Smoke wafted down from Quebec and descended us yesterday. On what seemed like a clear day, a tinge of haze floated between the trees in the back woods. Peering down the holiday-quiet street, I saw more. We have all been sneezing from billowing clouds of pine pollen that coated everything over the last week, but this was different; the air heavier, settled, and though it is not unusual for a sea breeze to blow in a fog to us, this cover sank lower, laced with a tinge of yellow.
Nervous, I looked to the acres of paint-brush pines and aging hemlocks lining the land behind us. Straight back from our house, at the edge of property we don’t own, a small cliff tumbles down to the marshy remnants of a pond that dried up some thirty some years ago--engineers altered the flow of water to create our town reservoir. Sometimes on a tramp through the woods, we'll encounter evidence of late night parties by the swamp, the sooty remains of campfires and crushed beer cans scattered around. Once my husband’s brother, out on a walk with his dog, discovered two youths deep in the forest, frantically trying to extinguish a brush fire they accidentally set while lighting off firecrackers. There’s no access back there for a fire truck. He made a panting dash home for an extinguisher and a shovel, and contained the blaze before the entire wood went up.
This is what came to mind at the faint aroma of ash yesterday. After checking around though, we saw nothing amiss. We drove to town to wait for our daughter to march while playing her flute in a five-minute parade, and at Memorial Day ceremonies down by the harbor. Catching up with her there, we realized that the low lying fog out to sea sank our plans for a family boat ride after the parade. In the end, a friend informed us that a northwest wind had delivered the ominous smudge on the horizon, not fog at all, but smoke from raging lightening fires 400 miles north of us in Canada. Today I feel a faint soreness in my lungs, as if I sat too close to the fireplace.
In spite of the delay to the season’s inaugural ride in our little dingy, the poor visibility conveyed one of those bonuses you never plan on. My husband finished reconstructing a yard cart, a to-do he was eager to accomplish from his project list. I sat on a rock in the garden, reading The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet by Colleen McCullough, shifting from warm spot to warm spot as the sun cast longer angles, then dropped behind the trees. The teenager, well, she took a nap.
We rendezvoused over leftovers, rested, at peace, grateful for a day of memory and relaxation, only slightly disappointed in the lightening-stoked fires far away that forced this change in plan.