It may seem insane to some, to drag out the push mower, in the heat of the day, in August, when the thermometer has reached out and over to triple digits, but that’s why I have done it. Once again, I go forth to dare the Summer to kill me. And I’m not entirely sure that it cannot this time. I’ve been slack on working out and last night I drank one beer too many. Three is my limit, yes, I know how few that sounds, but I went up to four over the space of Saturday afternoon, and today my body reminds me of why I stick with three.
The Puppy Burke is astounded by the noise of the mower and flees. The tall weeds that pass for the back yard seem to go down easily and it’s a surprise. There is more dust than resistance. I haven’t mowed this section since the first of the month but the jungle that was once this part of the yard shows real signs of thinning. But the heat! The heat is here and it is not thinned out in the least. This is real heat. The ground is baked and the wind is baked and all the earth and air is nothing but heat and then more heat.
Summer is a vast roaring dragon, whose wings fan the flames of the hottest fires for well over four months. From the middle of May it’s been very hot but the last few days have been murderous. Each and every day has been hotter than the next with even dawn seeming stuffy and humid. The dragon’s roar brings forth his minions; mosquitoes and gnats and biting flies of pestilence. The ground is covered with fire ants. The breeze flutters and dies, its body broken from having to carry so much humidity and so many flying insects.
Yet dragon is dying. The roar which drowns out all things is heard less and less north of here. The fires rage, yes, even the very hottest parts of the fire yet rage, but I can see there is little fuel other than what is before us. The wild grape leaves turn gold. The Chinaberry’s leaves are falling. The corn has been harvested. The tomatoes are nearly done. The Zinnias are dying. It matter not at all how hot the fires rage for the light is failing slowly still. Here, just ten days past the middle of August, the fires feel hotter than I can remember but my eyes tell me relief is in sight. Not this week, oh no, and perhaps not the next, and maybe even three weeks hence there will still be flame enough from the sky. But the light in the eyes of the dragon is failing even as he bellows out his name.
I wear a hat and under my hat I’ve a rough piece of cloth soaked in water. I wear long sleeves and jeans. But the heat hammers away at the hat and I can feel heat, real heat, tugging at my clothing. The dust rises in the yard like smoke from the dragon’s mouth. It will take an hour to cut the front yard and I start furthest away from the house and work my way back.
It’s better to work steady in the heat than fast but I discover the grass isn’t thick. The lush green jungle of July is gone now. The matted and tangled emerald forest of the yard more resembles a scraggy group of survivors. There are still some blades that are much taller than they need to be but they are fewer in number. The weeds seem stunted. It’s nearly easy to walk the mower over this sort of already beaten army but the heat… The heat sears everything in my path and me along with it.
I feel rivets then rivers of sweat on my body. Each new cloud of dust forces me to hold my breath at a time when I am trying not to gasp. Become one with the heat, Mike, endure it, do not fight it, relax into the heat, try not to resist it, and breathe. I find the zone where the heat soaks me, immerses me, embraces me, and suddenly I am alone with my thoughts and the noise of the mower, but there is no heat. There is only the focus on what is in front of me and plots and storylines begin to come and go. The heat is totally gone. I am sweating small ponds down my back and my legs, and my vision is blurred from perspiration, but the sun muted. Back and forth, across one way and then the next, around the yard, large sections become small and then are done. My clothes are soaked and even my shoes are drenched but there is no heat and there is no sun. There is resolution and clarity. I know now who must die in a story and why. I know where to place a minor character and where to take another and erase all accounts of existence.
I know this feeling is an adjustment not so much in my body but my mind. I have something to do, something to get done, and maybe even a mission of sorts, but I also know that my body isn’t going to take this sort of damage and everything be okay. I get done with the front and take a break. A quart of water disappears in a few minutes. Time to finish the back!
The back yard is easier but it is there the change of season has hit hardest. The shade of the Oaks has exacerbated the light problem for the grass and very little is growing very much at all. The trampling of the mutts seem greater because of the puppies. Another thirty minutes and I am done. Once my focus is broken and I know the job is finish I feel the heat seeping back into my body. But it is time to go in and let the dogs follow. More water and now I can write. There is a certain mental state where writing can be found and followed easily and in the heat, I have found the Dragon’s ink.