British Columbia’s State of Emergency

Areas where the fire danger is highest

For the past three weeks, I have been in Vancouver and on the Islands, enjoying time with friends and family. However like most residents of British Columbia, at 6 pm I make sure I am close to a TV so I can see the latest news reports about the wild fires burning in the interior of the province.

Evacuees on their way to safety

 

Getting animals out of harm’s way

There have been good days when it looked as though the fire fighters were getting the upper hand. But the forests are tinder dry at this time of year and strong winds propel the embers from established fires, starting new ones every day – 15 yesterday – and today another city was evacuated.  Some of the fires are so huge they have jumped rivers and highways.  Thousands of fire fighters from across Canada are now battling more than 160 fires in BC!

 

                                          Water bombers loading over one of the lakes

Much of the province is relatively out of harm’s way, and these cities and towns are taking in evacuees. One of them is Kamloops, the place where I will be living until December. On a news channel, I saw footage of suburban streets lined with campers and trailers, and tents pitched in front yards – the Kamloops homeowners were shown running power cords out to the stranded families and inviting them use their bathrooms.

Six Kamloops women have joined together to run a temporary donation centre, operating out of the Sandman Signature Hotel. They provide clothing, food and toiletries to those forced to evacuate their homes.

In Kamloops, sorting donations for fire evacuees

One of the women, Dusti Naud, said she and her friends used social media to spread the word. Their friends began dropping off items, and soon local businesses and others – even from outside the province – started donating items. Independent grocers donated 15 pallets of food, and another relief agency dropped off 16 bags of clothing they had collected.

Jamie Maclean, another of the six friends talked about the gift bags that have been personalized for men, women, and families. “The community has been absolutely astonishing with their donations, with their support,” she added.

Hundreds of evacuees have used the donation centre. “It’s open each day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. We’re here for the people that need us,” Maclean said.

I will be returning to Kamloops on Wednesday. I’m happy that I’ll be living in a community where such caring people live.

Silver Linings

Early morning departure from Horseshoe Bay

This week I visited my cousin Donna who lives on Vancouver Island. The scenery on the BC Ferries ride between Horseshoe Bay and Nanaimo is a bargain at 16.50 CAD.  People on Alaska cruises pay thousands of dollars for the same vistas of the Gulf Islands.  I sat inside because on deck it gets too blowy for my liking. However, halfway through the sailing, I wished I’d braved the wind. Excited passengers started scrambling around, extending their arms and pointing fingers – for sure they had spotted an Orca! According to them – one of the whales had breached to the stern, then again on the starboard side of the ship. It is an awesome sight.

Donna waited for me in the arrivals area, and after big hugs, we drove down island to our favorite café in Genoa Bay. While we feasted on the catch of the day, we were entertained by the antics of enormous sea lions barking and jostling for the sunniest spot on the rocks. And at times, we could scarcely hear one another for the racket of gulls swooping overhead – obviously, they expected to be fed lunch on board the fishing boat we saw puttering towards the dock.

At Genoa Bay

I do love to shop, but the clapboard store had a limited selection and neither the fishing lures nor the canned corn beef called my name. We spent a bit more time strolling along the beach, and then drove to Donna’s new house in Duncan. She moved in the same day I arrived in Canada, and I felt special to be her first overnight guest.  On the way, I read a handmade sign: SLOW DOWN – BABY DEER ON THE ROAD. Donna did take the next turn slowly, yet she had to brake hard when a fawn skidded down the bank and tumbled onto the asphalt. My breathing stopped until he righted himself and scooted back into the woods. A few minutes later, I spotted an American eagle with a wingspan of at least two meters circling above the forest. From Donna’s deck, we had the day’s final “fauna sighting” – a rabbit jumping along the retaining wall above the lawn.

“Primadonna” and I talked non-stop through the afternoon and evening – we never run out of things to say.

Thursday morning, Auntie Alice and my cousin Dani arrived at 9:30 for a drive up island. Again – more deer, eagles, and a black shape disappearing through the cedars that was surely a bear.  Vancouver Island is like Wild Kingdom!

The landscape is obviously different in Canada and Mexico, but punctuality is another distinction.  For my return to the mainland, I got to the ticket wicket for the 3:15 ferry departure, at 2:58. “You just made it,” the attendant told me. “Passengers must be here 15 minutes before the scheduled departure. If you’d arrived just 2 minutes later, I would not have been able to sell you a place on the next sailing.” Sure enough, as I scurried to the gate, the metal gate clunked behind me. I felt grateful. Had Dani hit one more red light during our race to the terminal, I would have been standing on the other side of the barricade, watching the boat pull away from its berth.

I dozed and listened to Leonard Cohen all the way back across the water, and when we landed, I hurried to catch the bus to North Vancouver.  We made good time until the transfer point and then accidents on two bridges caused a gridlock. I had to wait an hour and a half before my bus came by.   For the punctual Vancouverites this caused major aggravation. But for me, the inconvenience had a silver lining. There were lots of Latins in the crowd and I got to speak Spanish for the first time in a month. ¡Que felicidad!

The bus finally came after 1 1/2 hours, but it was crowded!

 

My Tale of Two Booties

We see change and contrasts all around us.  And since arriving in Canada, this has been constant for me. The flowers and trees, food and drink, the clothing, entertainment – everything is different to what I am used to.

But transformation and changes keep us on our toes.

Now, speaking of toes…mine will be having a variety of different experiences over the next six months. For now, my sassy Merida sandals are the popular choice. My red polished toes enjoy the cool breezes. However, looking ahead, I decided I’d be wise to prepare for the inevitable, and when I saw these “Black Beauties” on the sale rack, I snatched them up. I think they are just as funky as the glittery sandals, but they sure feel different. They are the first pair of boots I’ve bought in decades. They are sturdy and roomy, they have a good tread and I can wear at least two pairs of warm woolen socks to keep my tootsies from freezing. My feet will like tacos!

As my friend Mary pointed out, this is just one of the accommodations I’ll have to make when the weather gets cooler. She says my tailored leather blazer is not going to be nearly warm enough. I’ll let you have a peek at me in my parka when I purchase one.

For several years the changes staring at me from the mirror have been worrying. More weight, more wrinkles and more sun damage have made me cringe – but I have avoided doing much about the results of too many delicious meals and too little sunscreen.

I find my latest footwear purchase is a good simile for the shift in my thinking. Black rubber boots don’t sound nearly as appealing as strappy gold sandals, but I thought ahead and have a couple of funky, fun “friends” to help me through the weather that’s waiting in the wings. And cutting back on my carbs and revving up my exercise are the allies to help me effect the physical makeover that needs to happen.

Change is the only constant in our lives… Gotta’ zip up my boots and jump on board!