In the late ‘60s, Jimi Hendrix released a song titled “Purple Haze,” which contained the following lyrics:
Purple haze all in my eyes
Don’t know if it’s day or night
You got me blowing, blow my mind
Is it tomorrow or just the end of time?
I don’t know about you, but what occurred here in the first week of June certainly blew my mind, except it was an orange haze.
Although the strange atmospheric condition was present early in the week, it peaked here on Long Island sometime in the afternoon on that Wednesday. People were reaching for their handy COVID masks again, trying to prevent those microscopic orange particles from entering their respiratory system.
If you did happen to venture outside that day, the afternoon sky looked surreal with an ominous glow, more akin to being on the surface of Mars. To be safe, officials advised the entire Long Island population to stay indoors. This reminded me of every apocalyptic rendition of the future I’ve seen in movies, depicting the sun blotted out, the daytime sky darkened, and most of the human population living underground.
Facebook newsfeeds were flooded with pictures depicting the foggy ginger-colored sky compared to the previous day’s sharp blue. The Manhattan skyline had the look and feel of a blackout. The evening sundown was pretty in color but dangerous to all creatures and the air that they breathed.
As a curator of five or six oak trees in my backyard, our property is inundated during May with fine yellow dust, accompanied by what we affectionately call the “squigglies.” The dust is everywhere and clings to every surface, while the squigglies form tumbleweeds and roll down the street, causing Massapequa to look more like Yellowstone. I use an entire container of window wash in my car every spring.
We are prisoners inside until mid-June when the yellow menace abates, causing us to spend an entire weekend hose-washing every square inch of my patio and outside furniture. Outdoor Memorial Day barbeques are limited to friends and relatives without oak trees.
But this mysterious orange haze wasn’t coming from my backyard oak trees. That wood-burning fire-pit smell wasn’t coming from any of my neighbors. The smoke from a distant fire was coming from, of all places, our neighbors in the true North. O, Canada!
Unfortunately, Canada is experiencing unprecedented wildfires that have already damaged almost 10 million square miles. Firefighters from all over the world, including the US, have joined with the Canadians to bring these fires under control. But the smoke has to go somewhere, right?
The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind.
Winds from the North wreaked havoc down here and across the Northeast, causing schools to keep the kiddies inside and flights to be canceled. Want to know how serious this was? Major League Baseball took the bold step and canceled games in The Bronx and Philadelphia.
Canada is a large country with its border hundreds of miles away from Massapequa. It’s more than 500 miles West across New York State and through Buffalo before you get to Niagara Falls and enter Toronto. If you want to visit Montreal to the North, it’s about 400 miles.
We didn’t start the fire, yet the smoke was so intense that the Town of Oyster Bay suspended all garbage and recycling collections to protect their workers.
So, for all of us who survived the respiratory issues that affected millions of people in the past few years, let’s have a little respect for the orange haze disrupting our daily lives. It may no longer be as intense as it was on that dreadful Wednesday in early June, but it still lingers. After all those years of creating “smoke-free” environments on airplanes, trains, bars, and restaurants, let’s not blow it now.
‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky…