Of Sunshine and Rain

Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – Aug 21, 1948

Of Sunshine and Rain

The sun—how one idealizes it when it is not there! All through the coldest and most beclouded days of June, I dreamt of an endless spell of golden weather during which, lying back in a deck-chair, I should loll all day in a perfect temperature with no wind blowing but the gentle draught made by the earth as it rotated.

I recalled long, but never too long, summer days by the sea in which, though the sun burnt the skin from one’s face, a mitigating coolness crept in from the northeast, across an infinitude of blue water.

I remembered my grandfather’s garden with the hum of bees in the flower beds and the scent of moss-roses and the rich store of fruits cooling to the mouth with their flavors.

I remembered the happiness of walking along roads in the blaze of the afternoon and kneeling at a well by the wayside to scoop up the thirst-quenching water in my hands and to fill my cap from the spring and replace it, a cooling Niagara, on my head.

Was the summer too hot in those days? Was the sun ever so fierce that the green of the tennis lawn did not seem to temper it, luring the idlest into activity? The sweat of an hour was forgotten in the flight to the pantry for a pint of buttermilk almost at a gulp more refreshing than any Hippocrene, or to the dairy, cool as the inside of an Italian church, for a half-pint ladleful of cream such as is never tasted in the towns.

The golden age, the perfect time of the world, seems always to have been an era of sunshine, though for some reason the father of the gods is associated with rain in the phrase “Jupiter pluvius,” and the title of the “sun god” has been reserved for his son Apollo.

Who is there who, during a chilly rainy month, does not worship Apollo rather than Jupiter—Apollo whose many titles are evidence of his benefactions to the human race—“protector of corn,” “preventer of blight,” “destroyer of mice,” “god of reapers,” “god of flocks,” “physician and seer,” “god of song and music,” “dolphia god,” “god of the broad sea,” like Neptune, and so forth?

Yet no sooner does this wonderful sun-god show himself at full strength in this northern latitude for a few days than a faint grumbling begins, swelling into a protest. “This is too much of a good thing.”

The children, I notice, seem perfectly happy as they run about the London pavements in bathing paths, treating England as one of the south sea islands.

Most of us, however, who are shy of exposing our nakedness—some men are shy even of exposing their braces—cannot accommodate ourselves to good weather in this fashion.

Conventions have gone to pieces in recent years but we are still a long way from a civilization in which on tropical days British cabinet ministers will sit on the front bench of the House of Commons clad in nothing but bathing slips looking like a long row of Mahatma Gandhis.

As I sit panting like the dog at my side with his tongue hanging out almost to the roots I begin to remember that dreadful day I spent on the high streets of Toledo, where no building cast even an inch of shade in the infernal blaze of the midday sun and I longed to escape into a dark room and drink something through a straw or even not through a straw.

H. M. Tomlinson pointed out a golden oriole to me on the heights—the first I had ever seen—but I would have given all the golden orioles in the world for a sight of Gunga Din with his water bag.

Then there was that day at Banff, in the Rocky Mountains when all the fires of heaven were beating down on the plain of the golf course, and I wondered whether I should have the strength to reach a distant tree that would protect me from the pitilessness of the sun.

At such times one begins to think that the loveliest day that ever dawned in the world was that in which, after a flaming drouth, Elijah’s messenger came back with the news: “Behold, there arises a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand.”

 

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