Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Smoke and mirrors

The Gulf Islands have been relatively free of the forest fire smoke blanketing the rest of the province this summer.  But this week, it rolled in, blocking the sun, turning the nearby islands into foggy shapes, catching at the back of my throat.  Our walking group was cancelled today, and the radio recommends avoiding all outdoor exertion.  In the evening the strange orange light casts an apocalyptic haze over the world.

It's frightening to hear news pundits predict that these last two smoky summers in British Columbia will become the "new normal" as climate change takes hold and inches the thermometers higher until the forests are tinder dry and the summer skies are filled with choking smoke for weeks on end.

But the smoke does provide new imaginings.  From last blog entry's writing opener I take a line, "I am a part of all that I have met, yet all experience is an arch wherethro' gleams that untravelled world that fades forever and forever."  The worlds begin to rise.

  • a boy from the city is trapped in an inflatable boat with a girl he doesn't like, with a broken motor, dangerous currents and smoke that destroys their sense of direction; 
  • far in the future, a subsistence farmer scrabbles an isolated living from the former tundra boglands, the smoky Southlands uninhabitable, the air unbreathable.  He's been alone since his brother died a year before.  One night, he hears a knock on the door; 
  • after fleeing a fire that destroyed her home, her school and much of her town, a girl returns with her family to start over in the charred landscape of what once was a sheltered suburb.
The smoke is a mirror, and if I look deeply into it, the stories swirl around, bubble like steaming broth.  I can't see the blue sky behind the smoke, can't go walking through the forest or cycling on the trails, and the visibility makes kayaking a bad idea.  So I go down the stairs to my writing room, power up my computer and look in the mirror for the untravelled world.

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