The gale churns into full momentum: uncanny winds—not so odd for this region or unprecedented during our chinooking winters—but stronger and longer and unexpected-like. Warm weather all week, so why blow now? Then the brown clouds begin drifting, building, obscuring vision, threatening ominous. It’s not dirt, it’s smoke.
Driving home into the gale force, the wall rises hundreds of feet above the city, filling the coulee, reckless and morphing and serious. Smoke holds no concern for the lung or eye it stings, the sight it obliterates, the terror it invokes. Smoke warns: smoke is a gift.
We learn the news: six massive prairie fires devouring to our West. Then, the palpitations shoot up like flares: evacuating orders and rumours and warnings. What if we must evacuate?
So, if we had to get out in five minutes, what would we take? What would we take? What’s valuable? Clothes: no. Books: replaceable, except those nine ancient encyclopaedias—my Grandfather’s first commission on graduating auctioneer school. But they are heavy, and cumbersome . . . and the information is probably obsolete by now.
I throw a few pieces of clothing in a bag, along with my passport and a few coloured pieces of paper we use for money. The computers, the hard drive, old journals . . . these contain soul journey . . . these cannot be replaced.
Then we wait, bags packed by the door . . . and how do we live now? A pang gnaws my heart when I go to put a DVD in the computer: this is non-chalante, in the face of impending tragedy. But then, what can we really do? Everything’s prepared, after all, it’s just the two of us. I feel for the families: frantic to stow pictures, recipes, memories in laundry basket and cardboard box. It’s nice to be unconcerned—weird, because there is so much worry and desperation out there—but nice.
So we wait it out, watching the neighbours across the street, checking updates . . . and the sky turns out the lights, so we wait in the dark. And we must walk in the light we have, while we wait.
So, we munch popcorn, and work on hand-made Christmas gifts, and watch a movie, and wait. And eventually, the warning is lifted, the fire is controlled, and we can go to our own beds to sleep.
The next morning, we wake to perfect calm, and the fading memory of flurried prayers, hurried packing, waves of worry, and the brief panic evaporates in the light of a new day.
We did not suffer loss, just a few hours of the daunting great unknown. And today, I don’t want to live disengaged, dulled by shock or distracted with unimportant clutter. I want this unconcerned happiness to fill my heart and transform my every-day dullness. Because at the end of the day, God’s children are secure—all that’s really important is totally safe, and all the other stuff doesn’t really matter.
And it’s the big storms that teach us how we should live everyday . . . and the little storms that reveal what we really believe.
(Photos courtesy of the weather network.)