Summer is over and I feel robbed of a beautiful August. It seems likely that August will forever be wildfire season in our neck of the woods but I am not particularly happy about it. Who is? There are a few things that I will miss about August going forward. For one, the bright summer afternoons that hang around until dusk. I will miss the early evenings, camping in August, gathered around a campfire without the biting cold of the fall nights. I miss campfires in August. I miss feeling relaxed and not having a bag packed in case we have to evacuate. I miss watching a lightning storm without feeling worried. I miss not having to reassure my kids that the bush behind our house probably won't start on fire but explaining that we have a plan "just in case." I miss not viewing the forest as an enemy.
There are a few things, however, that the fires have brought besides the wholesale destruction of forest, animal habitats and property. We went camping in August a few weeks ago at McLeod Lake and it was wonderful, even though it was smoky, even though there was no campfire and even though it felt eerie and dangerous. Prince George was under a blanket of smoky fog and on our drive north, the smoke got worse and worse. We felt like we were making a very bad choice but suddenly, after Summit Lake, the smoke started to thin out and we could see the sky again. I realized that I had not seen a blue sky for weeks and I started to feel better. By the time we got to McLeod Lake, the smoke was nearly non-existent and the day was utterly beautiful.
With no campfire to tend, we could take walks at our leisure, explore the beach, swim in the icy cold water (only the kids did that) and discover. We found an enormous snake skin from a garter snake (hopefully) that was at least four or five feet long (shudder). We began to let our kids bike to the playground themselves and loosened our city-fear of strangers and horrible things happening. Everyone camping, and there was not many of us, was spending time with their families and enjoying life outside of the smoky haze that was Prince George.
Later in the afternoon, we started to see large flakes of what we thought was ash falling from the sky like pinwheels. When we looked closer however, we found they were pine cone scales. Pine trees and pine cones need fire to explode their seeds which are then blown about by the jet stream and planted elsewhere. The fires, miles and miles away, were regenerating the forest and we were able to see a real-world benefit of fires on the lifecycle of the forest. It was humbling to really see how connected we all are and perhaps we need these fires to encourage sustainability and for us to remember that we are all in this together.