The Epistle of Q — Chapter Fifty (cont’d)

How close is too close?

This morning on the way to the gym (since it is one of the few places that is not smoke-infested, and I needed a moderate workout) I noticed something I haven’t seen for a while. While it was dark, the light from the street lamps was showing smoke. Just like on the Atlantic coast when some mornings in the fog I would see the rays from street lamps, this morning it was obvious to me that the smoke was intensifying. It was visibly swirling. And on the way back from the gym I decided to drive along the lakeshore where visibility was perhaps 100 metres into the lake. By the hotel (about midway along the drive) I couldn’t see either side of the Okanagan Valley.

Now it is not as serious a situation as a colleague from yesteryear is facing in Florida with the pending arrival of Irma. They are experiencing real fear and trepidation and I am praying for them, as they have asked me to do. At the same time, the fire I mentioned earlier that started in the hinterlands of Summerland/Peachland has not abated. In fact some buildings have been burned and domestic animals are now being moved to shelters. One thing I learned recently is that there are people in the valley who lead animal care programs — finding “foster homes” for horses, sheep, goats, even chickens — and they are very busy these days helping transport such animals out of the fire’s way. Household pets go to the SPCA or to friends’ homes. There has been nothing official, but I surmise that the ranchers have already moved their cattle that normally would be grazing in that mountain area down to their winter grounds. The only long-term problem with that however will be the need to eat into the winter supply of hay.

The fire is not currently threatening the two communities noted above, although evacuation alerts have been posted for the suburban areas. And, the fire is a good distance from Penticton. But it is the smoke that is now becoming a serious health threat. Smoke started filling up the OK Valley in early June and there have been very few days that have been somewhat clear of the stuff since. Now we are getting it from all directions — southeast from the Montana fires, southwest from the northern Washington fire that has crossed the border between two provincial parks (why we didn’t build a wall and have Trump pay for it, is a lingering question!!), northeast from the Joe Rich fire near Kelowna and northwest from the Finlay Creek fire. At times you can taste it, as I did Monday morning when I biked the KVR to the Hillside station.

The weather reports indicate that rain may be on its way. The downside is that such activity will likely be accompanied by lightning strikes, which are always a threat to dry forest and range lands. It has been a summer to remember — after a spring of floods, now drought at level three (which is very serious). When I next visit a couple of my favourite wineries, I will ask what the smoke has done to the grapes (there still remains plenty of water for irrigation purposes). In the meantime, know that personal health is not only impacted by hurricanes and floods, it can be seriously influenced by constant exposure to smoke from forest fires.

Through it all though, may I say that all things considered, life is good, even in spite of major sun flares in the last day or so. We live on a volatile planet, always have and always will. Nature we can never change. We can change our attitudes to each other — so while many think being green is the answer, remember what Kermit said: it’s not easy being green. Perhaps we should just try loving each other a little more, accept nature for what she is, adjust and adapt as we can, and stop throwing burning cigarette butts out the window.

g.w.

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