At the beginning of the end of my day, I press the Power button on the car, strap myself in, and turn on The Afternoon Edition. I’m making the right turn out of the office parking lot when I hear Craig Leiderhouse talk about flooding in southern Alberta. Massive amounts of rain in the last week, especially, have swelled the Bow and Elbow Rivers.
How bad can it be, I wonder? I listen, incredulous, as reporter David Fraser describes his escape from his stalled car in High River, just before the water swept it away.
"How long between first seeing the water on the street and leaving the car?" Leiderhouse asks.
"About a minute," Fraser answers. He waded in the water with the salvaged backpack, moving toward the police car lights and safety. Calgary is affected, too, Leiderhouse adds, and evacuation orders will be announced very soon.
I drive on autopilot the rest of the way home. Our son and his wife live in the far northwest, in the hills, so neither their personal safety, nor their home, is threatened. However, flooding could complicate the transfer of a second property, this one a few blocks from the Elbow River. That was yesterday. Today, Sunnyside is under water.
Summer Solstice is not supposed to be like this. The longest day of the year on the prairies is for sittting outside on the patio, preferably with a carousel of friends and neighbors, over a mug of beer, a glass of wine, chips and dip, cheese and crackers, and whatever dessert lurks in the recesses of a freezer (usually Gloria’s). The official beginning of summer means the stars poke through the purple sky at ten o’clock, a fire interjects in the conversation, constellations of lights in the trees bewitch the yard, and the sentinel Narnia lamp monitors the goings-on.
Instead, summer solstice this year means trauma, loss, and rebuilding for people in southern Alberta, and worry and anxiety for those elsewhere connected to them. For many, life has exploded. Still, in that turbulence, this summer solstice offers the opportunity for generosity, co-operation, resilience, and equanimity, for grace under pressure. An end ushers in a beginning, maybe of living in the moment, conscious of life’s fragility and ephemerality.