I have always known that bad things happening to other people are just that: things which happen to other people.
A completely new dimension of an occurence is experienced once those events come close to home. Feelings of compassion become ones of extreme concern, anxiety becomes fear, concern turns into immediate action.
Our Island has gone through a very unusual period in the last three weeks. We were exposed to a huge, once in a generation (or two), amount of smoke produced by the unprecedented fires all the way up and down the 1,000 mile (1,600 km) coast.
We were exposed to the very surreal images which presented themselves at every step.
Ferries docking every forty-five minutes in our harbor looked like iron robots with scarred faces and wide open eyes. The red, smoky fog hovered quietly for days, blocking the sun and tinting everything in a sinister orange. The sun appeared uncertain, almost resolved to give up, like a faraway orange ball having lost its shine and sparkle. It was in its hour of need, trying to regain its purpose. The ocean water, which is ordinarily the royal blue, appeared as a grey, gelatin like substance. Gone was the silver mirror effect of its surface. Water was shimmering like tears flowing.
The disembarking passengers seemed to hesitate as if reluctant to enter the red/orange haze. Their dogs didn’t bark but simply follow their owners as if afraid of upsetting the status quo. White seagulls appeared red, like the sky, and hovered in the haze of smoke and bad smells. Tall, evergreen trees, prompted by orange breezes, waved their long arms like ground crews guiding jet planes to the gates. Our lungs hurt simply by breathing.
And, then, after approximately two weeks, the smoke was gone. We returned to the usual bright, cheery Island colors of the yellow sun, green grass, blue skies and water. Ferry boats danced into the harbor depositing Islanders and visitors alike, all overjoyed, as usual, at the prospect of spending a day in our paradise. And yes, children were laughing and dogs were barking. All was normal again.