“Summer in the deep South is not only a season, a climate, it’s a dimension. Floating in it, one must be either proud or submerged.”- Eugene Walter, The Untidy Pilgrim
It is five in the a. m. and I’m standing outside smoking a cigar. Don’t ask…it’s become the new, old normal. Blame a life of getting old and blind puppy dogs who don’t know it is the middle of the night when they come looking for belly rubs and snacks…yes, they have trained me well.
Despite being as dark as the inside of a cow…whatever Mark Twain meant by that seems to be accurate although I’ve never actually been inside of a cow…anyway, despite being as dark as the inside of a cow, one could tell there were low clouds pressing down with humidity as thick as a wet, wool blanket.
I wonder who first used that descriptor and to my knowledge I’ve never worn a wet, wool blanket. Dark and oppressively humid would have described the predawn morning but not nearly as colorfully and with many fewer words. I also fear I will be submerged and drowning by mid-morning. Ah, Southern summers.
We have been without more than a few drops of rain for over two weeks. As warm, humid and still this morning is, I worry the fifty percent chance of thundershowers might become strong thunderstorms. I also worry we will get no rain at all.
Except for a lone whippoorwill, there are no night sounds. The lonesome bird is muted even though it is nearby. “As quiet as the inside of a tomb”…ok, I’ll quit…maybe.
Later when the darkness has turned to a muted light, a woodpecker is beating its brains out against an oak tree but there are no chirps from the songbirds I normally hear. Maybe the worms were resting in cooler places and the early birds had given up the hunt.
At five the thermometer read seventy-six, but it felt ten degrees warmer. I decided to wander back inside to work on the next, great American novel. Right. I will settle for semi-great or even not so great, but “he has some potential”. I’d really just like to sell a book to keep me interested.
By seven a. m. the sun might have been above the ridgeline to my east, but you couldn’t be sure. Gray clouds hung low as I began my morning walk. The humidity felt heavy against my skin and soon the cotton tee I shouldn’t have worn was saturated. I’m a Southern male, I do not glisten. I sweat like a horse and cotton does not wick well.
The air is heavy and still. The surface of the lake I walk around as flat as a mirror. Fish must be laying low, not even a ripple. The sun comes out briefly causing the air to boil around me. Sweat is now pooling in my unmentionables bathing certain parts in a wet, steamy and I’m sure yeasty film. I probably should have added some Body Glide or Boudreaux’s Butt Paste before I left…too much information?
The campers I encounter are taking advantage of the relative cool of the foothills of the Blue Ridge at Lookup Lodge. They are out and about and wondering if they were sold a bill of goods. “Cool Mountain Mornings?” These are kids along with their counselors, high schoolers or early college I think…maybe middle school, they all look so young and the sweat is fouling my eyes.
Normally blusterous, their movements are slow, and the usual raucous chattering muted as they line up for breakfast. The smell of cinnamon rolls permeates the area and my salivary glands add to the relative humidity.
Around the lake, I find my way blocked by a downed tulip poplar laying across one of the wooden footbridges. As I’m contemplating turning back a younger, female runner passes me and scrambles over the tree leaving me in her dust…humid dust. She points out how stupid we are, “This is the most humid time of the day” she shouts over her shoulder. The runner reminds of the days I used to run the same path stubbing my toes on various roots, crashing and burning. Now I just walk and burn in the humidity. “Hot fun in the Summertime…” sings Sly Stone in my head.
She is correct about our stupidity and the humidity. I’m reminded of my youthful, ‘early thirty’ mornings hoeing corn or chunkin’ hay bales onto a flatbed along the river bottoms. The heavy dew on broad corn leaves or narrow hay stubble seemed to melt into the air almost choking you with its warm thickness before dissipating into a dusty, dry, throat-searing heat by midmorning.
Julys and Augusts are oppressive in the South, slowing time to crawl. Was it not for modern conveniences would time stop altogether? Our ancestors survived with high ceilings, wide, tall windows and broad, tree-shaded verandas. As a child, I survived with nothing more than a window fan exchanging hot air for hot air. For some reason, the sun didn’t seem as hot nor the humidity as thick in the hazy fog of my memories.
Today I’m just thankful to have the choice to stay out in the thick, sticky humidity or come into the air-conditioned comfort of my home. You can probably guess which one I will choose.
For more ramblings go to Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM
Featured image is of Salvadore Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” and was lifted from Flickr.