The sweltering days of summer
How to beat the heat wave
After so many summers of going in and out of air-conditioning, I forgot what it is like to go without, especially in the dead of the heat. As I wrote this, it was so hot outside, it felt like an oven. Inside, it was Dante’s Inferno, with absolutely no relief. There were tepid showers to take and fans galore, but they did not measure up to the power and relief air conditioning gives. My dog and I were in Vermont, in our beautiful old country home. The homes of the 1800’s were built with thick walls, keeping the cold out in winter and the cool inside during the summer. Even so, it was so close with humidity that I had all the fans blasting away, in an attempt to create a draft. We are, however, lucky to live across the street from a beautiful running brook. We thought that would be all we needed for days like this. The water is clear and clean and when the heat wave strikes, the villagers gather around on the rocks surrounding the deepest swimming holes, seeking a bit of respite.
Most homeowners are like us. Nobody has “air con”. It never was necessary for more than a few days per year, but those days are gone. It was so hot on that day I didn’t even find relief swimming, the once icy water felt almost lukewarm today, certainly not the chill that once was the summer thrill. On the short walk back home from the brook, the sun bore down and quickly robbed any perception of feeling cooler. By the time I made it to the front door, I was again, drenched and sticky with sweat. The dog was panting so loudly he sounded like a freight train, so I knew he was uncomfortable as well. Once inside, even with those fans at full speed, the air was thick and heavy. I sat down close to the nearest fan and let the air blow right at me. I was slowed down. There just wasn’t much I could do or felt like doing in this kind of weather. I couldn’t cook, just the thought of adding any more heat - if only from just a burner – might just make me explode! I resorted to salads. cheese and fruit. There was a pile of laundry gathering upstairs, but that required the dryer, more heat… Forget sleeping, it was impossible. Our dog Arlo did not want to go in his sleeping crate, so he hopped on the bed and made himself comfortable on my pillow, right near my face… Outside, the crickets were in a state of distress, their commotion signaled the temperature had yet to drop. I saw lights on down the road. Others must have been unable to escape this oppression. “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” came to mind. Heat makes you moody and mad. Heat drives you crazy. Time for yet another shower before falling into a state of baked stupor and finally get some sleep.
The next morning brought some cooler air. It was miraculous, like a thick velvet curtain that was lifted up. I pushed the dog off my face and got out of bed, cheerful and ready for a great day. I made a pot of coffee and went out on the porch where the birds were furiously chirping away. “They must be sharing the good news”, I thought. It felt so good to be outside, it felt especially good to feel this way, first thing in the morning. As I sipped my first cup of coffee - half Oren’s “special blend”, half Café Grumpy’s “Heartbreaker” – for all you coffee snobs out there – I was overcome with gratitude for feeling SO good. It occurred to me then that had I lived (for too many years) in the artifice of an air-conditioned environment. It would have been impossible to experience this moment before, it would just be a reminder to turn the temperature up inside. There is no way I could appreciate what I wa
s appreciating in the moment. That is the joy people feel when they live through the seasons, with the seasons. Was it simply because I had suffered such an intense few days or was this a gift nature was handing me? I’ll never know for sure.
As intense as those few days were, they served as a reminder that the world is filled with people who deal with harsh weather conditions all the time, never knowing what our creature comforts afford so many of us.
I glanced at the dog, happily licking his paws. I felt like him then, living in the moment, for the moment.