I woke up on Sunday morning with the world reeling and my head pounding. Post St. Paddy’s Day hangover, the perfect excuse to spend all day in bed catching up on my workload.
And then I drew back the curtains. And then I fainted.
SUNSHINE. Glorious, life-giving sunshine! I ran downstairs with renewed vigour, hugged Renee and danced around the kitchen. We chattered happily while flipping omelets, popping Tylenol and downing orange juice. Screw productivity. We’re hiking Signal Hill.
We wound our way through downtown St. John’s, past the old heritage homes and the neon-coloured buildings. Paused in front of the Republic of Doyle house, a white-haired lady inside peeking out as us curiously. We were wearing sweatshirts and sneakers. Sweatshirts. And. Sneakers.
Started our ascent up Signal Hill Road, paused to explore a tiny bookstore along the way. A maze of books that I had never noticed before because I’m usually too busy trying to catch my breath. When we finally made it to the top, we sat on the stone wall and turned our bodies towards the Atlantic Ocean.
Perfection. A perfectly blue sea meeting a perfectly blue sky in a perfectly blue horizon. Just water and land and knowing that straight across from us was England, or Ireland, or Scotland, or wherever. I’m not a bloody compass.
Then, ice-cream. The first one of the season. I bought mine because it was yellow and had butterscotch drizzled over it. We ate inside Moo-Moos, a store painted like a giant cow. We skipped back through the old houses and the quiet downtown and I couldn’t stop grinning because summer is on its way, and sometimes I don’t ever want to leave this city.
I wrote this as a guest post for the One Travel blog but I want to share it here, too. Because this is how yesterday felt, exactly.
This year it happened when my roommates and I cashed in all the empty beer cases left over from a summer of friends camping out on our futon in their skivvies, barbecues on the back patio, and hot afternoons dragging the kitchen table outside to play Risk.
It was a sure sign that winter was approaching.
There is no gradual transition to winter from fall. One day, it’s perfectly warm, sunny and calm. The next afternoon, a hurricane rips through the city and dumps 15 centimetres of snow onto your driveway, followed by icy rain pellets the size of tennis balls. The result is a thick 15-metre impenetrable crust of hellish winter regurgitation to dig through with a plastic shovel.
St. John’s folks are hardy. Winter conditions do not consider our emotions and plans, thus simultaneously destroying both. The sidewalks do not get ploughed. Drivers curse pedestrians for occupying their road space. The snow is replaced with muddy slush, noses run constantly, and the wind rattles my 100 year old townhouse at night and slides my bed across the floor.
To be fair, there are some people who love the challenge of winter. I know of dedicated skiers who eagerly await the first snowfall so they can hit the slopes at 5 a.m. in Pippy Park. Others shine up their fancy snowmobiles or sharpen their skates.
I’m not one of those people.
But I get through it. We all get through it, those eight months of torture. And when the snow starts melting and the roads turn into rivers, something magical happens, something inspiring.
One day, slowly, and with great effort, the sun peels back a cloud and allows a little ray through. People in the streets drop their bags, peering up at the sky and shielding their eyes against the sudden glare. Pale skin turns to pink. Frozen hearts begin to melt.
Bowring Park becomes crowded with Frisbee tossers. Teams start rowing across Quidi Vidi Lake in preparation for the Royal St. John’s Regatta. George Street invites the masses for festivals and events where the entire street shuts down and people bar hop without paying all the cover fees. The restaurants with decks become so crowded, you’re apt to just eat your food on the sidewalk.
Because when those warm days start moving in, you appreciate them. You hold onto those hot summer nights, no matter how sticky and muggy, and you damn well appreciate them. You hug them tight to your warmth-deprived body, and you never let go. Everything changes. Everything is alive again.