Seeing the devastation rot by a mega forest fire over a year after the BC’s fire services finally brought it under control is, to say the least, a pretty humbling experience. Such fires catch the media’s attention as they rage, but we rarely see the aftermath.
“Out of sight, out of mind.” as the saying goes.
When you then visit a place after reading about it in the news, whether it’s after a hurricane, landslide or forest fire, there’s this cognitive gap that stuns you. Tucked away in your memory were these abstract views of the disaster—memories of images, videos, and commentary frozen during the moments the hurricane or forest fire raged. Then, finally, the disaster ends and slips out of the 24/7 news cycle, leaving you with an unfinished story.
A year later, like I experienced when I visited the southern fringe of the 900 square kilometre Spark’s Lake Fire, you see the aftermath of the disaster, and everything inside you instantly changes. Your brain switches into this odd, disconnected, neutral mode. You’re in cognitive free fall, trying desperately to reconcile the image of the after you had built up in your mind with the reality now clearly in your camera’s viewfinder.
It’s a tragic yet softly sweet moment that invariably ended in tears for me.
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