poetry and prose about place

preface to fire

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I always associate November with bonfires and the smell of smoke and burning leaves.  I love sitting in front of a fire, with friends and family, sharing stories and talking about days ahead. But even in the midst of having fun, I am reminded – fire is not always a friendly force.

In 2002, we encountered the negative side of fire when we took an extended car trip to the west.  In Quebec, Ontario and Alberta, we saw evidence of the destruction of recent forest fires. 

One of the places we visited on our trip was Portal Lake, near Mount Robson, in British Columbia. We were at Portal Lake for about an hour.  We hiked along the east side of the lake, and sat on the mountain rocks to dangle our feet along the rock face.  The berries were brilliant, glowing like embers.  Although there was no burnt land at Portal Lake, the paths were like tinder, the lichens dry and brittle.  The lakeside had the thickened scent of drying vegetation. 

The smell of smoke was in the air, as well as the faint smell of sulphur.  We had just visited the hot spring at Miette.  I had dangled my hands in the warm water and the sulphurous odor still lingered.

It was a kind of foreshadowing.  Later in the week, the Rockies would be hazy with smoke as we made our way south of Banff.  Two weeks later, we were back home, watching the reports on the Weather Channel.  The Parks, Jasper, Banff and Kootenay, were all closed due to forest fire. 



Portal Lake – British Columbia



gateway to wildfire

preface to cinder

smoke and ember



Xanthoria ochre, pale juniper

mountain titanium and grey

rose hip and raspberry

smilacina and cranberry



granite transfers the burn

to the calves of my legs

hot as the sulphur spring

the air pine scale

and mosses


winds arrange the shallow lake

the surface in lines

on the bottom, sun shadows cast

                        sun shadow sun shadow sun

lily pads are lifted and settle

                        are lifted and settle


succession of fire, ashes and green



© Jane Tims 2002

Written by jane tims

November 5, 2011 at 6:41 am

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