a beginner’s guide to rain

Vancouver has just been through the rainiest October on record since 1985. It’s as if the precipitation gods waited 31 years to let their stored up raindrops loose just for me—as if balancing the Jen karma scales after 6 years of almost constant San Diego sunshine.

In Southern California, rain lead to mass confusion, back-ups on the I5, and a sudden uptick in weather small talk at the Y. For comparison, according to Wikipedia, the average annual precipitation in San Diego is less than 12 inches (300 mm); Vancouver boasts 62.5 inches (1,588 mm) of rain a year. I moved to a place with five times as much rain. 

I’ve been here almost exactly a year now, and I’m still struggling. It could be because I ran away from it a lot last winter, or maybe because I was going through too much change to notice. Or, perhaps it still seemed new and different and cozy then.

Here on the northern edge of the Pacific Northwest we need as many terms for rain as the Inuit are said to have for snow (whether or not that’s actually true). We need a word for the rain that washes away the last of the poppy-colored leaves and transforms them into compost piles on street corners. We need one for the pins and needles kind you have to squint outside to see—that doesn’t seem real until you walk out the door. We need one for the sideways kind accompanied by whipping winds and pond-sized puddles, and the rain that feels like the universe is poking you over and over with tiny, wet fingers.

We need one for the kind that convinces you never to leave your house, but when you do, you realize it’s just water, and heck, it’s kind of pretty. The kind that makes you fall in love with a city from the inside, out.

Change, whether it be in climate, surroundings, or relationships, is powerful. It’s a ripple that runs through you and leaves you at first wrecked, then different, and finally—hopefully—new.

This winter, I’m determined not to let the rain get under my skin or slow me down. Below are a few of the tactics, tricks, and trade secrets I’ve stored up for winning this year’s Rain vs. Jen battle. They include everything from bad habits to mental tricks to new activities. From my pale, wet, dark heart to yours.


» just get out: ever since my first Super Soaker Saturday trail run with Forerunners, I learned that no matter how icky it is, I’ll always be glad I got out. And, somewhere between my third hot beverage of the morning and shivering at brunch after a 10K Halloween trail run, I realized that kids really do know best: playing in the rain is actually fun.

» shopping. I’ve bought rain boots, a pair of the Vancouver staple (Blundstones), cozy slippers, and these amazing tights in the last week. And I’m not done. I survived last winter in seasons-old hand me downs to myself, but this winter I need to learn how to dress like a real Vancouverite. I also moved into a sweet new pad last month, so I’ve been having fun nesting. (And picking up a coffee table means I can justify a car share instead of going by my usual bus/bike/scooter. Bonus!)

» yes no: if a sunny summer day is the world screaming out a loud “YES,” rain seems like a giant “NO.” This winter, I am determined to live by yesses. Yes to mushroom hunting in the woods with a stranger, yes to drinks in Gastown (again), yes to cycling to 6 am spin classes across town, yes to poetry readings, yes to concerts, yes to people, yes to another coffee, yes to being soggy and satisfied.

Rain = forests like these, and chanterelle foraging.

» maximizing the light: perhaps one of the only perks of rain is how special it makes the rare non-rainy days. There are days when the sun doesn’t even make an appearance, but if it’s not raining, it might as well be summer. There are days like last Sunday, which, though chilly and overcast, still seemed like a perfect day for a motorcycle ride and hike in Squamish. If the sun does come out and temperatures climb to 12 degrees C, you’ll find me in tank top sitting in a sliver of sun at a cafe somewhere…

» Pho/Ramen/brothy goodness…for every meal, please. Thankfully, this city has a lot of such fare.

Squamish motorcycle adventure.

» inside things: all the writing, hot yoga, cafe working, swimming, reading, race planning, cooking, phone dates and good conversation.

» an excuse to listen to one of my favorite songs on repeat.


And just as I publish this, alas! a clear(er) day. So far, November is already looking lighter.

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