Smoke gets in your eyes.

by katiclops

Today we awoke in dust.  It hung in the air, in the apartment, with a faint acrid smell. The weather has been unseasonably inconsistent for July.  We had gone to bed bundled in a down duvet, and migrated to the couch mid-evening, propping open our three huge wooden windows in spite of the traffic below, attempting to mitigate the warm front that had quietly rolled in.  Even now, as I retrieved my reading glasses a chemical burning-smell escapes from my glasses case, the way stale airplane air escapes from a waterbottle after a flight.  As we walked into the morning streets, filled with people doing their usual morning things–delivering orange juice, men with polished shoes and yet-to-be-tied silk ties draped over one shoulder–there was an odd “après” feeling hanging in the air. The traffic was gingerly circulating normally. There was a group of men in hard hats examining the fountain, and some others discussing the suspended dust, a wispy column beside the office tower in the square.

The smoke has gone unmentioned. The paper is jammed with Olympics coverage, a shooting on a local boat, and a death of a senior on a popular local walking trail.  The most recent mention of a fire was one on a lake 50 km north three days ago, a boat fire, that killed three people. The silence of the Times Colonist chalks another unmentioned event up on their score board.  Last summer no less than a half dozen cars had swarmed a neighbours property with no explanation in the press, and this year to date we had seen several parked on a pedestrian bridge as an RCMP boat and divers searched below, as well as a local restaurant owner carried out in a bust: no mention in the paper. Perhaps in part due to the silences, here, life continues normally.

We left the studio early, together. Waking on the couch anywhere is a little disorienting: waking up always leaves you unsure of where or when you are.  I was unable to gauge the daylight from the windows and without the sundial of bricks and bedroom paintings to tell the time of day. As we stumble out into the street a man in white painters coveralls, pushing a rolling ladder and assisted by two small children, a boy and a girl, dressed in matching navy and white stripes nods and smiles to us as they navigate past our heavy wooden doors.  “Push the button!” He instructs the little girl, who has run ahead to our ancient lift.  I do my best to smile warmly and before we catch which of our two floors they live on, the door swings shut behind us, hard.

I walk him to work in a shuffled, mis-buttoned sleepy haze, as though there had been some short-circuiting of my brain overnight, and I had re-woken into 2001, when westwardly winds had carried smoke from Québecois forest fires and filled the hills and inlets of the northern shore of Newfoundland with thick smoke, over 1000 km away. Walking out to get the mail, past the inflated kiddie-pool filled with lobsters and along the twisted road perched with houses and lawns populated with trucks and boats in various states of repair, tramping through the smoke sent out by a thousand Québecois trees on the other side of the Gulf of the Saint Lawrence, a hanging omnipresent connection to the outside world.

Siberian forest fires have been rumoured to account for unusual weather experienced this summer in BC. Canadian Space Agency

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