While Toronto sweats through a heat wave, on the eastern flanks of British Columbia's Purcell Mountains, where I live, early summer is a time of rain: rain, rain, and then, more rain. By the end of June the huckleberry undergrowth and fuzzy new larch needles have turned impossibly green, almost unnaturally so, as if they have been sprayed with fluorescent lime paint. The bogs soften, the creeks spill their banks, robins rejoice in a bounty of worms, and everyone – myself included – at some point, complains.
It had been been one of those "enough-already-with-the-rain" days when the phone rang. A good friend was back in town, and wondered if I'd like to join him for a mountain bike ride on the local trails. Certainly, I blurted. A pause followed, and then we both said in unison, "Of course, we should wait till the rain stops," as if there was no other sensible option. Unfortunately, the forecast was for another week of drizzle.
But right on cue, about an hour after lunch, came a pause in the deluge. Uncharacteristic blue patches appeared between the clouds. A lone shaft of sun shone down. We set off immediately.
Within five minutes it was pouring again. But by that point our hearts were thumping like jackhammers, our breath coming in gasps. It was hard to tell whether it was sweat or rain running down our brow, and we weren't about to slow down to think about it.
"This isn't too bad," my buddy hollered over the squelch of wheels, and he was right. It was great. The splashing and mud and adventure of it all was fantastic. But I found myself wondering: Would we have set out without the break in the rain?
Maybe, or maybe not, but the fact remains, it is hard to pry oneself from the house when the weather outside is foul. Rain falling, wind blowing, clouds gathering – or in Toronto's case, the air shimmering in the heat – these all look awful out the window. Invariably worse than reality.
Rationally, we understand it's not a big deal. When we do get up the gumption to venture out, inclement conditions have an uncanny ability to spark a childlike rapture; something related to the inexplicable pleasure that comes from stomping in a muddy puddle, or splashing in a cold lake. But setting off, actually getting out the door, when the weather turns, that is the hard part.
Our bike ride that muddy, rainy day reminded me of John Ruskin, a leading English art critic of the Victorian era, who was once quoted as saying: "There is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather." A bit Pollyanna, but right on the mark.
Two hours after leaving, we returned to my home, covered from head to toe in mud. Standing in the soggy backyard, as cold rain pelted down, we doused first our bikes, and then ourselves, with the garden hose. My wife stood at the window, shaking her head. I understood her disbelief. It's highly unlikely we would have voluntarily donned shorts, dashed out in the deluge, enjoyed a heart-thumping ride only to return and spray each other with a hose had it not been for that five-minute teaser of sunshine. I reminded myself not to miss this much fun the next time.
Special to The Globe and Mail