Summer Solstice 2023: Wild Fire

Posted on Jun 20, 2023 in Art, Books, Nature, News, Seasonal Messages

In early May when the smoke was so heavy over Edmonton, the air quality at 10 or 10+ for days, I was weighted by the reality. I stayed inside, used the gym, kept my windows closed. Waited for respite. Rains came but so did high temperatures. And then when wildfires gradually spread across the country and then back to Alberta again, I asked myself, Will this be our summers from now on? How will we live?

The second time the wildfire smoke returned to Alberta, I put on a mask and went out walking anyways and what I saw were crows congregating on people’s roofs, croaking and visiting much like I’ve seen ravens up north in summer, more social than ever. In the river valley the wild roses were blooming. The poplars had fully leafed out. A young hare wandered the underbrush. Squirrels chattered, squeaked impatient, making hay with all the fresh spruce buds. I found chickadees dive bombing from tree to tree. Yellow warblers still singing, everywhere their quiet sweet sweet sweet shwheet. The white-throated sparrow cutting through all of it with its long clear echos. The forest was alive in spite of the smoke. And for the first time in weeks, I felt joy.

That evening as I was walked out from the valley I met an Indigenous man at the top of the path. He greeted me in his own particular way. He had his possessions with him in a shopping cart, but he was holding a large black and white picture book close to his chest like a treasure. As I passed by, he opened the book wide and held up both pages as if he were practiced at reading to children. There were grotesque figures on the pages, gothic alchemists and clowns, perhaps something from Dante’s Inferno. Madness. The man kept trying to speak but the sounds wouldn’t form. These pictures were the only words he had, and I accepted them. He smiled; I smiled and nodded in recognition.

It was as if he were holding up a mirror to me. The madness of our times. Mad in its priorities. The world we are living in right now, grotesque. Our distorted relationship with reality hanging in the air around us. Part of me wanted to look away. But this is what occurred to me. The certainty is change. I could react with fear or I could respond with curiosity. Like other living things, I could try to adapt. I thanked him. I wonder if this is how we begin the change?


  1. jano thibodeau
    June 20, 2023

    Audrey moments of sharing opens my heart mind for gratitude of breathing scent of sea air here in Nanaimo. I am grateful for your sharing which brings an awareness of AIR is LIFE.

    thank you Audrey

    • Audrey Whitson
      June 21, 2023

      I too am grateful for the sea breezes and fresh temperatures along the East Coast Trail where I find myself in Newfoundland this solstice. And for water as clear as crystals. Thank you, Jano.

  2. Jannie
    June 21, 2023

    This really touched something I’ve been feeling, my friend.

    • Audrey
      June 21, 2023

      Thank you for feeling and writing, Jannie.

  3. myrna garanis
    June 21, 2023

    Adapting is a must. Thanks for expressing both the fears and joys involved.


    • Audrey
      June 21, 2023

      Yes, there are both fears and joys aren’t there. Not always easy to remember.