Riding her bike against upwinds has changed columnist Katherina Riesner, because the stormy winds have given her the opportunity to understand a thing or two about life.
About three years ago, I wrote a paper for one of my English literature classes. We were discussing Annie Proulx’ 1993 novel The Shipping News and I had decided to explore the connection between the harsh Newfoundland climate and the development of Quoyle, the main character in the book. I wrote about how the wind, the cold and the general wetness of the place dared him and forced him to leave his comfort zone again and again.
In the book, Proulx describes the climate in great detail and has a passage in which she talks about “a terrible wind out of the catalog of winds. A wind related to the Blue Norther, the frigid Blaast and the Landlash. […] A blood brother of the prairie Blizzard, the Canadian arctic screamer known simply as Northwind.” I was interpreting this and other passages not knowing a thing about wind. At the time, I had only lived in places where there was virtually no wind. Ever.
Now, however, with two years of Lundian biking experience in my calves, I finally get it. I understand, truly comprehend what Proulx was trying to describe: A country, its landscape, its climate can really change a person. I’m not saying the Scanian climate is as harsh as the one in Newfoundland, and I am not saying I had remotely the same troubles as Quoyle when his journey starts, but ultimately the winds moved something in me.
The Lundian climate toughens you up, the constant drizzle in fall, the long dark nights in winter, and above all the ever-present wind. There’s the winter wind that makes the icy rain come horizontally at you; the cool gush that shakes off the cherry blossoms in spring or the warm, yet stiff breeze that fights you on your way back from Lomma on a summer afternoon.
Proulx’ main character is inexperienced, helpless and introverted when he arrives in Newfoundland and in some of his struggles, I recognize myself. But I also realize that with the help of this place – like Quoyle with Newfoundland – I became whole because here I could finally accept who I was.