This morning I woke up with a terrible headache. My throat was raw. When I looked outside, the sky looked gray. Naively hoping for some rain I peeked my head out to see if the pavement was wet. But the sun was a bright orange orb so I knew that it wasn’t a cloudy sky I was looking at. It was smoke from fires burning from our Canadian neighbors north of us.
Shit. We’re back here. The temperature is record-breaking high in the Pacific Northwest and we smoke season has returned. After a month of respite from the pandemic, the Delta variant of COVID has reared its head and I can feel myself and those around me sneaking back into hiding.
Where do we go when it feels like there is danger all around us — literally. In my house with no air conditioning, we have to close all of the windows so no smoke gets in. We can’t go outside to escape the heat. We can’t go to a friend’s home to retreat because indoor socializing is again unsafe.
The truth is we are materially fine. We have a cool basement, plenty of water, food, technology, and reading material. Psychically though, I worry. I feel like Princess Lea in the trash compactor scene in Star Wars. The walls are closing in and I don’t have the strength to push them back out. All of these things — the temperature, the smoke, and COVID are out of my control.
After closing the windows and setting up fans to cool the house for the day I called my aunt.
“Hi!!!,” she said enthusiastically when she answered. “Laura, it was so great to have you visit last month. I really loved it!”
My daughter, her friend, and I visited my aunt and cousins a few weeks earlier, a time that felt much further away.
“That trip felt like the last hurrah,” my aunt said, “things feel dangerous, and I’m so glad we got to have that time together.”
My aunt is also in heat and smoke territory and also affected by COVID, but today she was happy. And grateful. We caught up for ten minutes and then said goodbye.
When I hung up I felt better. The world is a mess