Everything is on fire.
Wildfire smoke from the interior of BC has made its way over to obscure the skies of Vancouver for another summer. Heat warnings and air quality advisories have dominated the news the last several weeks as we wander about in a sweaty stupor under the watchful eye of an unrelenting sun.
The smoke-filtered light lends an eerie red cast to the roads and sidewalks; its reflection on cars sparkles with an unnerving copper gleam.
A phantom campfire infiltrates my nose on every inhale.
Everything is burning.
Gone are the crystal clear, carefree outdoor summers of my childhood. There were still wildfires, certainly, but their numbers were far fewer then, and the evidence of them wasn’t known to pay us such close visits.
Now their belching by-products come to find us here regularly, traveling over the mountains to seek us out, settling down in an oppressive haze over metropolis and river and beach and ocean.
In 2015, at nine o’clock on a Sunday morning, I am shaken awake by my husband.
“Wake up, love. The sky is yellow.”
I must be hearing things, I could have sworn I just heard him the sky was yellow.
“You need to look outside right now. Everything is yellow.”
Okay, I’m pretty sure I heard him right that time. But what the hell is he talking about? I reluctantly stumble my way out of bed and over to the window. Shooting my other half a this better be worth it grumpy stare, I twitch aside the drape.
I’ll be fuckered. Everything is goddamn yellow.
Instantly wide awake, I throw on some clothes and snatch up my camera bag. I hear Nutty Hubby chuckling, “Yeah, that’s what I thought,” as I fly out the door.
The people on the streets are moving in slow motion, their upturned faces wearing expressions of equal wonder and dread. We drift together in ragged clumps and stare.
The nuclear holocaust sky stares back.
Now, in 2018, red and yellow summer skies are the new normal.
In September of 2017, the sun’s glare was so dampened by ashy particulate that you could see sunspots with the naked eye. I reassembled the specialty lens filter I had bought for the previous month’s solar eclipse and snagged a photo, something I never would have dreamed of trying as a hobbyist under normal conditions.
I guess the yearly apocalypse has its advantages.
Doesn’t make it any less terrifying, though. Temperatures in my city – referred to as “Raincouver” by the locals, under normal circumstances – managed to rival those of Mexico in late July. Fucking Mexico. Our province’s air quality is currently worse than that of Hong Kong or Beijing.
Tell me climate change isn’t real, I dare you.
And I’m just one little whiner from the city, where the smoke is as bad as things will get. I have friends and family who are situated in the worst of it, whose first rising thought each morning is Will my home still be standing tomorrow? Are those flames licking over that hill or is it just the sunrise?
I can’t imagine being in their shoes, or maybe I just don’t want to. This is Canada. We’re supposed to freeze to death, not burn.
And yet we are burning.