By Terri Smith –
I hope that wherever you are as you are reading this in the not-too-distant future, there are clear or rainy skies and that you can breathe easily. We are moving out of yet another difficult fire summer. It’s hard not to be affected. I think it is probably good to recognize that.
Moments after sitting down to write this article, quite suddenly, the sky went dark at 2:30 in the afternoon in mid-August. All the solar lights around the garden came on, for it was as dark as night outside. I went out to check on the animals. It was eerie. I couldn’t get the Lord Byron poem, “Darkness” out of my head. It begins, “I had a dream, which was not all a dream /The bright sun was extinguished, and the stars /Did wander darkling in the eternal space /Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth /Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air /Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day…”
I had tears in my eyes as I checked on everyone. When I got down on the ground at animal level, though, it wasn’t quite as smoky, and the animals didn’t seem nearly as worried as I felt. My dog, Kasha, and I did a slow walk around the gardens and closed both greenhouses. Inside the greenhouses the air was better thanks to all those plants producing oxygen in a small space. Along with the creepy, red darkness, the temperature had dropped to below 10 degrees, and I wanted to try to keep them warm as well as keep them as small havens from the smoke.
The dark-as-night only lasted about half an hour, and soon lightened to the sickly yellow light that has sadly become the new normal. During the moments in the darkness of day, I reflected on all of the things I take for granted and all the things I am grateful for.
I forget to be thankful for the sunshine and blue sky until they are gone. I forget to be thankful when it rains. I forget to be thankful when I don’t have to think about breathing. I forget to be thankful for the fresh food from my garden and the clean water I drink. I forget to be thankful for our lovely solar-powered house that is useless without the sun.
I’m not forgetting now. I am so grateful for all these things. I am so grateful that we live where we do. There are three hills rising steeply behind our house that are covered in a beautiful and lush, mixed forest. The air is fresher because of all this greenery. I am grateful for every green thing right now and trying not to be afraid or wonder how long it would take for this lush green-ness to die were the sky to stay dark for longer. I am grateful for the love and support of the community of people I am a part of here in the Cariboo. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of these people who offer each other comfort and shelter and love in difficult times.
We are all a part of the same system here on Earth. We must care for the whole if we want our part to thrive as well. This can indeed be overwhelming, but part of caring for the whole is caring for our little part. The small choices we make in our daily lives can add up fast for good or for ill. What small changes can you make today that will help the Earth of tomorrow?
But really, it’s not good enough anymore, is it? What are we doing to our home, this planet? Can we stop? We don’t need so much of what we think we need. I wish I had any answers at all. We need large-scale change, and, sadly, I think we need it to happen ten years ago. We need corporations to not be in control and to have accountability. The word and idea of “protectionism” needs to be replaced with “caring for our community.” The best answers I have found for how we as a society can change were in Naomi Klein’s book from 2017 called, No is Not Enough, where she and other high-profile Canadians put forth their ideas in something called The Leap Manifesto (https://leapmanifesto.org/en/the-leap-manifesto/). I got excited when I read about this and looked it up online, but it seems there hasn’t really been much going on with it since 2017. But do have a look, because they are proposing a better Canada and a better world and the idea that we can take care of the planet and also have jobs. Cleaning up the mess we’ve made could indeed be a full-time job for most people on the planet.
I don’t know if any of the changes that need to happen are happening quick enough. I only hope that the sky going out is a big enough reminder that we need to stop. We need to reassess. We need to think about what truly matters, because what matters most is not how much money you make, how great your newest whatever is, or how perfect your lawn grows. What matters most in our lives is the people. Are your friends and family healthy and happy? Will there be a planet that can sustain healthy life for the children of today and tomorrow?
This is depressing, and depressing doesn’t sell. If you’re still reading this, I’m proud of you, because I grew tired and wandered away at least three times while writing it. I don’t know how we can fix what we’ve broken. I wish I did. I do know, however, that the changes that must happen, must happen from within each person. I’ve run out of the energy I used to have to fight back against this broken system. It may well be a lack of oxygen. I will just do my small part and try to influence by example. Our little farm is growing; I have wonderful humans all around me; and even as the world falls apart, there is still so much love and laughter in my life. I am lucky because the circumstances in which I find myself mean that I don’t need a lot to survive, or thrive, but my part is to recognize my luck, feel gratitude for it, and help whomever and wherever I can.
I refuse to believe it’s too late.
Terri Smith is a non-certified organic vegetable farmer in the Cariboo. She is passionate about writing, art, goats, and feeding good food to good people. She believes in following your heart, living your dreams, and taking care of the planet.