Where There’s Smoke….

They say where there’s smoke, there’s fire, but I’m learning that even where there’s no fire, there’s smoke.

The rising sun glowed red through the smoke haze that drifted in and settled over the lower mainland of British Columbia. Wildfires continue to burn  hundreds of miles away, in the BC interior, but the smoke has arrived in Vancouver and also across the water on Vancouver Island. I’ve heard reports of it spreading south past Seattle.

My usual view of the bay and the hills on the farther side is now screened with a smoky veil. I took some pictures of the Comox Glacier today and could barely see it.

First I’d like to show you  photos of the glacier taken quite a long time ago on a normal day, even with a few clouds. Now, below, are today’s photos, taken on a cloudless day, but with smoke drifting through the region from the wildfires.

 

“Where is the glacier?” you may well ask. If you look hard, you will see it there behind the smokescreen.

The air smells like a campfire minus the hot dogs and marshmallows. It’s hard to find a refreshing lungful of clean air. Eyes, nose, mouth, and throat are dry, dry, dry. Add to this the extreme heat and drought, and it is a miserable state of affairs.

Here is the view of the estuary. If it were winter, you might think it’s a normal misty winter day on the coast, but it’s the beginning of August. That sky should be blue, and so should the water. That haze is not mist, but smoke.

Summer is supposed to be a time for camping, tenting, swimming, fishing, barbecuing, and sitting around a campfire at night. The extreme fire hazard puts the idea of summer camping fun in a different light. The simple act of striking a match has the potential to destroy whole communities. Hundreds of little animals (and this year, even many large animals) have died trying in vain to escape the fires.

Please be careful when you are camping or even just out walking. If you are a smoker, please be mindful of what you do with your cigarette butts, or even the ashes that fall from the cigarette. The vegetation is tinder dry.

This past spring when it continued to be wet and cold, I wished for warm, dry weather and I remember saying that when it finally happens we’ll wish for rain. And here we are!

I am now wishing for rain.

Invermere Hotel

The Invermere Hotel was a landmark since 1900. Originally it was named Hotel Canterbury. Located on the main street of Invermere in southeastern British Columbia, the Invermere Hotel was the hub of the little town. Its main draw in later years was the beer parlour, but it was the center of the community’s events when the Paradise Mine was still active. Silver, lead, and zinc were mined there from the time these metals were discovered nearby in 1889 until the mine finally closed in 1964. During the mining heydays, the Invermere Hotel (Hotel Cranberry) was always bustling with community activities.

In August of 1973, the captain and I were in Invermere and decided that the way to get the flavour of the town was to visit its local drinking establishment. I don’t generally frequent beer parlours, but I’m glad I did that night. It was  entertaining, and I would never have the chance again, because that night, at  2 a.m. the two-storey frame building burned to the ground. Reports say the blaze appears to have started in an attic.

Only one guest, a permanent resident, and staff were in the building at the time. No one was hurt.

Firemen battled the blaze for more than two hours with the two available fire trucks, but there was really no hope of saving the historic landmark.

I felt quite sad when I took this photo the next morning. Another bit of history was gone.

By the way, do you see the phone booth (remember those?) where Clark Kent failed to get changed into his Superman outfit in time to save the hotel?

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Dog Days of Summer

We all know it is a hot and dry summer this year. My usually green backyard is yellow and brown. The grass breaks off as I walk on it and big patches of bare dirt are showing through. It will all come back in the fall with the first rains, but until then, there is no water to spare for an acre of grass. It’s more important to keep the trees, shrubs, and garden alive.

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Definitely the dogs days of summer.

This morning I looked out expecting yet another bluebird scorcher of a day to develop. Wow! I’ts foggy. Maybe we’ll get some rain at last! But then I saw the sun. It was blood red and easy to look at. I reminded myself not to do that, just as in an eclipse we shouldn’t look directly at the sun, lest we damage our vision. I tried to take a photo of the sun but the red colour wouldn’t come out right. Being an amateur photographer I still don’t know how to get the red  sky colours or the photos of eclipses to come out right. Here is the best I could do, but imagine the whole sun as red as the line around it.

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As it rose higher in the sky, it was just as red but that colour was even more difficult to capture with the camera.

005Then I realized that the last time I saw the sun looking like a red ball of fire was a few years ago when the smoke from a fire hundreds of miles north of us had covered our skies. Sure enough, I have learned that there are several large fires burning on Vancouver Island. Right now I feel as if I’m sitting on a bonfire ready to go up in flames at any time. I’m surrounded by tall trees that haven’t seen a drop of water for over two months and the dry grass around me is the best kindling you’ll ever find for starting a fire.

If I see a smoker walking through the nearby trails (and it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen hikers going for a healthy walk while puffing on a cigarette),  I’m not sure how I’ll contain my fear and outrage.

The town of Port Hardy to the north of us is threatened by a wildfire as I write, while another fire is burning to the west of us near Port Alberni. It seems the whole province of British Columbia has fires burning. Saskatchewan has plenty of fires as well, and of course, we’ve been hearing of the fires in the States for weeks. It’s just too dry!

Yesterday, the view below was of bright blue sky and brighter blue sea with a few white caps puffed up from the breeze that brought us relief from the heat while, elsewhere, it fanned wildfire flames. Today everything is gray from the smoke of many fires.

007My garden has been getting water, but everything else, as you can see, is tinder dry.

008I’ve learned that “tinder” is a frightening word.

Mute Molly

In time for Mother’s Day, I wanted to re-blog this post I did about three years ago, but with a newly found very old photo of my mother and the family cat, Molly. This would have been taken about forty years ago, so I don’t need to say any more about the quality of the photo. It’s what’s in the photo that counts. My mother loved animals and was kind to them all. I still shudder to think how she swept spiders up carefully on a dustpan and put them outside to continue their lives out there where they belonged. It only makes sense that she would have her picture taken holding her cat, standing under her favourite pear tree, beside the tulips, daffodils, and primroses she planted.img678She loved her pets, her flowers, her garden, her children. She was a great cook and baker and a loving mother. Molly was the family cat but she really was my mother’s cat. Rescued when she was little, Molly paid back our family with loyalty and love. My mother died in 1982 and Molly left this world before her, but neither will ever be forgotten.  If my mother were alive she would love to hear me retell stories of her beloved cat.

Let me tell you a bit about Molly.

We know that most animals communicate with each other and with people. Domesticated animals such as cats and dogs are especially good at making their wishes known. They’ve had thousands of years of practice. Dogs bark; cats meow. But what of those animals whose voices are weak or even  gone? How do they manage to communicate?

Molly had a lot of character, but she was almost voiceless. Her meow was barely a cat whisper. She may have been mute, but she was certainly not deaf, and she demonstrated a love of music. When we made music in our house, Molly always appeared on the scene. She liked to put her paws on the piano and add her “voice” to the harmony, and when my sister played the recorder, Molly rubbed her neck on the instrument.

“Look at her,” I said, laughing. “She’s writhing around like a cobra coming out of a snake charmer’s basket.” When we played tuneless scales for her benefit, it seemed to drive the cat crazy. “You’d better stop,” I told my sister. “You don’t know what you might be saying in cat-speak…although she does seem to like it.”

If Molly needed to go outside, she ran to the front door and waited. Usually someone noticed her.  If not, she ran across the piano keyboard, making plenty of noise, and then jumped down to wait by the door.

“Allegro and forte. Sounds like she’s in a hurry this time,” I said.

My parents’ bedroom was off limits to Molly and she knew it. My father didn’t like animals and barely tolerated the cat. Even when the bedroom door was open, Molly never ventured inside.  But one night, after the family went to bed, Molly pounced on my parents’ bed and immediately jumped down again. Jolted from her sleep, my mother shooed her out. When no one got out of bed, Molly repeated her pounce. The moment my mother got up, Molly ran into the living room. A thick cloud of smoke had filled the room.

“Fire!” my mother yelled. Hearing the shout, my father scrambled out of bed. They stared at the smoke billowing out of the fireplace.

“No. There’s no fire, but the damper’s closed!” my father said, his voice in panic mode. He flipped the lever to open the damper while my mother flung open doors and windows.

This time it was an easy fix, but my parents were shaken up to think that the whole family might have died of smoke inhalation.

“Thank God for  Molly,” my mother said. “She can’t talk, but she sure can communicate.”

My mother gave Molly a bit of left over chicken as a special thank you and we all took turns cuddling our resourceful hero.