Fifty-two days with no measurable rain, and suddenly the blazing blue sky is filled with rain clouds. But by 10 am at Turkey Point, the clouds were wringing the last drops onto the sidewalk as I walked through the steam rushing across the parking lot. Out on the shore, a cluster of people are walking on the wet sands of a low tide… no, it’s paddleboards just off the kelp beds a passing boat reveals.
Above the clouds were still dark and rolling, wringing out the last rain in the distance. I reach the stairs at the harbour breakwater and descend to the small beach with large granite boulders towering above me. A boat full throttle is on the water heading into the narrow opening between the breakwater and the Mary Tod Islet.
The rocks above me are overflowing with plants dripping with rain.
Return to the breakwater path, the sun suddenly breaks through, lighting up a kayaker pushing out into the strait.
The pleasure of this morning is temporarily broken as thoughts of the next heat dome, no longer a fifty-year event, now punctuating this summer several times in a diminishing crescendo. The planet is reacting violently to our actions. It is at war with our species.
Later, when the sky’s clear and the wind picks up, bending the trees. The hawk with fully extended feathers is wiped sideways in a gust and then regains its drift in the sky. I look at the ground, wondering if the rain is enough or is there dust just below the surface. Then the news floods back, “Code red for mankind” read the headline. On the next page, British Columbia and Canada are, doubling our fossil fuel output through a new pipeline. To pay for our energy transition, says our Rhode scholar climate change Minister! It is too late for this kind of thinking.
A few days later, walking on the dry grass under the blazing blue sky again, it is impossible to avoid remembering what is on the news as every step is a reminder. Evacuation warnings have gone out to small towns and cities as fires burn out of control. We are still at the largest tipping point we have seen yet. The language on the news is expressing alarm, but we are still not acting.
Walking down the road into a small bay, alone paddleboarder is moving toward the moored boats and kelp beds. The sun has brought the temperature up. I can feel in the early morning the heat that should not be there. The night before had cooled with the wind off the sea, but not as cool as it should be in August.
The next day I awake to the headline Nowhere to Run. The reporter has read the latest UN report on global limits. We are rocketing past any safe limit, and environmental damage is unavoidable. In the North, we are warming three times faster than the South. The ice melts are accelerating beyond any of our estimates. There is a 40-year delay before we will discover the outcome of what we have done today, then centuries before we can turn anything around.
Now that mother nature is working hard to reduce our numbers, why are we not dramatically changing course. What is it about the possibility of extinction that does not trigger our survival instincts? I am not sure in the future I can revel in the summer heat as I did in my youth, knowing what I now know it means.
On the point, Plein air painters are scattered across the rocks deep in concentration. They are clear in the foreground, everything else is obscured by the smoke in a sickly dullness, and the Olympic snow-capped peaks across the strait have completely disappeared. We are now breathing the most polluted air on the planet.
Old poems are swirling in my head:
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar