The white lace curtains that hung over the window overlooking my desk were moving slowly, in and out, as if breathing. 

Inhale. Exhale. They too were smelling the waft of smoke that grew stronger as the morning went by. It was Tuesday, June 6.

I had my phone off because I was writing for a client against a deadline. I’d missed the air quality warning statement. I was oblivious to the world beyond my window and grateful for it.

I assumed the smoke was coming from our fire pit, where my husband, the Carpenter, was likely burning some of the sticks we’d gathered over the weekend. We have our fire permit. There were no fire bans at the time. Nothing out of the ordinary, though I remember thinking he’d mentioned casually that things were likely too dry for a bonfire this weekend and we should be expecting confirmation of a fire ban soon if the rains don’t come. 

If the rains don’t come. That sounded ominous. When he said it, we were standing in the field near the barn, an area where the grass was browning, and from there could see that even the lushest patches of green sprawl were starting to look thirsty. Nature needed nurturing.

We looked out at the neighbouring fields, the lumpy brown earth planted for crop, and remarked that soon, the rain would come. Things weren’t desperate, yet. Not here, anyway.

I knew of the forest fires in Nova Scotia and Alberta, but only enough to know they raged on, but purposely not enough to know the scope of their devastation. The wildfires in Quebec and Ontario weren’t on my radar yet. I made the choice not to know, because my level of empathy is too high for such truths. 

I take media breaks often, now that I can, because it’s good for my mental health. When the headlines get bleak, I choose to focus on the things I can control and stop feeling small in the shadow of the things I cannot. I make no apologies for that. It’s taken me a lifetime to learn how to manage my anxiety. I put my head down and get my work done. 

In the early afternoon, the Carpenter, who rarely interrupts my work, came upstairs with an urgent request that I come outside to look at the sky. I wouldn’t believe my eyes, he said. 

We stood together in the yard, looking out at the trees in the horizon, at the blue-grey haze that hung suspended in the air, as if an imaginary weight held it low over the fields around us. The air was thick, despite the winds trying to usher it along. Unbelievable. You could taste the smoke.

That Tuesday more than 400 wildfires were reported across the country, with more than 200 considered “out of control.” It was unfathomable to me, though I know it’s the season. How blasé it is to call forest fires a season. 

All I could think was, if the air is this bad here, how awful must it be there, wherever there is. Inescapable. Unbearable. For every living thing. 

I closed the window. The lace curtains fell still. The house held the smell of a fire burning far from here, but close enough. I focused on work, distracted as the shadow of things I couldn’t control blew by.  

What an impactful reminder that things we take for granted are fragile, in every season.

WriteOut of Her Mind