I’ve been sitting here trying to think how to describe the feeling of last two weeks. The straw that broke the camel’s back accurately describes the sense of having this piled on top of so many other burdens that we’re crushed, but it utterly fails to capture the added sense of being trapped inside as the last dry, sunny days of summer slip away in a toxic haze of smoke.

When I have nightmares, they usually involve being trapped somewhere. I’m in a cage or a box or tightly restrained. I usually wake up trying to escape.

In the last two weeks, those nightmares have come true for me. But in the waking world, there’s no escape, no relief, just day after day of red or purple air quality. Just endless days of relentless demands to start the next school Zoom call, to play with, or to feed my endlessly bored only child. Just the still, hot air in our house and hard, brassy light of a reddish sun barely perceptible through the haze. Just more disappointing forecasts of south winds laden with smoke coming our way; more heartbreaking headlines about the largest wildfires on record, loss of life and property, exhausted firefighters, not enough resources, climate change, and politicians unwilling or unable to take the kind of major action we desperately need.

I know I shouldn’t complain. Our home provides an escape from the filthy air. Grandparents provide relief from parenting for a while. My bike trainer provides exercise and a simulation of riding outside. Our jobs provide steady income. I must not take for granted these luxuries.

But we’re still trapped. Winter, with its cold and dark and wet that drive us indoors even more, approaches. Our last days of summer have vanished like the mountains in the smoke, and here we sit, enduring. There’s nothing else to be done.

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