The summer is always a short season on the West Coast. The salty ocean breeze keeps temperatures mild and long stretches of hot days are broken up with pockets of rain and lingering cloud that can arrive with little warning. I wait all year for the sunny skies that put RA into its annual hibernation. For me, summer is usually the best time of the year – but this year it’s been a little different.
There are many wonderful things about my summers – walks on the beach, starry nights, happy joints, more energy, blue skies, swimming, hiking, reading on the deck in the pink twilights and charming road trips through the mountain passes. But there is an ugly side to this amiable season – every year devastating forest fires caused by lightning strikes, camp fire sparks and careless people tossing cigarettes out windows, devour our lush bountiful province. The result is thousands of acres of fertile forest burning to cinders, and people being forced from their homes and communities.
During our season of fire, we watch the horizon every day for that vital change that will bring needed moisture to douse the flames scorching our land – and this year, I feel more of the lingering changes on the horizon that push the low rain clouds the across the skies, always a hopeful sign for the firefighters and people on the front lines. The changes are swift and fleeting, offering only a slight relief to our parched forests, but those ephemeral changes bring a different kind of trouble for me – when the clouds hang low on the horizon, and the warm air thickens with an approaching system, my joints swell and burn as if the clouds were billowing inside me, turning my wellness to ash.
It’s rare for me to experience RA flares in the summer months – but even when battling my own personal fire, I have little to complain about. I remind myself I am not in the fire zone, even though I am burning. I still have my home, my loved ones and my comforts. I say a silent prayer of thankfulness that my troubles are insignificant compared to the devastation taking place several miles away from me. When my joints start to roil and churn due to a shift in the weather, I go to my toolbox, and take some time out for me. I take a day to soothe my joints, engage in pleasant distraction, and rekindle my energy for another day.
It is a summer of fire. It’s not my usual season, but I am willing to endure a little discomfort if it means the summer rains can cool our scorching earth and bring people back to their homes. The fire season is a time of courage and strength. Along with my own mere smouldering spark, it will eventually burn out with the arrival of cooler days and misty nights, leaving behind the resilient embers of our unbreakable spirit.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.