After a week in the deep freeze the sun is shining again, but the wind makes it feel very cold. It is what it is. We do live in Northern Alberta after all. I was getting rather antsy with all the inactivity though. Even though I do work part-time, it does begin to feel somewhat like the movie, Groundhog Day, with every day seeming pretty much like the last: eat, sleep, work, do it again. I promise the universe I will not complain about the lack of excitement any longer, however, after events of last night and this morning.
Last night the fire alarm went off late in the evening. My husband has been having constant low blood pressure readings. That means he can get quite dizzy when standing and is at risk of falling. So, here we were, fire alarms blaring while we tried to decide what to do. He uses a walker, so stairs are a huge problem. (We live on the fourth floor of an apartment building.) In the end I decided to nip down the stairs to see what was going on. I took my phone with me so I could let him know what was happening. I met lots of anxious neighbors on the stairwell, each of us wondering if there was indeed a fire or if it was a false alarm. In the end it was just a false alarm. That was wonderful. Not the kind of excitement anybody wants in the depths of winter however!
The depths of winter are particularly cold in the evening and in the early morning, before the sun has worked its charm. I had been up maybe ten minutes or so when it happened again. The freaking fire bells went off and cleared the sleep completely out of my brain. (It usually takes me thirty minutes or more to be fully awake.) Did I say Groundhog Day? “Ugh,” I thought, “here we go again”. Pull on the mukluks, the gloves, and the parka, trudge down the stairs to investigate, but this time I forgot my phone in the apartment. I guess the sleep muddle wasn’t completely cleared. In the end it was another false alarm. So, universe, thank you for the wake-up call. Yes, life can be a bit boring when you are confined indoors, but we are warm, safe, and have everything we need. That more than compensates for a little ennui. I will remember to count my blessings, and to be careful what I wish for!
I recently read a news story with the headline about the apathy toward the horrific bush fires and loss of life in Australia. I don’t know who wrote the story (my apologies to the writer, but I’ve been reading so many stories about the fires there and I simply do not recall) but it has not been my experience. On my social media every third or fourth post concerns that country and the people posting are filled with concern and compassion. The story focused on the outrage displayed throughout 2019 toward the climate crisis and the lack of political will to do something to address it. The author wondered why there was not more news coverage in media outside Australia, with the climate crisis in mind. So, of course I had to google it and to my dismay the author was absolutely right. I scrolled for a few minutes but found nothing on the ongoing battle to contain the blazes, nor anything addressing the climate crisis. That was yesterday (or was it the day before?).
However, I don’t think people are apathetic. At least, if social media means anything, there is an outpouring of caring and praying for the island nation. Having been forced to flee forest fires here in my city of Fort McMurray my heart goes out to the people of Australia and the national disaster they are facing. It is heart-breaking to see the devastation and loss of life these bush fires have wreaked. Naturally people do not have to have had experience with fleeing forest fires to feel empathy for the Australians, or for that matter any nation dealing with a natural disaster. I am praying for the people of Australia and I hope you will join me.
I guess I was too optimistic yesterday – I was reminded how cold it still is when I awoke to a freezing house because the furnace is not working! A repairman was here and is headed back to the shop. We are hoping the necessary part is in stock; otherwise it will be tomorrow before he will be able to repair it due to the fact that the part may have to be ordered from Edmonton. Oh joy, oh bliss – winter is having the last laugh even as the sun shines. On a positive note there is a wood burning fireplace we can use if it gets any colder. And we have a stack of firewood in the garage, so it’s not so bleak. And I do like sitting in front of a roaring fire (or at least I used to before the wildfire that swept through the city nearly two years ago). I guess I will find out if that’s an option. Aw life – your challenges are never-ending.
“Perseverance is the act of true role models and heroes.” – Liza M. Wiemer
Photo by Hannes P. Rudolph
They sit in the fire towers day after day and month after month, these remarkable men and women who scan the landscape tirelessly for signs of smoke and fire. And they do this in isolation – spending their time with only the company of nature to break the monotony of solitude. I think it takes a special kind of courage to spend vast amounts of time alone – so much time in seclusion would drive ordinary people mad. At least that is my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I do like to have quiet moments, time alone to reflect on life and love and all things meaningful. But I am no hero. I do not feel I have the strength of mind to be a recluse, even if it’s only a temporary thing. However, the men and women I write about are heroes. The work they do is not glamorous or thrilling but it does save lives – whether animal, bird, or human. They also save vast tracts of wilderness from the inevitable destruction of fire.
After the wildfires that swept through Fort McMurray this spring I have found a new appreciation and deeper respect for the women and men who climb their towers several times throughout the day to scan the forest surrounding them for any indication of flames – whether caused by lightning strike or the careless act of a human being. These men and women are our first line of defense against the ravages of wildfires. It is they who first sound the alarm, these sentinels of the forest green. I salute them and I thank them for their vigilance and perseverance, these unsung heroes.
Even as I watched the fire through the large windows of the library where I work fear filled my heart and mind. Even as I tried to reassure myself and others trepidation and worry were constant companions. Horror does not come close to describing my reaction as I watched as flames licked the tree tops on the hill a short distance away. Afterward, when we were in Anzac and thinking we were safe, my thoughts turned to my coworkers and regular patrons at the library. We had been scattered like leaves on a cool, windy fall day. Was everybody safe? Later as I watched the news the devastation and videos of people driving through the flames and vehicles surrounded on every side by fire I thought of the trauma people must be experiencing. We had left voluntarily, before the mandatory evacuation order had been issued. As we drove along the highway flames were already consuming the grass and brush, right up to the edge of the pavement. Above us on the tree-lined incline flames were already burning the tree tops. When we entered the wall of black smoke visibility was nil. Now it was not only the fear of fire and smoke we had to deal with, but also the very real possibility we could have an accident. Thinking of the trauma we experienced fleeing Fort Mac seemed trivial compared to what others experienced.
Many evacuees were sent north to temporary accommodations in hotels, motels, and camps north of the city, only to be evacuated a second time as the winds changed direction and the threat moved northward. These people had to drive through the smoke and flames a second time, making their way south to safety. I was with my husband, family members, and friends – many were separated from their loved ones, I could not imagine the level of anxiety they must be going through. I had been in constant touch with my brother’s family through text messaging and knew they were safe. My heart ached for all the people who could not reach their family members. Thoughts swirled as I thought of people I interacted with in my daily life: the friendly cashier at the grocery store, the pharmacist, bus drivers, and many others.
It has been three weeks since we left Fort Mac. We have learned that the provincial government has set a timeline for the return home of evacuees, at least for those who have homes to return to, but the horror of fleeing the wildfire has left me anxious and afraid – the wildfire is still burning albeit far from the city and approaching the province of Saskatchewan. Still, I am afraid to go home, as irrational as it may be, I am afraid the winds will change and turn the “beast” back to finish the destruction it started in Fort Mac. I will handle it. I have to, Fort Mac is where I live and work. It is home. It is where I have made new friends and began building a new life. As I once read, “feel the fear and do it anyway”. I will!