KAMLOOPS — It goes in waves. That’s the best way to describe it. One day the smoke is so thick it drowns every bit of hope and positivity you can muster. The next day, a breeze starts sweeping away at the smoke until the blue sky swallows your gaze yet again and the feeling of ‘we’ll get through this and we’ll be fine’ surfaces.
A day trip to Sun Peaks on Saturday infused enough positive thinking to help me get back on that track. Hope? Check. Gratefulness and finding ways to cope? Ditto. There is something about blue skies and sunny mornings that revives your heart in a way that nothing else can.
The best part was being away from technology, save for the occasional use of my phone to take photos. No news, no feeling of helplessness upon hearing of more wildfires breaking out somewhere or the ones close by growing to gargantuan proportions.
Getting out of the fray for a day or even less, just enough to reposition your hope bearings in the right direction is a way to cope. I urge to do so if you can. We came home to a smoky Kamloops, but the good feelings lingered enough to make it through the night on a high note. Sunday morning was a different matter. It is now midday and white all over. I no longer wonder about when it will end. Realistically speaking, not soon. Still, we must have hope.
As they say, it often gets worse before it gets better. For the most part, this unprecedented crisis truly brings out the best in people. Appreciation for a good word or a laughter shared in the face of desperation, hugs, or a shoulder to cry on when needed, an invitation to dinner at a friend’s house that is out of the thick smoke. Increments of hope indeed, but they matter.
I’ve heard many people say how much they appreciate blue sky and clean air and how often we take them for granted. It’s not just a tree-hugger’s speech. It’s what enables life. One day this will all be behind us, morning sun will break through our curtains shining bold, and by then, we will have all become wiser in how we manage the world we live in and how we build the future. One can hope.
On a particularly smoky day last week, we went to McConnell Lake for the afternoon. It was clearer there. We walked around the lake, listened to beautifully haunting loon calls, and dipped our feet in water, thoughts and worries abounding.
I was contemplating evacuating with my sons to a place that will help my youngest’s breathing, as he suffers from asthma. That the coast is now invaded by smoke brought forth a particularly hopeless thought: there aren’t too many places where we can hide from smoke. You can run but you can’t hide… Talk about hopelessness redefined.
But giving up is not an option either. I found my hope resuscitated by gazing around. Yes, it was smoky and eerie looking. But there were flowers still in bloom, bushes full of berries and dragonflies dancing their colours over the still water.
The next day turned clear for a bit, and so did people’s smiles. It will be like that for a while. We will feel lost and hopeless, then we’ll smile and see past the smoky troubles. But beyond that, there are the people who fight the fires in various capacities. When the smoke here is thick and ugly, I think of them all, knowing that where they are, the smoke is at its worst; I realize once more that giving up on hope is not an option. They are there proving it with all that hard work, extreme heat and smoke notwithstanding, every single day.
Incremental or not, hope is in us, though painfully low at times. Yes, some lost souls still light campfires (some newly put out were discovered near Kamloops at Pemberton Lake just the other day,) and others steal truckloads of pet supplies and food from the Sandman’s emergency centre. Fragile as hope and positivity are these days, incidents like that can really make one’s optimistic thoughts turn to ashes temporarily.
But then hope rises again. There are more hands willing to help than steal and there is still a whole lot of blue sky behind that thick smoke.
We will hopefully emerge wiser about how we build our tomorrows, so that we can wake up to blue skies and stubbornly sunny summer mornings yet again. It’s the twelfth hour many say in terms of climate change affecting our world, and it may well be, but really, what other option do we have but to hope, and rebuild, having understood that we cannot employ the same means we have employed so far. Here’s to hope once again, and to wiser and