I love the smell of rain. I once ventured out in a rainstorm smelling the air with the vigor of a pig snuffling in a field of truffles. The sneezing fit that followed aside, I was filled with a warm, fuzzy feeling of content. It was the kind of cozy usually brought on by watching the rain come down while sitting in my recliner with a blanket and a cat on my lap. Except I got wet. Much like my cat, I’m not a fan of feeling like a drowned rat.
I recently volunteered at Northwest Viking Fest with my partner. True to authentic Viking weather, it rained off and on most of the weekend. I drove up to the festival after work on Friday, my sense of dread building with every falling raindrop. Just when I thought I had made it to the festival site, I found my directions were wrong. After cursing my phone for daring to lose service in the middle of the forest, I drove up and down the road until I found a beacon of light in the darkness. Like the moth that later chased my flashlight, I zoomed to the casino that was illuminating the night. I let out an ironic laugh when the kind security guard told me the festival was only 3 driveways away. So I drove up and down the road again, unable to find this illusive driveway. Just as I was returning to the casino, a rain cloud hanging over my head like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, my boyfriend pulled into the parking lot like a knight on a red horse (the color of his vehicle). He hugged me while I cried out my frustration. Then he told me how worried everyone had been about me because I am part of the tribe, even though some of them I had only seen once or twice. Just like that, all my negativity faded and I felt the warm fuzzies.
The first thing my partner showed me upon my highly anticipated arrival was the giant pop-up tent that I would be sheltered in while selling tickets for his axe throwing experience. My mental picture of being cold and wet the whole weekend began to fade. Then he showed me the back of his truck, which had a mattress pad already set up for us to sleep on. Any leftover trepidation I had dissolved. I fell asleep peacefully and dry, filled with warm fuzzy feelings while cuddled up to my boyfriend.
On Saturday morning, I awoke to my beloved smell of rain mixed with evergreen trees. I was uncharacteristically cheerful for such an early hour. I hoped out of the truck and savored the squish of the soft but not muddy grass beneath my bare feet. The warm fuzzies started again when several friends passed by and told me how glad they were that I arrived safely. I even got multiple hugs. I spent the whole day talking. To customers. To performers. To other volunteers. The whole atmosphere was the exact opposite of the Seattle freeze. It felt like applying chatty lotion to my soul, which dried out from the frosty attitudes of Seattleites when I attempt to converse with someone I haven’t known my whole life. I found my people!
On Sunday morning, I heard the pitter-patter of heavy rain on the truck roof before I even opened my eyes. My bladder immediately forced me to exit our cozy sleeping quarters. Thankfully my hair was in Viking braids, which minimized that drowned rat feeling. I was about to climb back into our red cave when my brain snapped to attention. Our pop-up tent, the super amazing one that was crucial to staying dry, had collapsed. It looked like a partially sunk sailboat floating sideways in the mud puddle that was beginning to form. The frame was broken in two places and unable to support the tent. Oh, and everything the tent had been protecting was soaked. There were actual puddles in my waterproof boots. My Viking dress was wet enough to ring out. My partner’s belt of leather pouches was drenched. Possibly the most troubling, the stack of waivers people signed before throwing axes, just in case they cut off a finger or something, fell apart when touched. For what seemed like an eternity, my partner and I stood frozen in place, still in our pajamas and barefoot, at a loss for how to proceed. One of our friends happened to be passing by and we alerted him to our predicament. It took less than 10 minutes before several people arrived to salvage the situation. Even though nobody was fully awake enough to actually speak, their actions said all I needed to once again get that warm fuzzy feeling. This is a group that looks out for each other. Three of us stood the tent up and held it in place while another duct taped the broken corner. Then he found a wooden beam to hold up the other side of the tent. We tentatively released our grip on the poles, waiting for the thing to crumble and die. It didn’t. Our tent was alive once again. Well, as alive as plastic can be. One could say we performed plastic surgery. I could have let all the setbacks ruin my weekend. But the fellowship I found made this one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time.