Smoke that serves us well

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire: an idiom seen this summer around Whitehorse.

While it seems obvious, it’s amazing how frequently we miss the “smoke signals” in our lives or see them only in hindsight.

And so, we have this saying that teaches a lesson … one to pass along to our children and our grandchildren (but never, ever, ever as “I told you so”).

The smoke signals we’ve seen lately have been impossible to miss. Some have even felt them physically.

We tend to focus on danger, as well we should when it comes to taking care of our families and our environment.

But, lest we forget as we gaze in wonder at a ginormous orangish-pink moon (willfully forgetting that its size, too, is an optical illusion) …

Remember that, environmentally, forest fires are neither simply good or bad.

Here are some Fire Factoids:

• 60 per cent of forest fires are started by people.

• 35 per cent of forest fires are started by lightning.

• Fires started by lightning are 10 times as large as those started by people.

• The boreal forest – where we live – sustains the most fires each year.

To keep abreast of the current fire-hazard ratings in Yukon communities, you can visit

If you checked this site on July 30, you would have discovered that Dawson City was leading with 74,052.41 hectares burned as of July 31 at 2:30 p.m. and that, on any given day, the danger from fire ranges from low to extreme around the territory.

The site has a Wildland Fire Photo Gallery with amazing shots of forest fires.

There is something eerie about driving down a highway with smoke on either side and offshoots of flame here and there on the landscape.

Silence seems the only appropriate response. There are no “oohs” and “ahs” to be heard; perhaps a “wow” (small “w”, in muted tones) as the devastation comes into view – charred trees, still standing tall as if desiring to re-claim their once-held dignity in the forest – and the eye looks for any sign of life, anything that moves … anything green, not black.

I’ve taken such a drive with my husband. There is an almost-reverent feeling in mourning the death of a forest. And questions … What happened here? Lightning? A campfire? What animals, what plants, were lost?

Many questions. Most unanswerable.

But from the ashes rises resolve—quiet, but there nonetheless—to do my part to prevent this devastation … and to pray for rain.

Our eyes see beauty in the forest, still, because we see potential. Because we know that next time we drive this way, we will see new life.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. It’s an idiom that holds meaning like a sponge holds water – waiting to be squeezed out.

Too busy? Perhaps take a day to enjoy the forest … to allow yourself to meander through the woods—safely, always, with a knowledge of where you are and what is around you.

We did that recently, my husband and I. We took one day that felt like a week. The woods were full of sounds—of birds I did not see but whose songs quelled whatever inner angst the week had left within me.

And walks over trails and, purposefully, where there were no trails. Branches crackling and snapping beneath my Keens; and the spongy carpet of moss that released not sound, but scent.

When we see smoke, whether real or proverbial, it serves us as a reminder of what we may want to preserve in the North … and in our lives.

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