Nina enjoys a breath of fresh air, back in Bermuda
Yesterday I was walking in the glorious sunshine with my husband, Bill, on Elbow beach. The sky was an achingly deep blue, the colour of fine porcelain, and the crystal-clear water swirled amongst our bare toes, numbingly cool and pure. We just came back from Thailand where we spent four months.
The restless sea crashed haphazardly, throwing fine spray into a breeze that had danced its way across the foaming crests from the storm tossed Southern Ocean, perhaps all the way from Antarctica.
Bill stopped, turned, held my hands, looked into my startled eyes and said in awe, “Nina! We can finally breathe!” I laughed “Yes, we can!”
Air. Pure air.
We both inhaled deeply, savouring the salty tang, and the cool, moist rush of highly oxygenated air that filled our lungs. Our chests swelled and a euphoria spread upward, ending in smiles. We gripped each other harder and inhaled again and again.
Here in Bermuda, we breathe perhaps the purest air on the entire planet.
We had never really thought about it before our winter in Thailand. Three years ago marked our first winter in Southeast Asia. We went back there this year in December, and we enjoyed the delightful cool temperatures, the fresh air from the green jungle ridge tops, and the bright blue skies speckled with soaring swallows.
We loved our exotic, spiritual, and, at times, even mysterious experience.
It was, and still is, an exciting and outlandish adventure for us. We enjoy the deep satisfaction of taking a big chance in life, and feeling the universe reward us beyond our wildest dreams.
It was idyllic until the month of February welcomed March. On our bicycle rides through the patchwork of rice fields and tiny villages, we began noticing a haziness in the air, the setting sun became a pale red wafer, and by the end of the week, it was literally hard to breathe. Our eyes watered and we developed intermittent coughs.
One early evening, we climbed the hundreds of steps to a temple near our house. In solemn majesty, the immense white and gold Buddha at the summit surveys the farmland below with his all-seeing, compassionate gaze.
We were dumbstruck as we watched a low-lying cloud of smoke wend its way between the hills, covering the familiar landscape in a shroud. The Burning Season had arrived in full force.
After the rice is harvested, the fields are covered in short stalks that dry out and turn to brown stubble, a bit like hay. For centuries this stubble is burnt by the farmers and the ash returns to the soil in the spring rains. Imagine millions of farmers doing this all at the same time throughout all the countries of the region. In satellite photos, you can see the huge smoke cloud, trapped for weeks in the still air.
It is the worst air pollution on the planet for over two months annually, and no one seems to talk much about it. The children breathe it. The elderly breathe it. Everyone breathes it. Respiratory health issues abound.
Then in May, the torrential spring rains come, the air clears, and the air returns to its usual purity until the following March.
This morning I woke up early to see the sunrise and practice Qigong. I was on the beach feeling the pink sand massaging the soles of my feet. I gazed at the sun rising out of the turquoise sea.
I smiled, breathed deeply, and said in profound appreciation “Thank you, Bermuda, for the freshest air in all the world!”