I am writing this at close to midnight on Monday, July 19. There is a lot of speculation on social media, as I write, about what might be happening with the Tremont Creek wildfire near Ashcroft, fuelled by an apparent increase in fire activity to the east of Ashcroft, which is clearly visible from parts of town.
I know this because about an hour earlier I went out onto my back deck. My house is at the very back of the Mesa subdivision above town, and behind us there is nothing but hillside sloping gently — and then not so gently — towards Barnes Lake. The Three Meadows Trail is right behind the house, and over the almost twenty-five years I’ve lived here I’ve watched countless people tackle it (or at least the first part of the trail, which leads to a flat bench that affords splendid views of Ashcroft and the Thompson River valley).
I love going out there at night and looking up at the stars, trying to find the two or three constellations I can recognize (astronomy is one of many things I wish I was better at). Sometimes I can see a faint white glow far behind us from the I.G. Fibers plant, but on this night there is a deep reddish glow along the hills, prompting me to hop in the car and drive across town to the bluffs on Highway 97C, to get a look at what might be happening.
Fire is undoubtedly dramatic; there’s a reason why the burning of Atlanta scene in Gone With the Wind is one of the most memorable and spectacular moments in a film that is full of them. Fire is also deceptive, particularly at night, when the surrounding darkness makes the fire much more vivid, seem much closer, than it actually is.
It is bringing back memories of 2017, when I also watched fire near my house. It’s obvious that I’m not the only one remembering 2017, judging by what I’m seeing online. Is it scary? Silly question. But I have just checked to see if there are any updates — official ones, as opposed to what is flying around through the social media ether — and there are none.
“No news is good news” is a cliché, and clichés are by their very nature trite and overused. However, sometimes they convey something very precisely, so I tell myself “No news is good news.” If there was news — if worse had come to worst — then we would have heard something.
Jack, one of my cats, comes into the living room where I am sitting, tapping away, and rubs around my chair. I reach down and pat him and he stands there for a moment, then flicks his tail and walks off, as is the way of cats. It is reassuringly normal. He has probably flopped down at the top of the stairs and is waiting for me to give him a couple of treats, then say “Bedtime” and turn out the lights, a nightly ritual that is his signal to barrel down the hallway at top speed and beat me to the bedroom door.
Half-past midnight now. My phone is silent: no texts, no messages, no missed calls. One last trip to the back deck before I pack up for the night. Jack takes advantage of my momentary preoccupation to sneak out onto the deck: apparently the bowl of (now warm) water I leave out there for a neighbourhood cat is more enticing and refreshing than the bowl of cool water inside by his food bowl. Such is the way of cats, I remind myself.
The sky seems less red. Unbidden, the words of the 15th century English mystic Julian of Norwich come into my head: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
Her wise words convey precisely what they are meant to: peace and calm. I feel better. Time to give Jack his treats and try to race him to the bedroom. He’ll win; he always does. It will be the same story tomorrow night; of that I’m sure. All shall be well.