buena Vista. The last time I was there, I was trying to heal from a broken heart caused by a Peter Pan living in Colorado. Little did I know I would return here to heal my heart and body again. It's funny how your body and soul sometimes knows where it needs to go before your mind does.
There is a quote that life doesn't give you more than you can handle. And fuck, that was truer than ever. That trip gave me enough energy to survive the next 6 weeks. I finally felt like I was a fully recharged, new person. The sun shine was a large part of that recharging.
Twenty-four hours later, after returning from Colorado, I was back in the floodplain, authorizing a last-minute open-heart surgery for my mom. The next day, I went to Pennsylvania and figured out the best course of action for her. I asked a million-and-one questions until my body finally gave out at the end of the day.
I tested myself for COVID the night before, and I was negative. But after another long day in the hospital dealing with doctors, family, and, this time, jet lag, I lost it. Once I got to my hotel room, I barely reached my bed before passing out. The following day, I forced myself out of bed to shower . . . back to square one. All the energy I received from the sun had dissipated, dissolved. I tested positive for COVID.
I thought December was hell, but that was a piece of cake compared to being very sick with