To tell you the truth I’ve lost track
of what’s burning,
what’s under control,
and what’s growing;
of evacuation alerts and orders
and which of these have been rescinded.
Here’s what I know.
A whiteboard hangs on the wall in our laundry room
between the clothes dryer and the pantry cupboard.
We use it to keep track of our weekly commitments.
On the week of June 21st,
In place of scheduled hikes and coffee visits,
my husband scrawled these words:
I never heard of a heat dome
until one settled over us
driving us indoors behind closed windows and doors
with air conditioning labouring all day and night
to keep us comfortable
We ventured out to water parched gardens
and for our dogs to tend to canine business,
because the heat was in the danger zone.
Then the dome moved on and the fires came
and my husband updated the whiteboard:
We’ve had bad fire years before.
They say this will be the worst ever.
So we stay indoors behind closed windows and doors
with the air conditioning labouring all day and night
so we can breathe.
We keep our eyes trained on the horizon
ever-alert for signs of new fires
until we can no longer see the horizon
for the smoke.
Now it’s the first day of August.
For six weeks the whiteboard has announced nothing but heat and smoke.
I step outside with my blue plastic watering can
and give thirsty purple petunias a drink.
Washing ash off their leaves
ignoring the need to deadhead
suffocated by silence
and breathing smoke.
Inside, I stand at the window and squint
to see if there’s anything of the hills in the distance
I can see through the smoke,
but there isn’t.
The lights are on in the house in the middle of the day.
British Columbia is burning.
The world is groaning.
We need rain.
And that’s all I know.