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A Gloomy Summer

Sunrise at Cochrane - Summer 2023

I didn’t track how many mornings during our Spring, Summer, and Fall that I woke up, pulled back the blinds to look out on the day, and saw the view above. Global News informs me that it must have been quite a few, because we have had around 500 hours of smoke in the air during 2023…so far.

I also think we’ve had more overcast days of cloud this summer than I remember from previous years.

Considering both smoke and clouds, our environment was pretty gloomy this past summer.

I’ve lived in a couple of locations that had notably gloomy times of the year. One was Manchester, England, where I lived from 1966 to 1968. I left Canada in September 1966 after a glorious summer in the outdoors under the sun and blue sky. I arrived in England where the Fall also had sun and blue sky; however, in November that all changed and I faced more typical weather for that time of year in Manchester—overcast and drizzle. That went on for most of the winter with single day breaks of sun now and then. I didn’t have to deal with forest fire smoke, but in 1966-1968 the smog, caused by coal and coke burning along with vehicle exhaust, created an airborne soup that I could taste.

My other gloomy memory is from 1970, after my wife and I moved to Vancouver. There, during the winter months, the city was regularly covered in cloud that often delivered rain. Not the drizzle of Manchester, but proper downpours that flooded the gutters. During that first winter we often questioned why we had moved.

In both Manchester and Vancouver, over time, I finally learned to accept those seasonal gloomy periods. However, what we went through last summer in Cochrane was not seasonally normal and that got me down.

We stopped feeling sorry for ourselves when the news of people in Alberta, BC, and then the eastern provinces were faced with fires that threatened to claim much of what they owned. In some cases that threat became real. Learning about what those folks were going through made me humble. I thought how lucky we were to be in Cochrane rather than somewhere in the fire zones.

I wonder what next summer will bring. Given the droughts we’re facing, I’m not sure things will be any better.

The good news is that the smoke is temporary. We took advantage of that this past weekend with a day out to Trochu, Alberta, to visit the town’s Arboretum. The sun was shining, the smoke dissipated, and it was neither too hot nor too cold—perfect. Our drive through the Alberta prairie landscape helped us unwind, and the arboretum, that little oasis on the plains, helped to return us to an emotionally normal state of mind.

Fall Vista on the Alberta prairies

I recommend that you pay a visit to the Trochu Arboretum. Doing that in late June or July is probably better than the Fall, if you want to see the flower gardens at their best. Don’t just drop in for a short visit. Stay awhile. Rest on a bench. Look through the garden trees to the east and witness the Canadian prairies in its splendour. I always leave the Arboretum feeling better than when I arrived.

Looking to the prairies from the shelter of the Arboretum

The Arboretum water garden

I won’t go into the history of the place, because it is well documented online.

Here is the link to the history: ARBORETUM history

Here is the link to the Arboretum of today: TROCHU ARBORETUM


“If I’m obsessed with anything, I’m obsessed with time; not time passing, but time wisely spent.”

Robert Bateman

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Sep 17, 2023

Thanks Jack. After 2 weeks stuck at home, I’ll take the outdoors in any form. I liked this essay.

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