The day before the Lake Country fire I drove to Vernon via Commonage where I stopped at Okanagan Centre to take pictures of sandbags. The wharf there allowed me to get a reverse view of the sandbags as well as those huge concrete blocks the Ministry uses to retain waterfront roads. I was returning to my car when a man in his mid-60s came out of some bushes, led by his mini-me terrier.
“’Cha doin’?” he asked with a grin that suggested he knew better.
“Takin’ pictures,” I smiled.
“Snapshots,” he said looking at my phone, still grinning.
“Sure,” I said easily.
“That’s my house over there,” he pointed.
I nodded, not looking.
“C’mere,” he said as I passed him.
I turned around.
“You’re interested in something.”
“I’m interested in a lot of things,” I said.
“I have a son about your age.”
“Whom you fathered when you were ten,” I said.
“I’ll be seventy-eight in August.”
“I don’t believe you.”
In a single motion he reached into his back pocket, pulled out his wallet and opened it to his driver’s licence.
He was sixty-four years old.
“You’re a liar,” I said.
“Yes, but I proved it, didn’t I?”
“I’m interested in sandbags,” I said. “In public space I see sandbags as emblems of collaborative activity, but in private space I equate them with capitalist accumulation. I consider it a problem worth pursuing. Can you help me?”
“I have sandbags in front of my property, and I’m a socialist.”
“How do you know you’re a socialist?” I asked.
“I know because I married one.”
“So it's infectious?” I said.
And with that he told me about the septic fields. All up and down Carr’s Landing and across the lake off Westside Road, how most of these fields were snuck in illegally, too close to the water and poorly built to boot. Nobody imagined the water rising higher than it had this April. But there are a lot of instances like that in life, and now the elements are having their say.