Pup and I set out for the afternoon walk shortly after 4pm. The smoke is thick and strong-smelling. I wish for no campfires for a long time from now. We walk down to the creek looking for the only kind of salvation while out of the house: the noise of water gurgling, the green of trees draping over the creek, the illusion of cleaner air.

The sun is orange and weak, but the air is warm. Stale. Not a living being on our path. This morning’s birds are hiding, and if it wasn’t for the dog needing to stretch her legs, I’d do the same.

She jumps in the water, wades in almost up to her neck and laps a few good mouthfuls. It feels good seeing her. She walks ahead without a sound and turns her head to check on me every half minute. We keep on walking along the creek. She’s restless; we both are.

It’s almost 5pm and everything looks darker all of a sudden. The smoke seemed to have thickened, swallowing city and trees and summer. Unless my hopeful thinking just took a plunge, that is. The sun is an unhealthy red.

It’s harder to breathe when you don’t see what’s in front of you. As if the available air ends just three steps in front of you. Secluded in a white space that is unforgiving and ashy, pup and I walk home, quiet and saddened. This is not the place we know. Transformed into unfriendly, life sucked out of it for now, how can we claim it back?

I pick a half-ripe chokecherry for confirmation of life still unfolding. It’s sour; real. The creek sings, a song we have come to associate with comfort during days like this. I walk in the water; cold, comforting, incessantly reviving. Tiny fish swim hurriedly, weaving through red grasses that adorn the sides of the creek. Quietly so. Everything is. Everything is pending, my thoughts included.

This is today. Tomorrow might be better. We tread on home. Inside is clear but smells like smoke. Outside, the smoke looks yellow and ready to spit out the blue it swallowed two days ago. Unless it’s my wishful thinking revived after walking through the creek…