The end of each day brings salt crusted evidence of hard work. Dirt covered faces, tans deep now, pale skin showing where the clothing stops. Top buns are scraggly and ponytails have migrated to the side of the head during 10 hours of bending to place trees in the ground. Some people's skin has transformed, while others, though a flush has replaced the glowing white of winter, still sport a pale visage.
Back at camp, tights turn to shorts, sweaters to sleeveless and wool socks are tossed off with relief, sandals slipped on. The cooks are more responsible than I, wearing the proper PPE (personal protective equipment). Still, an open oven door leaves marks on arms and legs. Unavoidable. For me, it's Havianas and soft jean shorts every day.
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Waking up, the air is thick with the smell of forest fire. Barely awake, it still registers clearly. On the edge of Banff National Park, four days ago, lightning struck and a rip roaring fire ignited. Hungry, flames lick at every leaf, branch and stem, the inhabitants fleeing before the inevitable decimation of their homes. When I emerge from the trailer, the air is hazy, thick with the remnants of a forest.
The watering hole was greeted enthusiastically by our whole camp, after a long hot sticky shift. Crisp dives, brown bodies slipping in like seals; children at play, leaping for frisbees, backflipping, front flopping, yells cut off by each welcome plunge. They have been planting the trees faster than they come, so an early finish meant some leisure time under the hot sun, transformed from blistering to beautiful in the face of water at hand.
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