August is grinding to a close here in paradise. One generally doesn’t speak of glorious summer as ‘grinding’ in any way. Summer is free, fun and fabulous…generally. But this is no glorious summer. People have been cancelling vacation reservations, pulling their boats out of the water and clearing the hardware stores of hepa filters and dust masks.
It’s all about the smoke. The endless layer of thick, acrid smoke that has blanketed this beautiful province for the last month and shows no sign of letting up. And yet we remain grateful; we must contend with only the smoke; the fire has, so far anyway, left us alone.
As I write I am watching the mountain across the lake gradually slip from view. Last evening cleared up a bit. Not so much that we could open windows or step out for a longed for breath of clean, fresh air. No, not that much. But at least the moon was yellow instead of the deep orange shadow of the past week; at least the mountain was visible as a silhouette against the lights of Vernon on the other side.
But the wind has changed direction, as the song goes, and the heaviness of the atmosphere is again intensifying. I’ve learned that you never can tell just how dense it will get. Last years fires, even though some were much closer to us than this years batch, never produced the kind of blanket that these have. I have read that the high atmospheric air is too hot to allow the smoke to rise and so it is forced it to stay low and thick…a heat inversion.
It makes me think of what a nuclear winter might be like. You know, the post apocalyptic story of how the earth would freeze to death because no heat could reach the surface after a nuclear holocaust. It’s been a hot summer, mid to high thirties, but during the dense smokey periods it’s ten degrees cooler. That’s a relief in a way because hot smokey air would be even less breathable than cool but you get the point…if the smoke lasted for years all life would choke, plants would die, everything would be contaminated.
My mind does wander into some depressing corners as I watch the mountain fade to a grey outline. One feels like a prisoner. For many people that is actually the case. It’s not worth going outside if you suffer from any kind of lung condition. Even if you don’t currently have issues it becomes readily apparent that you soon will if you spend much time breathing cinder-filled air.
But hey, let me lighten up a bit.
I just read that there’s a strong wind blowing in from the Pacific Ocean…the entire province could be smoke free for a couple of days as early as the weekend. Enough time, perhaps, to freshen up the house and clear out stuffy lungs before the calm brings a return to the reality of the massive, still uncontained fire to the north-west, and the hundreds of smaller ones that surround us in all directions. There is rain in the forecast as well…glorious rain… which we have seen none of this summer. It will not be the Monsoon necessary to drench the fires into submission but even a little will surely help.
This is not good news for Albertans, Saskatchewanians and all folks to the east who will be receiving this unwelcome gift from BC.
There goes the mountain.
It’s all just grey again…
Light black from pole to pole.