My Grade 2 teacher was on a year-long exchange from England and she exchanged many stories with us. One was about the weather in her hometown and how fog sometimes made it impossible to see what was right in front of you. I imagined fog was a blizzard without the snow and cold.
Edmonton weather must have been a novelty to her, too, which was why, I think, she had our class document it. Each student was to draw and colour daily weather conditions in corresponding calendar squares. When it was my weather week, I coloured in each day in wax-crayon boldness. Sky was its bluest or greyest; the sun was the brightest red, orange and yellow. I wanted to colour in all the days myself. Weather that demanded heavy winter boots, bulky winter jackets and snow pants, a scarf that left only my eyes peering out and mittens tucked into jacket sleeves to keep bare wrists from peeking out could become, at least on paper, colourfully warm and wonderful.
Once the class completed a couple of months of pictorial weather reports, I volunteered to post the calendars in the hall. As I taped them to the wall, I couldn’t help but think some of the days were just too faintly drawn, too lightly coloured or too sparsely rendered. So I took it upon myself to exchange other students’ vision of the weather for my own — colouring over their drawings with what I believed were far superior and more colourful visions of Edmonton’s weather. I worked with righteous gusto. I did my best to overcome the bumpy wall surface by pressing hard against the paper to obliterate the other students’ work.
When the teacher came to check on me her face was a storm cloud and her voice like thunder: “I wondered what was taking you so long!” I got a tongue-lashing and had to apologize to the entire class. I was reminded of my crime every time I passed those calendars and was glad when spring came. Of course it was arrogant and wrong of me to deface my fellow students’ work. But it was easy to do.
These many years later, I think how great it would be if Edmontonians could simply colour over their perceptions of the weather and exchange the grey, dark, ice-cold or rainy days for vibrant, warm crayon-box red, blue, orange or yellow. It’s really quite easy to do.
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Wendy McGrath is the author of two poetry collections and three novels. Her most recent book of poetry, A Revision of Forward is the culmination of a long-term collaboration of poetry and prints between herself and Edmonton printmaker Walter Jule.