Make the Most of It
I'm not sure if you've heard, but this province is burning.
It's been pretty wild around here at the eco lodge. We're not and haven't been in any danger, but for much of this past month, the skies have been filled with choking amounts of smoke as other, less luckier parts of British Columbia are consumed by wildfire.
First things first, we count our blessings that we've not been in any danger. There's been a fire burning about fifteen kilometres north of us, and I make it a ritual to check the fire's status on the BC Wildfires website every morning.
About a week ago, it doubled in size from 400ha to 800ha and an evacuation order was issued for the communities in immediate proximity.
Serious business, but we've avoided the worst of it.
The north hasn't been so lucky. This is the worst wildfire season on record. Over a hundred buildings have been destroyed, hundreds if not thousands of people have been evacuated, and firefighters from all over the world are battling to keep the fires contained.
With that in mind, a little smoke doesn't really seem like much to complain about.
Thing is, the smoke is *pervasive.* It lingers in our little valley, blocking out the sun and making it hard to breathe. Our August has been smoggy and cold.
It might be easy to feel like we've been cheated out of our summer. I know a lot of people in the province feel the same.
(At least we're not watching our houses burn, you might say, and you'd be absolutely right.)
It was a cold and rainy June and early July. No sooner had the weather warmed, it seemed, then did the yearly campfire ban take effect. Mosquitos, nurtured by our damp June, swarmed.
And then the wildfires.
My roommates and I spent time waiting for summer to arrive. I put off some hikes I'd wanted to do in July because the weather wasn't quite warm enough.
I didn't go camping as much as I might have wanted. I was waiting for perfect conditions.
It's the end of August now, and though the smoke has disappeared, the weather has cooled. The leaves are changing.
Summer is almost over.
But that's fine.
I've been thinking a lot about what a fool's errand it can be to wait for the perfect conditions to do, well, anything.
And how counterproductive it is to focus on the imperfections and the petty annoyances instead of enjoying these fleeting moments.
After all, we're only in this eco lodge for another month, maybe two at the most.
My roommates and I went camping on a beautiful lake in late July.
We hung out on an empty beach, built a raft out of driftwood, and lounged and drank beer and watched the day pass us by.
It was blissful.
Except...the bugs were bad.
Really bad, especially inland from the water. We were all covered in mosquito bites by the trip's end, and in fact we fled the campsite early to get away from the little bastards.
I'm not sure Megan or Arthur look back on that trip very fondly.
There's this pattern of thinking that can be easy to fall into. I do it, but I'm trying not to.
"This would be perfect if only..."
If only it wasn't so cold.
If only the bugs weren't so bad.
If only we could have a campfire.
If only there wasn't so much smoke.
It can be so easy to fixate on what's *not* perfect that we ignore what's really wonderful about this life we're all living.
It can be easy to forget how #blessed we are to have the freedom to live in this eco lodge for the summer to begin with.
To have such access to nature.
To have careers that don't require us to live in a city, or commute two hours every day.
To have the means, and the freedom, to camp when we want, or spend a day at the lake, or go hiking in the woods to beautiful spots that very few people will ever see.
There are a lot of things that I still want to do while I'm based at this eco lodge. A lot of hikes and scrambles I want to tackle. I can see the pages of the calendar turning, and every weekend now seems precious.
A couple of weekends ago, I took my roommates on an adventure. There's a hut at the end of a rough logging road and even rougher trail in the sub-alpine, maybe 30kms from here.
It sits at 1740m above sea level. From it, you can tackle a series of mountains named after Lord of the Rings characters: Gandalf, Aragorn, Shadowfax.
Conditions were suboptimal. Air quality wasn't great; it was extremely smoky. But we weren't in any danger, and I couldn't afford to let the weekend pass in hopes that a later weekend would offer a better shot at perfection.
I have too many other things I want to do with those weekends.
So I set out, and Arthur and Megan gamely followed.
What transpired was otherworldly.
The hut was lovely. Maintained by the UBC Varsity Outdoor Club, it sits on the shore of a pretty little lake and sleeps 20-25 (we had the place to ourselves).
Arthur and Megan opted not to wake up early the next morning and scramble the peaks. I left Lucy in their care and set out solo.
Scrambling alone is mentally pretty challenging, I've found. You confront pretty acute feelings of loneliness, fear and self-doubt (or I do, anyway), especially at the beginning, but the payoffs are often well worth the challenge.
This scramble was particularly rewarding. I tackled Gandalf (2360m) and Aragorn (2470m) in quick succession. Neither was particularly dangerous, though there were some hairy spots.
The views, though, were incredible. Visibility was obviously limited, but the smoky air gave the impression that one was walking alone across Mars.
I've never seen anything like it.
I would never have seen these things, if I'd opted to stay home and wait for more perfect conditions.
Hell, I might never have summited those peaks at all.
I regret nothing.
In fact, isn't one of the great appeals about being outdoors that nature *isn't* perfect?
It's going to be cold. It's going to be buggy. It's going to be unpredictable.
I've found the wilderness is that much more enjoyable when I consciously work to embrace imperfection, and even discomfort.
So the lake is cold?
Jump in anyway. You'll regret the dry drive home more than you will that bracing first plunge.
Can't have a campfire?
Enjoy the chill air. Pack a sweater.
Air's too smoky?
Find the beauty in it. Recognize that wildfires are natural part of a healthy forest's cycle of regrowth and rebirth.
Bugs are bad?
I mean, hell, bugs suck. But do you really want to trade these sunsets just to skip a few bites?
The juice, to use a cliche, is worth the squeeze.
After all, if we wanted perfection, we'd lodge ourself in climate-controlled living rooms and watch Planet Earth on Netflix while Door-Dashing whatever in the world we wanted to eat at that moment.
I can see summer ending. I can see autumn approaching.
I can see plenty of opportunities to make the most of the summer days I've got left.
I hope you can say the same.