Updated: Apr 26
We often make fun of conversations about the weather as being shallow-- small-talk. But inevitably when the Rugged Outdoors Women Write group meets on Zoom, we share what's going on where we are. Members in Maine and up-state New York get dumped on by snow, while those of us in Colorado and Canada are experiencing a cold snap. I'll be sitting in an air-conditioned coffee shop in Arizona, talking about the rising temps.
Joshua Tree just as a storm rolled in - March 2023
It's a way that we are able to connect over distance, to understand what the others are experiencing. It has become a part of the routine that I enjoy. So I was excited to hear their pieces on rain and shine, because I get to hear their thoughts about it every week, and now so do you.
Rain v. Shine
by Christine Reed
In my memory, 650 miles of the Appalachian Trail in the summer of 2015 was nothing but rain. I remember the way it pounded the top of my tent—demanding to be let in. I remember the perpetual dampness: my skin, my hair, my clothes never fully drying out. The day I refused to put my rain jacket on, because I was already soaked, and I let it pour inside and out. I remember the dark clouds gathering and moving in, the sound of rain chasing just behind me as I hurried to try to get missed, sloshing through tiny rivers that once were trail and would someday become trail again.
I remember every drop of rain as if I still carry it with me. Sadness gathered over the course of 10 weeks of hiking. The sun must have come out at times. There are photos of me on sunny days, or at least in sunny minutes. With a sunny smile on my face. But my memory is only rain.
On the Appalachian Trail, I was planting seeds. It was late winter. I was walking with loss. With endings and burials and cut ties. I was moving away from the past, but not yet toward the future.
6 years later, the Colorado Trail, in my memory, was filled with sunshine. My steps were as light as my heart. I was home in the Rocky Mountains. The sun felt close, but only because I was closer to it. I remember warm rays resting on my shoulders. I remember the sun burn that left my face peeling, showing me in crow’s feet and laugh lines what the future holds. I remember thousands of flowers, pink and yellow and blue and purple and orange and yellow, gazing upward. I remember gazing up with them. Ready to take the sun’s light and use it to grow.
I remember every drop of sun as if I still carry it with me. Joy and warmth gathered over 40 days of hiking. Rain fell from time to time. There are photos of me on rainy days, with a poncho over my body to protect me. But my memories are all sunshine and rainbows.
On the Colorado Trail, I was harvesting the fruit of my labor. It was fall. I no longer carried loss on my back. I was open again to joy and love and what might come next.
Find Christine on Instagram and TikTok @ruggedoutdoorswoman
Read her memoir Alone in Wonderland for a journey on the Wonderland Trail.
by Marty Cowan
I tried to Winter, really I did.
The stillness, the pause of being
It all sounded so enticing and easy.
I longed to put my life on hold
and reset in the cold.
But all it offered me was the time to
notice my inadequacies,
my lack of creativity, the physical pain of my injuries, and the extra weight gain in the darkness.
With every breath, every step, it intensified.
The emotional tally exceeded my threshold.
I headed for lower ground and the sun followed.
It beckoned me to come outside and sit.
It greeted me, thawed me, hugged me, and warmed me to my soul.
“What did you learn from the cold?” It asked.
Marty Cowan is the author of Table To Trail a collection of plant-based recipes for day hikers. You can find her on Instagram @tabletotrail
My Hydraulic Cycle
by Bronwyn Preece
my relationship to rain is as complex as is it resistant and celebratory; common place and
ordinary to downright depressing and discombobulating. raingear is a basic to me, right
alongside underwear, socks, toothpaste and toilet paper.
i grew up on the coast. spent 89% of my life living on, with, and in a coastal climate – though,
apparently dwelling in ‘rainshadows’, the overcast of gray, and pooling swirls of non-reflective muddied puddles still dominated for months on end – marking time’s slow, sky-heavied passage with ‘seasonal affective disorder’ – a nod to my placement, my being and living with and in place.
and so i moved.
in a bumper-sticker clad vehicle which should have had one that read: ‘Real Coasters know
Gortex is a joke’.
[cue the first three lines of the Eurythmic’s Here Comes the Rain again ...
*i can hum them in person, but in print, to include would violate copyright laws]
i moved to the mountains.
where, ironically, annual precipitation levels are higher than where i came from, from where i
was leaving. from where i left.
however, here precipitation is largely measured in metres of white. i began to learn a new
language, a new orientation...one where navigating requires new knowledges: changing from how to avoid hydroplaning, to the ones shared by locals: if you can’t see, pull over, wait for a plough to go by, and pull in after them. i have found myself doing just that. i have learned tricks to override the instinct to slam on the brakes when one hits black ice, fishtailing all over a highway of flurries and blurred vision.
[cue the first three lines of the second stanza of the Eurythmic’s Here Comes the Rain again ... *copyright laws followed]
accidents avoided. avoiding accidents.
but it rains here too. it did last week. a week of bright sun and t-shirts in april, followed by a
week of deluge which sent me for a tailspin.... depression, anxiety and 15 hours-in-bed kinda
days – the not-like-me-kinda-days. i disorient in the barometric shift, swing on the pendulum of positivity and productivity to lethargy ... in fact i swing so extremely that i become somewhat debilitated. my elemental synchronicity out of whack this <me around ... added to by the full moon’s fullness (and surely someone is liable to suggest that mercury was likely in retrograde) and i hit near bottom ...
but what catches me is a sense of buoyancy – my saline body intrinsically and inextricably
porous, able to float just as much as it is able to sink – a body made mostly of water – a body, my body, a part of the hydraulic cycle ... a fluid membrane – one that rises and falls – condenses, freezes and thaws – one that feels -- my swings as human as is the water that falls from the sky
[cue the seventh stanza of the Eurythmic’s Here Comes the Rain again ...]
it's raining with and within me.
Bronwyn Preece is honoured and privileged to live on the unceded Traditional Territories of
the Lil’wat # and Squamish Peoples in Whistler, BC. This awareness brings with it many levels of responsibility, humbleness, transparency, and collaborative possibilities. She is a site-sensitive poetic-pirate and multi-disciplinary, community-engaged arts practitioner. She holds a PhD in Performance, along with an MA and BFA in Applied Theatre. She has taught, facilitated workshops and performed internationally. She is the author of Gulf Islands Alphabet (Simply Read Books, 2012); and the forthcoming knee deep in high water: riding the Muskwa-Kechika, expedition poems (Caitlin Press, 2023) and Sea to Sky Alphabet (Simply Read Books, 2023); along with multiple academic and artistic publications. She is an avid solo, backcountry-backpacker who writes on the trail, with the word gratitude tattooed on her arm. Find her on Instagram @poetichiker.
by Belinda Arndt
The sun shone on my body as I floated in Cottonwood hot spring. I closed my eyes and deeply exhaled. At that moment, I felt my body slowly recharge under the sunshine for the first time in 8 months.
Since December, I had lived on a floodplain with nonstop water pouring down. I was wet, cold, and hardened from all the medical decisions I was having to make for my mother who had a massive stroke. My days and nights were long and spent largely in the hospital. I was a parent to a 52-year-old, in a game of role reversal, now teaching them their colors, numbers, and ABCs. As my mother slept, I would switch focus to drafting a slide deck of the
different types of US government sanctions. A true mind fuck that was.
Fast forward to July, and I was back in my favorite state, road-tripping and camping through
Colorado. I was excited to return to Buena Vista. The last time I was there, I was trying to heal from a broken heart caused by a Peter Pan living in Colorado. Little did I know I would return here to heal my heart and body again. It's funny how your body and soul sometimes knows where it needs to go before your mind does.
There is a quote that life doesn't give you more than you can handle. And fuck, that was truer than ever. That trip gave me enough energy to survive the next 6 weeks. I finally felt like I was a fully recharged, new person. The sun shine was a large part of that recharging.
Twenty-four hours later, after returning from Colorado, I was back in the floodplain, authorizing a last-minute open-heart surgery for my mom. The next day, I went to Pennsylvania and figured out the best course of action for her. I asked a million-and-one questions until my body finally gave out at the end of the day.
I tested myself for COVID the night before, and I was negative. But after another long day in the hospital dealing with doctors, family, and, this time, jet lag, I lost it. Once I got to my hotel room, I barely reached my bed before passing out. The following day, I forced myself out of bed to shower . . . back to square one. All the energy I received from the sun had dissipated, dissolved. I tested positive for COVID.
I thought December was hell, but that was a piece of cake compared to being very sick with
Covid; along with doctors, nurses, and family members blowing up my phone with updates and demanding decisions from me —when all I wanted, and needed, to do was sleep.
Though the summer floodplain where I lived was dry -- I felt as if I was being swamped by
water, crashing all over me again and I felt like I was drowning all over again. The only thing that could save me was the shine of the sun. I needed so badly for the water to evaporate and to once again feel the warmth of the sun.
When I was allowed out of isolation, I went on a three-hour drive to the beach. I was weak from COVID, lack of rest, and life, but I made it. I lay on that beach like a cold-blooded animal soaking up every ounce of the sun, desperately trying to bring myself back to life. Slowly, the sun's rays started to recharge my blood, skin, body, and spirit … enough to get me back home to start another day on the floodplain.
Belinda Arndt is a solo traveler and adventurer based outside of Washington DC. Her tagline is "It's always an adventure with me!" Catch her adventures on her website WanderingBel.com which aims to build a community of solo travelers to share their travel stories. You can find her on instagram @wandering_bel and Facebook at Wandering Bel Blog
Encouragement for when seams fail…
by Tatiana Corbitt
The first time I camped alone
It stormed all night
Brand new tent with
Drip, drip, dripping seams
And lightning rods for a skeleton
For hours, the storm spilled
Its guts over me
Wind whipping the tent walls
Into a rhythmic frenzy
I cuddled my dog
Told her everything would be okay
(We were still alive, after all)
As the storm wailed overhead
I told her about blue skies
Over green landscapes,
Smiling faces and kind eyes
and the wind abated
Because no matter how violent,
Every storm comes to an end.
Tatiana is a writer and artist living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She graduated with her M.S. in Applied Biological Sciences in 2019 and is currently working on her debut novel. Her writing is frequently published on narcolepsy.sleep-disorders.net
by Anne Whiting
This piece is an original song with music, available to listen on Youtube
Split the visible and shadowed
Separate the dullness from the light
Far away, the fire burning
Blind me with your flash of dynamite
Flare the glare to heights
Echo back the light
Wash out hues and dyes
Turn it all to white
Darkness cannot understand you
Fill the blackout, burnout, mystify
Radiant star, brilliant sunbeams
Flashing rays like lightning in the sky
Anne Whiting has been creating adventure opportunities through trail guides since 2010. She publishes her guides on her blog and in book form. When not dreaming up new trails, she likes to play music with her band and dabble in digital art and website development. Follow Anne’s past and present adventures on Facebook, MeWe, Patreon, and Instagram @viewjunkieanne
by Meaghan Martin
“That’s petrichor,” you tell me, as we stand under the cover of the trees, breathing slowly
while the rain begins to fall around us.
“What is?” I ask.
“That smell, the smell of rain. It has a name.”
I turn the word over in my mouth, rolling it around to see where it fits. The same way we’ve
been trying for months now to see how we fit, together.
“Petrichor” I google later – the smell that occurs when raindrops collide with dry soil,
releasing geosmin, the chemical compound secreted by microscopic bacteria, from the soil into the air. The word itself is derived from the Greek “petra” meaning stone, and “ichor,” for the fluid flowing like blood through the veins of gods. When life-giving rain meets the dust and stone, geosmin is released as an aerosol, and petrichor occurs.
The human nose is 200,000 times more sensitive to petrichor than a shark’s nose is to blood
in the water. The moment the rain begins to fall after a dry spell, we stand side by side,
compelled by the overwhelming urge to breathe it in.
Again and again, we inhale, overflowing our lungs with the scent the same way that rain
overflows a barrel during a deluge. We are eager, lustful even, as we seek to saturate ourselves with the comfort and abundance petrichor provides. The human reaction is nearly universal; despite there being countless words for rain, around the world the experience of petrichor is the same.
What, then, I wonder, is the single word for the leap in my chest that accompanies the
sensation of your touch after a long time away? Why isn’t there a better way to describe the
shiver of a brush of your fingers through my hair, or the comfort of the touching of our skin held tight in an embrace? Why are we so highly attuned to each other, the way our ancestral survival may have sensitized us to this smell?
Can you tell me why it is that you know the word for the smell of rain hitting the dirt, but
not the word for where I fit into your world?
Meaghan is a backpacker and writer living in Maine with loved ones and pets. You can find her on Instagram and TikTok at @meaghan_adventures
Little Miss Sunshine
by Leslie Neidermyer
Sunshine warms my face and creeps into the crown of my head
Breath deep, fresh air in my lungs
Trekking poles click in the dirt
Flowers of yellow bob their heads in the breeze
Sunshine sparkles off the creek
Light dancing, tumbling over the rocks
A spider creating its web
Birds flit along the edges
Sunshine dapples the forest floor
Chickadees twitter in the trees
A painted lady idly floats by
Red squirrel scolds from a nearby pine
Sunshine watches as my tent goes up
Heats the inside of my nylon shelter
Warms my back, bent as I gather water
Considers my meager meal on my tiny stove
Sunshine hides behind the peaks surrounding me
Casting long shadows
The sky filled with brilliant colors
Reds, oranges, blues
Sunshine is gone until the morning
Forcing me to switch on my head lamp to read
The world now in a blue hue
Moon comes up
Sunshine reaches its fingers through the valley
Its appearance slow and subtle
Pinks, purples, shades of blues
A sudden brilliant yellow ball
Leslie lives in Denver, she owns a women's guided backpacking business; Strange Trails Women's Adventures. Find her on Instagram @strangetrailsco
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