“Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.”
We appear to be suffering a hot spell here in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. Marilyn Monroe dances in my mind, a song echos in my head, “We’re having a heatwave…a tropical heat wave….” Seeing her costume in my mind, I wonder what was causing the heat wave.
The humidity is not quite high enough to be tropical but it is as if a heavy weight has descended from the mountains, pressing the air down around us, compressing it and turning it more liquid than gaseous. This high-pressure weather system has added to my misery in the same way collard greens wilt in a pot of boiling water. As I mow the grass this morning it is as if the oxygen has been squeezed out of the air.
The weather is July-August hot. F. Scott Fitzgerald would probably describe the weather as “sultry.” Sounds real nice. Maybe like a 1920s flapper dancing the Charleston or Lindy Hop. Sultry. I wouldn’t describe the weather that way unless the flapper had been dancing for hours in the unairconditioned Cotton Club in August wearing a fur coat. The problem with our “sultry” July-August hot spell is…it is just now late May. Doesn’t bode well for July and August.
Humid enough to be uncomfortable but not so humid to give us any rain. The sky is a brilliant blue with no clouds to block the sun. The weather pundits say our air is too stable and will remain so for at least another week. If you say so.
We were flooding in the cold a month ago. Now we are drier than camel bones in the Sahara. We water something every day which adds to the muggy misery…and seems to attract the mosquitos and gnats. God, I love it.
The people living in the mid-west would love to have the mosquitos and gnats. Theirs have drowned or blown away. I am not attempting to make light of their disastrous weather. Major thunderstorms, tornadoes, and floods should not be made light of…nor should the results of global warming.
Several years ago I suffered through an early season baseball practice featuring near-freezing temperatures and snow flurries. I swore never to gripe about the heat of summer again. My resolve is eroding…and we haven’t made it to June yet.
My weather conditions trigger memories. I grew up without air conditioning and wonder how I survived. We spent our days outdoors working or playing in brutal heat and humidity, or if indoors, where it seemed even hotter. You’ve never been hot like in the middle of a cotton or hayfield hot or inside of a cotton mill hot. How did we survive?
I would attempt to sleep, fitfully at best, my head at the foot of my bed trying to catch what little bit of breeze might find its way into my small bedroom from the one window. Laying spread eagle making sure body parts never touched, adding to the heat, humidity, and discomfort if they did. I wish I had been smart enough to invest in the talcum powder industry. Later when my parents bought a small window air-conditioning unit for their bedroom, I found heaven when I inherited their window fan. Blow baby blow.
The same was true of the old school building I attended. Tall, wide, screenless windows allowed everything to enter…except a cool breeze in the late spring and early fall. Taking notes while trying to keep the college ruled paper dry was almost impossible.
Sundays were no better. Church windows wide open, hellfire and brimstone could be no hotter than those pews. Funeral home fans fluttered in the breeze doing nothing more than moving the heat around. Shirt sticking to the pew heat and humidity. On a particularly brutal Sunday morning, the minister shouted to the heavens, “If you think it’s hot now just wait. Hell is a lot hotter.” I don’t know. Heat seems relative.
Yesterday evening I ventured into my garden. I waited until the shade had found my tomato and squash plants but found them wilted in the oppressive humidity and heat. The beans didn’t look too much better. The one crop that should be loving it, okra, refuses to peek above the hot ground.
Despite having watered the day before, dust swirled wherever my hoe contacted the ground. A clink rang out as my hoe struck rock…seems I have a bumper crop of rocks this year…like every year, no matter how many I throw into the creek behind my garden. Rocks and weeds…my bumper crops. Along with squash bugs and bean beetles.
The metallic clink took me back to my grandmother’s garden as did the sweat running off my nose. It never was too brutal to keep her out of her garden and the old sack dress she wore would run with sweat. My grandmother was a Southern woman but unlike the heroines of a Faulkner or Wolfe novel, she did not glisten with perspiration, she sweated like a horse.
I paused, leaning on my hoe. It was her pose I saw in my mind’s eye. An old woman, with a face browned by the sun, wearing a big straw hat leaning on her hoe. She was framed in bright summer sunlight, sweat running down her face. She always defied the hot spells and I shall too.
I have memories of ice cold sweet tea and a watermelon cooling in the nearby stream. Somehow the heat has made the memories a bit more sweeter…despite my sweating.
Don Miller has published several books. To access them click on the following link. https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM
The image came from worldatlas.com