The number of days we’ve spent under the unrelenting glare of triple digit heat this year is phenomenal. Day after day, week after week, month after month, this Summer Of Hell has pounded the earth and the people with heat, more heat, and then after we had heat it got really very truly and honestly hot. The lows hovered in the mid-seventies and the humidity never dropped. This wasn’t so much of a Summer as it was a siege. Half of the Okefenokee caught fire and the other half just turned to dust. The Suwannee River dried up to a trickle. From late May and now into September the high temperatures seek solace in a furnace and there isn’t anything to make us believe this won’t keep going until at least the middle of the month, infinity, and beyond. The heat has us in a grip like that of some Stygian serpent slowly squeezing every drop of energy and life from us, relenting in its crush of dank and heated breath. May, June, July, August and now September, and there is no relief in sight.
Yet the world turns still, and Her travels around Sol dictate to us what light will do regardless of the heat. If light meant nothing we could grow crops in an oven but we can’t. The Equinox is but three weeks or so away, and already the plants are bowing to nature’s never ending cycle, ignoring temperature as is their wont. The autumn vines grow stronger as the trees began to lose their leaves to less light. The wild grape vines are thinning their leaves as are some trees. Grass isn’t growing as fast as it was just a month ago. All the watering and heat that kept my pepper plants lust cannot keep the loss of light from affecting them and now I can see the earth beneath them clearly again. Dawn is creeping out of Her bed just a little later in the morning and the sun sets just a bit more early. The blast furnace that is the Summer of 2011 has lost none of its heat at all and it seems to be worst this week than ever, but nevertheless, the earth turns, and the light grows less.
To give you a bit of perspective on where we are right now, we have as much light right now as we did back in April. That’s just a little early for planting because the heat isn’t right, but also because winter darkness is not yet broken. Yet because of the heat, people do not realize where we are in the season. In the northern part of the country they can already feel some relief from this Summer Of Hell, even if we cannot. The highs in most of the nation are still way over the top but there they are, on the fringes of the land, the cooler temperatures stand on the sidelines, waiting for the darkness that is most surely coming. The heat wave is far from over for The South but our northern neighbors are now feeling the first fingers of coolness at night, and far in the distance is the sounds of sighs of relief.
September is usually the worst month for hurricanes but even as the first of the month comes with a hurricane on the radar the end of the storm season slips into view. Katia comes rumbling but behind her the days tick off the calendar towards October when the waters will begin to cool, and the conditions that feed storms begin to dissipate. It takes a week to ten days for a hurricane to brew and grow dangerous so if Katia doesn’t harm us then we’ve got another week or so before another shows. Another week or ten days after that and the season will be nearly ended. Into the very teeth of the time when hurricanes come howling there is hope they will not this year. They, too, are running out of time, even as they reach the peak of their season. Those of us who watch hurricanes now see the light at the end of the funnel cloud.
Optimism with a month left in intense hurricane season may be misplaced and seems delusional on day when the high will be, one again, one hundred degrees plus. But the heat got here in May, and it has not relented. If we survived a four month Summer that looks all the world to be a five month Summer, can we not look towards October with some degree of hope? Corn is being harvested, peanuts and cotton are becoming ready, and school has started again. Regardless of how hot for how long, September once it begins will be a shorter month each day that passes. The first two weeks of September always resemble August in every form, but the truth of the matter is the earth will turn, and the days are already getting shorter and shorter, even if we haven’t noticed it in the heat. Thirty days separate us from October and in those thirty days we might have two, three, or even four hurricanes, and a dozen days of triple digit heat. The pounding we’ve taken from the Summer of 2011 shows no sign of weakness. The humidity is high, the temperatures are worse, and no one is sleeping with their windows open. I’m worried about Bert, my eldest dog, being exposed to the furnace during the day when I am not home, and I’m worried about the fires that might break out anywhere and everywhere during such conditions. What we really need is a good soaking rain that last for three or four days, when the temperatures never get above seventy during the day and drop down in the fifties at night. As far away as that may seem, we are closer to the beginning of November right now than we are to the last of May, when all of this began. The Summer of 2011 shows no sign of weakening, or diminishing, or even so much as blinking, but the signs are there, if you know where to look.