“Heat, ma’am! It was so dreadful here that I found there was nothing left for it
but to take off my flesh and sit in my bones.”
~Sydney Smith, Lady Holland’s Memoir
If you know me at all–or have been reading this blog for any length of time–then you know I am a self-professed summer-lovin’ fool. In my mind, no other time of year can compete with my joyful season in the sun and all the gifts that it brings.
I love sinking my teeth into the sun-ripened fruits of summer–juicy strawberries and peaches and watermelons, tart blueberries and blackberries and cherries. I love grilling burgers and fresh veggies on the back deck while a gallon of sun tea brews on the railing. I love the brilliant splashes of yellow and red and purple in my flower beds, set against a backdrop of vibrant greens. And I love the lazy days that seem to stretch on forever, from early-morning sunrise to late-evening sunset with in-between afternoons spent reading and dreaming in the glistening warmth.
In fact, to quote the writer Henry James, “Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” At least, until this year . . .
It’s only the middle of July, and AccuWeather.com is already claiming that this summer “is in the running for one of the top three hottest summers in the past 60 years in the United States and southern Canada.” If the current heat wave continues much longer, there is a very good chance that the summer of 2012 will take top honors–and according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the heat wave is almost definitely going to continue. Here’s the seven-day forecast for my area (note that the forecasted temperatures for today and tomorrow are actually down from the previous week’s temperatures because of a weak “cool” front):
According to NOAA, the long-range outlooks suggest not only prolonged above-normal temperatures and but also below-normal precipitation throughout the rest of this month, with the remaining summer and upcoming fall outlooks no better. And Weathernation.com is reporting that the U.S. is experiencing its worst drought in 55 years with no relief in sight. It just released its weekly drought monitor, which shows that “80.75% of the country is under one form or another of drought, while 42.23% is under severe drought or worse.” The area where I live is considered to be in the “severe” category (and expected to be in the “extreme” by next week)–which I’m sure every farmer with scorched crops and every rancher with hungry cattle could tell you without looking at the map.
Okay, enough already and altogether now . . . one, two, three . . . “UNCLE!”
This is ridiculous. At first I hoped my flowers and bushes would bloom if I continued to water them. Then, when the daily waterings weren’t enough to combat the triple-digit temperatures day after day after day, I realized expecting blooms was unrealistic–and hoped that the flowers and bushes just wouldn’t die completely. But now I’ve accepted defeat and given up on them, focusing my worries instead on all the mature, drooping trees that are turning brown and dropping their leaves and branches. My poor yard.
I’m tired of my once-green lawn crunching beneath my shoes–and not being able to walk outside barefoot because the few, remaining spikes of grass are needle-sharp. I’m tired of rivulets of sweat coursing down my back on the short walk to the mailbox–and feeling confined indoors where the air conditioner runs almost continuously. I’m tired of puffy, black clouds making a brief appearance in the afternoon sky–and feeling lucky when they sprinkle just enough drops to settle the dust but, more often, disappointed when they roll right on through without so much as a spit to prove they weren’t just an illusion.
And I feel guilty for complaining (okay, whining) about how tired I am of this incessant weather when I am repeatedly reminded of the even worse weather conditions that our troops are facing overseas (combined with the threat of physical harm). I am safe, and I am lucky.
I feel guilty for complaining about the infernal heat when I think about all the men and women working out in it and when I hear that, in my state alone, 24 heat-related deaths have already been recorded since June. As long as I stay inside, I am cool, and I am lucky.
And I feel guilty for complaining because I know whatever frustration or annoyance I’m feeling, it is nothing compared to the fear and stress felt by the farmers and ranchers whose very livelihoods are being threatened. I have a steady income, and I am lucky.
But being lucky doesn’t mean I can’t still long for the cooler (and, hopefully, wetter) days of fall. I’m ready to kiss this summer goodbye and to trade my standard shorts and flip flops for blue jeans and boots. I’m ready for chilly, night breezes drifting through the open windows instead of stale, re-circulated air blowing through the vents. I’m ready to see my breath in the crisp, morning air instead of brown, dust-covered surfaces everywhere I look. And I’m ready for the spiciness of homemade chili and the cinnamon goodness of hot apple pie instead of the constant taste of salty perspiration upon my lips.
I’ll be a sun-worshiping, summer-lovin’ fool again next year, but for now . . . bring on the rain (please!) and bring on fall. I’m ready.
This is what summer usually means to me . . .
beautiful flowers . . .
sunsets over the lake . . .
But this summer’s oppressive heat and drought already have me wishing for the cool, crisp days of fall.