Of the four days I had off for the three day weekend, I spent two of them outside doing yardwork. The heat was bad, but not nearly as bad as I have known it to be, and Sunday night wasn’t really that bad, but I did do more sweating than sleeping. Even when the windows open and the ceiling fans cranked it was still warm. Very warm. Monday night was even worse, and as I tossed and turned I feared all the sweat leaving my body would eventually dehydrate me and I would die. It’s happened before, I’m certain of that.
I grew up in a world without air conditioning. It was never “too hot” because the climatic conditions were simply what they were. If it was one hundred degrees and you had to work outside all day then you worked outside all day. If it was eight-five in the house at midnight then you slept through it. People had lived for thousands of years without complaining about the heat and we knew damn well no one could afford air conditioners. What of it? The sun rose and the sun set. It was hot and it was less than hot, but the world kept turning and no one burst into flames and no one died from the heat. The whole world of South Georgia sat under the same sun t always had and there was nothing anyone could do, or thought to do, about it.
The first apartment I lived in that had AC, I was thirty-four years old. I suspected I wouldn’t use it very much but one hot day lead to one hot night and I eventually got used to the idea that other people, and by other people I mean women, liked AC. The same person who had worked under the sun when he was a younger man found himself sitting on the sofa drinking beer, watching television, and sucking down the nice cool air being forced from the vents.
Back in ’98 I was thirty-eight, and I was working with a guy who was nineteen. We were outside and it was hot, really very hot, and the guy on the radio told us that it was one hundred and five degrees. The young man made the mistake of asking me if we could go sit in the truck, because it was so very hot. I told him if he could do more push-ups than I could then we would pack it up and go in for the day. Fifty pushups later he was spent. I knew he would be. He had grown up inside a house with the windows closed most of the time, with a color television in his room, and no idea what it was like to work in the fields. I breathed this stuff, back then, I absorbed the worst that South Georgia could throw at me, and I laughed. And even at thirty-eight, I still had enough of my native immunity not to fold. The young man finally broke and found a ride back in while I stayed out in the heat.
The heat index soared up to 112 degrees a couple of years ago and I walked an abandoned road for a walking path. The ground held a layer of thick heat filled air and the low brush trapped it there. I covered my face with a piece of cloth held in place by my hat. The pace spoke to me, four miles an hour, and I held it for an hour, four miles, and then I hit the road to pick up some speed. Fifteen minutes later I realized the asphalt of the road was likely twenty degrees warmer than the air and I had to call someone to come get me.
The decline is obvious and age takes its toll on everyone.
Still, there’s a certain enjoyment in that sort of heat. You can feel your entire body when you’re in it. Every square inch of your skin expands and weeps sweat. Hit the trail and feel the rivulets of salt water trickling down your legs, your back, and into your eyes. Your body becomes a machine lubricated on the outside. Boots are soaked from the inside out. Breathe in the heat, accept it as your atmosphere, embrace it as the fish does water, and move with alacrity. Your pulse rate climbs with the mercury. And the fourteen hours of daylight that Summer brings will slam tons and tons and tons of searing heat down upon the ground in the most direct form of radiation you can feel on this planet. Not even shade can protect you from this. The moist air holds the heat and forces in into your no matter where you try to find solace. This is South Georgia and the heat is South Georgia. I grew up in this. It belongs to me.
Monday night I turned and tossed, and Lilith pawed at the back door to get out of the house. I let the dogs out, except Tyger Linn who stayed on the bed, and it was cooler outside. Not by a lot, but enough to make the ponies and Lilith Anne want to be outside rather than in. Then they barked for an hour at something and I made them all come inside. The thermometer told me it was eighty-five in the house at four in the morning. The air was as still as Death.
Last night I finally kicked the AC on. The cool air poured out of the vents like a benison and Lilith slept with all four legs sticking up at the ceiling fans as if that was the require position of prayer, to the Gods of Cool Air. Last night no one wanted to go out and when they did go out them all came back in at one time.
There really will be break in the heat until the last part of September, if then. Another three and a half months of this before there is a break. I need to start heat training. I need to breathe fire again.