tofino in the snow - west coast winter musings

West Coast winter musings

by Samantha Fyleris, Tofino


Scented candles seem to be present during most of life's marking moments: at the perfect romantic evening, family celebrations, and the time their purchase was used unsuccessfully at a US-Canada border crossing to conceal far more elaborate buys, "Yes, we only bought candles today. You can't get this brand in Canada." making them the most expensive candles ever. Whether they're Lavender, French Vanilla, or Green Apple, nothing says "my first year of winter storms" like scented candles. Having declined the advice of a seasoned local resident, I forwent the practical 49-cent long-burning candle inserted in a beer bottle for the more aesthetically-pleasing alternative. Although the bedroom is left with a nice boutique aroma, the fact that my candle has already burned down to a shapeless clump within one powerless evening leaves me thinking there's a bit of a learning curve to dealing with our West Coast winters.

In Tofino, the weather forecast isn't seen as a meteorological prediction one can rely on, but rather as a source of debate, comparison, and historical trivia which, hey, keeps us busy during this slower season. I enjoy the pictorial depictions of what we're to expect, like a big round sun or the jagged edge of a lightening strike, but the best one by far that truly reflects nature's mood swings in our gorgeous temperate rainforest has been an oversized, bolded question mark - seriously. So, even the professionals can't figure this out, we're on our own, thank-you very much! It would be nice to see more realistic images that really speak to West Coasters, like one for sideways rain, maybe a sketch of flying debris for those especially windy days, or a car sliding into the ditch off the snow-covered road. Any more suggestions?

Semantics also play an important part in interpreting upcoming conditions, but there must be an art and a certain skill to accurately discern the subtle differences within the variety of our rainy conditions. "A few showers" seems like a good opportunity for a short walk down to one of the docks, or a decent drive to Port Alberni, with no white knuckles and only a minimal number of vehicles passing mine. "Cloudy" and "Variable cloudiness" are terrific, and may as well be "Sunny" if you ask me because they give us a bit of a break from the usual winter waterproof gear. "Rain" is a little more definite, but gumboots are still not an absolute requirement. Then, there's "Periods of rain" which one would think indicates a dryer, or at least, a less wet day than "Rain" but can be deceiving, given those expectations, and very wet indeed. "Rain at times heavy" may as well mean "Go rent a movie, a long one", and I'm still on the fence about if "Periods of heavy rain" means more or less rain than the former. Regardless of the volume of millimeters or inches pouring down (or sideways), neither is the ideal time to run back to the car for that forgotten Chocolate Tofino bar, although I'm sure many have done so wearing the right gear. It's still smart to be prepared when the reading says "A few showers", but not as seriously as for "Showers", and I'm thinking that "Isolated showers" falls somewhere in between the two, right? "Cloudy with showers" seems like a gimme, but you just never do know here as the sun can push its way out after the rain, just long enough to cheer us up before the next rainfall. I like to leave the window slightly open anticipating "Thunder-showers", but our garden shed blew away during a recent "Windy" or "Very windy" night, I don't recall which.

The storms have come and gone, and, oh wait, there are more on the way - I just found out it from someone who spoke to someone else in town. It's going to be a good one, so head to the beach with the other local residents for those jawdropping views of waves rolling in what seems like slow motion, then go home and light up those candles because the power may go out for 4, 24, or 48 hours, depending on your source. And don't forget your sunglasses because you just never know what we'll get out here. I'll be lighting up the scented candles this winter of 2007, and waiting for the storm.

After years in the frozen east, Sam is spending her first winter in Tofino -- and it's only just begun...

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