It’s Summer again in South Georgia. I walked five miles yesterday and could feel the heat again. Not just warmth, not the feeling a person might get standing in front of a fire on a cool day, no, not even that uncomfortable feeling that comes with getting into a vehicle on a hot sunny day. Oh my no, this is the Dragon’s Breath of Summer in South Georgia. I could feel the sweat beginning to become a small stream down by back and legs. I could feel the soles of my boots beginning to limber up as they began to heat up. This isn’t late Spring or some sort of seasonal anomaly. This is Summer.
Four miles an hour, fifteen minutes per mile, throwing one foot out in front of the other, left, right, left, left right, left, and there’s a sort of Zen quality to a long walk. I take a deep breath and feel the heat entering by body like a drug. There is no way to fight it. There isn’t any way at all to mitigate it. Heat is part of living in South Georgia and those who hide inside are just getting weaker by the day. It will be late September before this run breaks and perhaps not even then. It will kill people. There will be suffering. There will be endless days of triple digit heat and even the dead of night brings a sweat. I charge into it like a Husky in the snow. This is my environment. This belongs to me. And I belong to the heat.
This is my first long walk in the heat this year because this is the first time we’ve hit 97 as a high in midafternoon. Oh yes, here we go! I check my cell phone and it’s just under fifteen for the first mile. I can feel my joints loosen in the heat and the exertion. I can feel the disconnect from worry and reality begin.
There’s a story floating around in my head. I wrote it a while back and really liked it but now I’m thinking of writing a sequel to it. A sort of a what happened next type thing. I can see that I would have to adjust the characters a little, make them a little bit more clearly who they are so the readers could see a change from their ordeal. It’s an end of the world type story, with everyone dead from a bioweapon that got out and went on a rampage. Survivors are very few and very far between. There’s no need to fear what will happen to very limited resources left by civilization because there’s hardly anyone left to fight over them at all. What to do and where to go and why? If you were in a safe place with someone you cared for would you try to travel to see if anyone else was alive? Parents, Grandparents, pets, friends, and everything else that was left behind, is it all gone? Are they all dead? Two women from South Georgia have survived two years in the Canadian wilderness and now they ponder the world that was.
The second mile goes down quicker than the first and I have to slow the pace or I will wear out too quickly. There are clouds high in the sky, thin and scattered and buttermilky. Where the clouds are the atmosphere is thin and very cold. The radiation there is stronger and stings harder, but even down here I can feel the burn on the backs of my hands as I walk. Everything else is covered. I consider cotton gloves but I wonder how much my dexterity will suffer from it. The turnaround point is up ahead and I’m halfway through the walk under forty minutes, easy.
The heat has taken hold now in a big way. The sky is nearly white with humidity and there seems to be a light haze covering everything in the distance. The recent heavy rain causes an explosion of plant growth but long and hot days have sapped the moisture out of the ground as well has hung it in the air. Garden will wilt and gardeners will too at this time of the day. It’s a hammer that falls without relent. And the gnats are out in it, as if they were summoned by the mercury that rises with the sun.
Where do gnats stay so that they find a human being no matter how far out in the heat a body might go? Is this my own personal swarm of irritants or do they tag up and let others at me once I pass through a territory? There is an old expression in South Georgia, “Visitors swat, natives spit” that describes how to deal with gnats. It’s best just to plough ahead and ignore them. It occurs to me that I have no idea how many there are. A dozen? A hundred? How on earth could there be an accounting for these creatures? How do they decide how many of their kind will create a Summer entourage? Is there an upper limit so that some will decide there isn’t enough me to go around? Suddenly I notice that I didn’t notice the third mile has gone and the fourth mile has taken some serious damage while I contemplated the many mysteries of the gnat swarm.
There isn’t a lot left of the walk and I feel the heat deep inside me. When I get home the boots come off and I can feel the residual heat built up inside them. The shower goes to full cold and even with that I can feel the heat absorbed by my body. This is Summer in South Georgia. There will be no let up for months. There will be no relief in a hundred days. This is what it feel like when South Georgia lives up to her reputation. This is the water in which I swim and the earth on which I walk.