The weather is flirting with triple digit heat and it is that time of year again. Last year it happened much sooner with late May bringing heat usually reserved for July or August. The official temperature yesterday topped out at ninety-nine, but it felt like the inside of an oven outside, even in the shade. The humidity robs the shade of its coolness and even in a building the AC struggles to keep up if the doors are opened and closed many times. The heat and humidity will be around for another one hundred days or so, and maybe even longer. But there will be no relief early and there is still a lot of heat to endure until then.
I started heat training early this year. I haven’t turned on my AC inside the house and I ride with my windows down in the truck more often than not. I started doing yardwork in the heat of the day again, to get used to it, and my plan to become accustomed to the heat as much as possible is working.
We were the last American generation to grow up without air conditioning and no one complained about the heat before AC came along. We played baseball in the middle of the day and roamed the woods and fields, mowed grass with a push mower, because riding mowers were for rich people, and Summer was what Summer was. Dogs and children stayed outdoors until it was absolutely necessary. We slept with the windows open and I slept nude even as a child. My room didn’t even have a window fan which was a luxury back in the day.
There isn’t a natural way out of the heat of South Georgia that isn’t a liquid. The cool springs that are getting more and more rare, are a benison but there is no place to run to and no place to hide from the heat. The dogs dig down past the first layers of baked earth yet they still suffer through the day, hour after hour, with gnats and biting flies and the heat, always the heat, until September arrives with a little parole from the Summer. September, still the better part of three months away, seems like August for two weeks and then seems a little less than August for a fortnight, but at some point waiting for September in June seems a little like waiting for dawn at midnight. The worst is yet to come.
We make things worse for now nearly every home has some sort of appliance that leaves some residual heat that was unknown a couple of generations ago. Dishwashers, clothes driers, computers, televisions, and a host of other devices all have some life force bound in heat, much like The South, and each of them adds to the inside temperature which forces people to turn their thermostats down even further. By trying to avoid the natural heat of the Summer people have instead created their own world of heated air and warm lights. The outside heat becomes hotter as people desperately seek relief and then make matters worse by adding more heat inside. The Summers may indeed grow hotter but we are accidently making ourselves weaker. We wrestle each day with the residual heat given off by comforts and entertainment while outside the Summer bombards us with an anaconda type mixture of heat and humidity.
Yet there is something about Summer. I love the life of it, how every moment is throbbing with some heartbeat, be it insect or wood. The greenery of the Summer is fueled by the heavy rains we’ve had the Earth fairly explodes with life at every square inch of dirt and every corner of the land. It’s hard to imagine death when life springs and sprouts at every turn and seeming, at every second. The trees are heavy with their thick green leaves and the world is an emerald again. The humidity, a bane for those seeking comfort or ease, is the very breath of The South, coaxing food from the earth and turning the entire region into a hothouse for all green things that live. This is the heart and soul of The South, this heat, this hazy dragon’s breath, and there is no way of living without paying some homage to it in sweat. Simple yardwork becomes epic in its difficulty. Outside exercise becomes legendary for its ability to, quite possibly, kill those who take the heat lightly. This is not the environment for those who seek some sort of lazy existence in a mild climate, no. This is a heat that makes life more difficult and with that contrast, the milder times seem so much better in comparison.
So this is the beginning of the Summer of 2013. It has been both hot and wet. I’ve made it to nid June without artificial cooling in the house but I suspect that I will soon be forced into my electric igloo very soon. A week from now and the longest day of the year will arrive, and ninety days after that the days and night will equalize. July must come before this happens but doesn’t this mean the Fourth of July and all that this celebration brings? We must endure August, long and hot, but who does not see August as a time where the sand is exiting the glass far too fast? The Summer, for all the sweat, gnats, misery and for all the times we have to hear, “It’s not the heat; it’s the humidity” it is still a glorious time that is filled with memories and adventures. This is Summer! This is Huck Finn and baseball! This is tomatoes and watermelons! This is swimming pools and garden hose wars! This is water balloon fights and long hot nights. Whatever else can be said the truth of the matter is Summer is a long hot sticky hell but it is worth the heat. The times we will have in Summer, that time of few clothes and a few beers, will be worth it.