Saturday, June 17, 2006

A photo of Westernwoman with the Storyteller

Ah, here comes summer. My experience with summer last year was, to the say the very least, horrendous. Everyone felt my wrath. (Apologies...) I sat down to write a bit about the whole debacle that was summer sometime in Sepember last year when I had found a bit of vacation time tucked away and jumped aboard a flight to Vancouver. When I returned to Nagoya, Autumn was in the air, and I got that little bit of perspective that was so desperately lacking while I was going through those scorching, pavement melting days last August. So, I've dusted off that entry, hoping that it will allow some sobering perspective to land on my shoulders DURING those hot, hot days that are just around the corner. As always, I'm seeking that elusive perspective while in the moment, rather than in retrospect. Here's hoping it will work. And, if I do start to complain about the heat in August... kick me!

Snow Fairies in August

Summertime in Nagoya was HELL. The combination of heat, pollution and humidity created a sweltering stew of anger, bitterness and frustration that boiled within me daily. I was horrible to be with and even worse to look at. My hair was plastered to my forehead with sweat, my back bent, carrying the weight of August's cruelty squarely on my shoulders. If I managed to look up, everyone was met by the surly scowl firmly set on my face; I was a mess. The day my boyfriend left for his four weeks of holidays to much cooler climes was my meltdown day. Who was I going to complain to now? Who would console me as I berated the Nagoya heat, waxing nostalgic for Canada's majestic snowcapped Rockies and cobalt-blue waters? He didn't need to know that three-quarters of my life had been spent in the oppressive thirty degree Celsius heat and humidity that constitute a typical Toronto summer.

People who have never lived in Canada have a vision of snowshoes, maple syrup, and Bonhomme the snowman dancing gaily at La Carnivale du Quebec. I wasn't about to burst anyone's romantic notions of that cool, pristine beauty that makes up their year-round vision of Canada. Hell, there are Americans living mere miles from the Canadian border who arrive mid-July, skis firmly strapped to the roof of the mini-van. I am not going to be the one to put an end to the myth. It's far too much fun to laugh and point at mini-vans with US plates sporting skis in July. Besides, admitting that perhaps I had endured a sticky summertime or two in my past would have taken away from the steam of my present temper tantrum. My delicate Canadian sensitivity to the cruel Japanese heat was my armor for the war of guilt I was about to wage against my poor, unsuspecting boyfriend.

"How can you leave me now? I'm dying!"

These were the first words from me to him on the morning of his departure. I was lying stretched out across the bed, one arm draped dramatically over my eyes, the other hanging limply over the side of the bed. I took a peek at him from under my arm. He was still packing.

"God you're lucky... The temperature is supposed to go to 57 Celsius today. It'll be nice up on that plane, drinking beer in the air-conditioning, watching movies..."

I was still watching him closely under the cover of my arm as he walked from the closet to the luggage and back again, tossing various bits and pieces in. He spoke as he threw a pair of socks in the general direction of the bag.

"Hmm... 57 degrees sounds a bit on the hot side, doesn't it?" He had a hint of a smile on his face. "Why don't we check the internet and get the weather report?"

I wanted to scream. Why was he being so practical in my time of need? Stronger, more mature methods were needed.

"This isn't fair!"

I flung the words across the room as I sat up on the bed. I crossed my arms in a huff across my chest. I scowled. Menacingly.

That got him. He stopped packing and sat down beside me, putting his arm around my shoulders. He poured me a glass of water from the decanter beside the bed, and had me lay down. And then he told me a story. In it were snow fairies and princes and mermaids and fire-breathing dragons on a trek through icy glaciers. His tale unfolded and I closed my eyes and saw the world that his words were painting for me. The images were so clear and vivid and detailed that I felt I too had joined the fairies on that magical glacier, floating out to sea in a time long past. Gone were the heat, the humidity, and the childish urge to induce guilt. My eyes remained closed as the words washed over me, cool, crystal clear and calming.

As the fairies and dragons walked hand-in-hand through the swirling white snow of my boyfriend's tale, the realization of what I had been doing to myself became abundantly clear. Nagoya summer was hell because I had made it that way. I was so caught up in how I was being affected by the sun's rays I neglected to notice that there were a few other people living and working in the city as well. I'm sure many of them were not as lucky as me to have a personal storyteller to take the temperature down a notch or two.

When the story wrapped up, the fairies and dragons having successfully overcome numerous hardships and obstacles along their way to the conclusion, I opened my eyes. My boyfriend smiled and stood up to continue his packing. I got up too, and helped put the last of the clothes into the bag before squeezing it shut and setting it beside the door. I felt sheepish and more than a little silly for my pettiness. He seemed to have forgotten my earlier childish behaviour, and we ate a nice breakfast together before he headed off on his vacation.

These days, autumn has been making quite a show. The crisp mornings, blue-skied afternoons, and crescent moon nights all add up to paradise for me. Fall has pulled out her red carpet, and I'm traipsing down it with my head held high and a smile on my face. I know that at the end of Autumn's cameo appearance, there lay months of frosty nights and shivering mornings with the air so cool I'll be able to see my own breath as I step out of the shower. It's at these times, when I am on the verge of berating the poor insulation and inferior heating systems in Japan, that I hope my storyteller will once again step in to set me straight. I have a feeling that he has a few more tales up his sleeve; stories of tropical green forests and sun maidens dancing under golden skies. It will be these words that carry me, unscathed and frostbite free, through the cold Nagoya winter that awaits us all. Bring it on; I am ready.

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