Living on the west coast in the lovely harbour city of Vancouver B.C., we are blessed with pleasant springs, delightfully warm summers, and a vibrant autumn. Our petite city is shielded from the harsh weather conditions by sprawling mountain ranges and the several small islands that guard our coastline. It is a beautiful place for most of the year, but with the onset of our winter, trouble comes for my arthritis, when dark pregnant clouds unleash their cold unrelenting winter rains.
Unlike the dry frigid temperatures of the prairies and east coast, our rain is an inhospitable soggy demon that seeps into the marrow of my bones. The moisture lingers, saturating air and body with a succulent clamminess I can’t shake.
Winter has always been hard on my joints. Growing up on the west coast one would think I should be accustomed to our wet winters, and I tolerated them until the arrival of RA. During the waning days of fall, the hours of daylight disappear into long shadows that stretch across the earth; the ocean exhales its misty saltwater breath, inviting a briny fog that coats our city in its eerie damp beauty, lovely to behold from behind steamy windows. I feel the beginnings of a certain bite in the air that clings to my joints like moss on the pilings.
I have memories of visiting the prairies in the midst of winter. I remember delicate snowflakes floating down from white puffy clouds, layering the ground and sealing in the warmth emanating from the earth. Devoid of the ocean’s humidity, the dry chill was deflected by multiple layers of clothing. I would step inside and feel the reassuring sting of my cheeks as the warmth poured through me like a snaking lava flow.
The rains of Vancouver arrive with uncomfortable temperatures that barely sit above the freezing mark – not cold enough to evaporate the moisture from the air, and yet markedly frigid in its dankness, igniting my joints like a roadside flare. Even after retreating indoors to comfortable heat, it takes hours for the moisture to escape my bones. The rains that nourish our forests do not nourish the joints flushed with arthritis.
There will always be much debate on the effects of weather on people with arthritis; and no matter what science may tell us, there are too many testaments of those that suffer when the pressure changes. It creates an obvious shift in our bodies like the tectonic plates moving beneath the earth. When I feel the drop in temperature, I look to the flight of the ducks and geese darkening the sky with their crooked “V” as they fly south to warmer climates.
Every season, I dream of being a snowbird, of escaping the pooling inflammation accumulating in my rain-soaked joints. I envy their flight to a land of sweeping skies and red sand beneath a crimson sun; I dream of joining them to bask in the rustic beauty of the desert where illuminated dust particles dance in the air. I can almost feel the rays of the sun infusing my joints with their soothing warmth. I can picture the line of motorists snaking along the highways to escape the deluge of cold rain. I dream of flitting off to exotic canyons sweating beneath the arid heat, trading in my boots and pullovers for flip-flops and wispy tops tinged with the smell of sunscreen.
People have vastly different reactions to climate. No one person will ever gain the same comfort level of another in winter, spring summer or fall. This is my sultry dream that keeps me warm in the midst of winter. One day I may fly with the birds to more temperate environments, but for now I remain resilient in my battle to defeat the symptoms of arthritis by keeping my joints nimble with mild exercise, staying warm in the stimulating heat of my mattress pad, soaking in hot baths laced with the intoxicating scent of coconut and jasmine, and watching the season turn from behind foggy windows.