Midsummer 2019: Fire and Flower

Posted on Jun 20, 2019 in Nature, News, Seasonal Messages

Fire is the marker of summer. Fire and flower.

All over Europe, people still light bonfires on the eve of Summer Solstice or the eve of St. John the Baptist’s feast: Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, Estonia, Ukraine, Croatia, Austria, Spain, Portugal and even here in Canada, in Quebec. St. John, Jean Baptiste, Jonsmessa (Jons mass), Jonsok (Jon’s Wake), San Juan, São João… Fire, an ancient homage to the sun.

Fire has come to take on a different meaning in an age of climate change. Or perhaps old meanings are trying to revisit us. Northern Alberta is burning. Even now, though the smoke no longer hangs over southern cities, many Indigenous communities are under evacuation order: Peerless First Nation, Paddle Prairie Metis Settlement, Child Lake Reserve (Beaver First Nation), Boyle River Reserve, Bushe River (Dene Tha’ First Nation), Indian Cabins, La Crete, rural parts of MacKenzie County, and High Level.

Northern Alberta is a cauldron, a reckoning, rather than a celebration. Instead of bonfires, we have fire bans. Instead of vast horizons of blue on summer green, we have already had two weeks of smoke-filled skies. As we approach National Indigenous Day, our gods are all mixed up; our sacrifices and our celebrations, backwards. The seasons have new names: Flood season, Fire season and seasons yet to be named.

Fire is the marker of summer. Fire and flower.

Wild roses. June is the month of their blooming in our ditches, along margin lands, and road allowance. Flowers, wild, domesticated, and feral mixing and crossing in our parks, in our gardens. There is hope in the flowers: in many cities there is a reverting to indigenous plants.

My earliest memory of summer is a garden. My Aunt Joyce’s farm garden (the closest thing to an English garden that I would see in my growing up) occupied a small yard behind the family’s squared-log house. To the five or six year old I was at the time, it seemed enormous, perfect for playing hide-and-seek, sheltered as it was by towering caragana and lilac, fragrant. A space laced with sun and shade, a raspberry patch in one corner and filled with the sound of bees. Peonies. Roses. Flowers we did not have at home, up against hedges and living room windows. I still remember the moment I came eye level with my aunt’s pink bleeding hearts. How they stopped me in my play with cousins. How perfectly they were shaped and coloured. I asked for their name. I spent a lot of time staring at them. I was spell bound.

We grow up. We grow away.

Those two weeks this May when smoke blanketed Edmonton, days when the air wasn’t safe to breathe, days when there was no horizon, I wrote this: “Even in this light, the children gather at the school grounds, play on the swings before going inside. The baby magpies call for their mothers, call to me like a mother, and the mating robin sings still.”

There is hope in the young.

Each day I wake up and I give thanks for the blue of sky and the green of trees I see outside my window. I give thanks. But I know that the smoke could return at any time. At least some of the fires are growing. Fire season lasts here well into October. As we celebrate National Indigenous Day in Canada, there has never been more of an urgency for reconciliation.

Summer is fire and flower.


  1. Kate Quinn
    June 20, 2019

    Thank you for this poetic remembrance and call to action. I enjoyed reading and reflecting.

  2. m.j.thibodeau
    June 20, 2019

    good evening Audrey ~ you brought out of the past beauty of fire and flowers and today you bring fire and flowers in a different TIME ~ last night I dreamt I had build a kiln it was red hot but the fire was not hot enough ~ so much to learn about fire in dreams and in our psyche ~
    thank you Audrey all is ONE lesson and who is learning?

    love, light, peace ~ jano

  3. Linda Winski
    June 21, 2019

    As always, Audrey, I await your emails at each equinox and solstice and am never disappointed. Thank you from a grateful heart for yet another invitation to pause and ponder both reality and the incredible Mystery in which we live and move and have our being. So much reconciliation yet to pursue….Blessings all ways. L

  4. Patricia Fawcett
    June 21, 2019

    Audrey, so love your observations & ability to put wonderful memories into words. Totally amazing & so enjoyable!! Thank you! I so remember the everso tall lilac blossoms & edge @ Grandma W. – or maybe it was not that high???

    • Audrey
      June 21, 2019

      Thanks, Pat! Seemed high to me too:) It was a wonderful garden.

  5. Gord Whitson
    June 22, 2019

    I so remember that “huge” garden up by the old house! Out with Gramma picking peas, carrots, beets, etc, all for Sunday supper. And playing with the cousins in and out of the trees which surrounded the “big” home. And then … we are gone, so true and …. so final ! Superb reflection, I must be in the mood, thanks Audrey

    • Audrey
      June 22, 2019

      Thank you for sharing your memory, Gordon, and expanding my own.