Fires burn tonight. Throughout British Columbia, more than five hundred wildfires are alight. Thousands of people have fled their homes; nearly four times as many wait on evacuation alert. Highways and airports have closed.
Though my corner of the province has been spared this fate, a smoky haze has lingered over everything these past weeks. The sun hovers red in the sky, the moon a ghoulish orange. I wake every morning with raw eyes and a stinging throat.
Through all of this I reflect upon our inherent intimacy. This is a key insight of ecology and systems theory, of course. It’s also central to the practice of meditation. As we develop our capacity to settle within our own experience – whatever this might be – we discover what has always been true: the suffering of others is inevitably nearby; we are forever close.
So fires burn tonight. As I sit here writing, I breathe gritty air and – in the same difficult inhalation – feel the ache of those who have lost homes, the fear of people whose health has been affected, the fatigue of those working to contain the flames burning across this land.
In many ways, I’d prefer not to. In many ways, I’d prefer to hide behind the convenient illusion of separateness and go on pretending that what occurs across the room, across the province, across the globe has little to do with me. But this deception is hard to maintain with smoke in the air from who knows where; with a chest scratched raw and people walking by in masks, with the sun lingering red in the sky.
Which is perhaps the thin layer of silver-lining in all this. Within this crisis, a reminder of the connections between us. A reminder of our fundamental proximity and, consequently, of what it is to be fully human. A reminder, if I am willing to receive it; willing to breathe deep.