The trees are motionless. Their leaves, although green, droop towards the ground, oppressed by the unbroken heat. The concrete sizzles, seeming lax and spongy beneath my sneakers – I can feel the burn through the thin layer of my rubber soles. The birds peep with idle energy, gazing down at the brown earth from their leafy perches. Swollen pollen floats on the air, igniting dormant allergies, the dry earth swallows up crops with little water to sustain them, flash floods swarm over cracked soil that no longer has the ability to absorb moisture. I slather on the SPF 60+ to prevent the fierce rays of the sun from razing my white skin and waking the sensitivity of my medication under the ultra violet rays.
This is the year of El Nino, a warm weather phenomena born from the heated waters of the Pacific Ocean. I have always relished the sultry heat of summer. The hot dry weather is the catalyst for my reprieve from the discomfort of RA. Our summer season usually reaches its peak in July but this year it has arrived a couple of months early, bringing with it all the trouble of climate change. My home in Vancouver B.C. Canada has always been renowned for its lush greenery, abundant rain forests, lakes, parks, and majestic mountains. Nestled in the harbour of the Pacific Ocean, our temperate city is protected from the extreme weather that assaults the rest of the world. We have four seasons that flow gently into one another. Our winters are cool, but not frigid; our spring is temperate; our summers warm, but not sizzling; our fall mild and rich with vivid colors. This year has been unusually dry, turning our verdant grass into a crusted brown, forcing our trees to bow beneath the brunt of the smouldering heat – one can almost feel the popping of electricity in the static air. It’s as if Mother Nature herself is in a flare, smothered by pollutants clogging her joints, wrecked by fires, floods, drought and storms.
An arthritis flare, like the capriciousness of climate change, will burn through the body like a brush fire with no forecast as to when it will abate. I am conflicted in these hot dry days. I can’t help but feel a little selfish, glad to see the symptoms of RA sinking into the shadows like a vampire avoiding the light of day. The arid weather has done wonders for me. My morning stiffness is greatly diminished, my energy restored, and I’ve been able to rise above the fog of fatigue. This may not be the case for everyone – I’ve always believed that arthritis is a very personal disease. We may experience similar symptoms but the circumstances under which they manifest are unique to each person – some thrive in the dry heat, while others turn to cooler temperatures to smother the burn.
Climate change is making life on this planet precarious. On the one hand, I want our earth to be strong and sustain life as long as possible, in spite of the advantage we have taken – on the other hand, Mother Nature’s flare, although not ideal for our future, has been favourable to me. But I am not so self-centered as to wish this parched predicament to continue for long – I hope that there will be some respite to alleviate the droughts and fires, to refresh the crops and restore balance to a world wracked by the wantonness of global warming. Until that time, I will walk the selfish road, reveling in my comfort and hoping for the day when the volatile flames of arthritis will be only the drought we will have to endure.
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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.