Monday, July 16. The air is white and heavy this morning. Last night’s air was the same though a breeze was raking its long windy fingers through it trying to disperse it. I greet the morning the same way I do every day, trying to tell myself the world is just the same, just smokier…

I try to take my mind off the fact that the air I breathe in has small unfriendly particles I cannot see but are present nonetheless, so I can still be grateful for the day ahead.

I try to take my mind off the fact that there are hundreds of wildfires burning throughout the province, displacing thousands, ripping them out of their homes and making them travelers to nowhere for a while. Wherever I look, I am captive in a white world that seems to end nearby, and it’s only the distant noises that remind of the reality wildfire smoke is trying to steal away.

I am not surprised that wildfires have sprouted with such adversity. It has been said by many, that our world is changing in ways that we will not able to predict, or withstand, for that matter, with much grace. In fact, grace has little say when fear steps in. It resurfaces when people hurry to help those in need, which I see plenty of here these days. The innocence of a world where shelter was taken for granted has been lost, but something else gets rebuilt instead. Hope through open arms.

I try to remember that the resilience of the human spirit is stronger than any fire, but taking another breath in reminds of a simple truth: I am not in control. Neither of us is. We are still at the mercy of forces that dwarf us. It’s truth that today’s comforts coax us into underestimating (ultimately a self-harming societal habit.)

I will try today, as I do every day, to remember that I still hold the gift of life within, thick smoky air notwithstanding. I will try to remember that when it feels like the sky is falling over, white and suffocating, I should stay within the boundaries of now, rather than try to make sense of what comes after.

I will try to remember today that holding hope is the way out of fear. Blue skies will surface.

Thursday, July 20. It rained last night, on and off. More is always needed. The plume of smoke that made the city its home was temporarily chased away by rain pelleting in large drops. Salvation delivered in buckets of rain water. Adequately so, the message is written in the clouds above: water is precious.

The sky this morning was a beautiful blue with white clouds stuck to it in carefree patterns. Pup and I took our morning walk near the Golden Sands, as our family has come to call the area near the airport. The river runs on one side, and on the other side a field of green embraces my gaze, hungry for vivid colours and starved after many hazy days.

It’s the simple things that count, the refrain comes back again and again. Clean air. My breathing has turn shallow over the last few days, as if to avoid putting my body through the stress of having to deal with the many particles invading the air. It’s in your mind, some might say. You see the smoke and you feel like breathing is impacted. If only. Smoke is real, dense at times, and it presses on your lungs in a merciless way that is spelled out as ‘shortness of breath.’

Today’s air is pure (informally peaking) in that visible sense that is comforting. There is more stormy weather chasing us as we walk along; pup sniffs rain-accentuated patches of canine wonder along the path, and I keep taking my camera out for another shot. Beauty sublime. Humbling. I wish it were possible to release all these shots of colour and wonder in the days that follow when the smoke returns. Like you release butterflies, you know.

We walk through the trees through a parade of mosquitoes which I am breakfast-on-the-go to; mucky sinkholes, hungry bugs and snapping branches cannot thwart a happy heart though. The air is clean, it matters most.

We reach the water edge, sand pours in my sneakers from all sides and I stay connected to all that I feel, mosquito bites included, because the sky is blue and my eyes are glued to it, to the hills I can see so clearly, and to the stormy clouds that roll up in a chase behind us. The pup runs in and out of the water, exhilaration left as paw prints on the narrow beach.

I am present. Humbled by how easily I can breathe, and by how nothing else matters. It reminds of the obvious. Clean air is where it starts. Life, that is.

The wildfires will continue for a while. Tomorrow might be smoky again and breathing will not come easy, again. The back and forth creates awareness, I hope. That we need to have the essentials in place. Clean air. That we need to think our collective lives and choices better to keep air, water, and soil pirates away and dwindling. So we can be. Humbled by blue skies and able to breathe. Will we?