Friday, July 22, 2011

We're Having a Heat Dome

Its called a heat dome now.  A heat wave with a domed presence that reaches far into the North and heads back down on each side.  It was winding its way oh so slowly east.  Yesterday the temps here hit 99 degrees.  We've talked about it for days, the ballooning temps and the heat index, something unheard of when I was a child, we just knew it was hot.  I think the weather people who have become national celebrities thanks to the Weather Channel, need something to talk about and saying triple digit heat indexes for as far North as the Dakotas is news. 

The humidity was down yesterday even with the heat.  It seemed more bearable than 80 degrees of high humidity, but it also meant that there was no moisture in the atmosphere and that meant no thunderstorms cropping up, slight as the chance of rain was with them, at least there was the chance.  Monday's storm managed to drop two inches of rain on Midland over to an inch in Saginaw and even a half inch just north of Hemlock.  We got a sprinkle, not even enough to wet down the dust that is coating everything now.  I continue to water garden, a couple of hours everyday.  If I did not the garden would look as sickly as does my lawn now which only six weeks ago was so green and watered by Nature so often, it was squishy when you walked across it.  It was also cold, and we feared summer would never get here.  I should have known so much better.  Everything comes in its time and it took just one scene replayed on the noon news, showing the blizzards of last winter, to make me once again appreciate long days, and blessed green, and temps that allow me to wear shorts and a tank top...though I'm probably getting too old for the tank.

I am trying to remember what heat waves were when I was a child.  That was long before air conditioning was standard in all but a few places.  We had hot weather then as 90+ degree days were not unheard of then, in fact, there were probably more and we didn't attach the heat index to make it more clear just how hot it was.  We knew how hot, "summer heat" was.  But it didn't seem to deter or derail our plans.  We still played outside, as we did every summer day.  School was out and our parents expected us to be outside.  We did early morning chores before it heated up and spent days reading under shade trees, playing board games under shade trees, and come evening, pick up games of baseball and touch football, and after dark, if our parents allowed, games of "Bloody Murder' and "Witch".  We would wade in the creek which by then in only a few places would be anything more than a dried, mud pit.  We would beg and cajole and somehow could usually talk one of our fathers into taking a carload or pick up truck bed full of kids to the St. Charles community pool to swim the afternoon away. 

Going for a ride out in the further country with the windows all down seemed blissful and if we were up to Grandma and Grandpa's cottage on Sand Lake we would hustle through the hot sand to just sit in the water and we would come out in the evening's wrinkled and so tired we would often fall asleep in our still damp, bathing suits.   No, hot summer days never seemed to phase us, even in August when the kitchen would be hot and damp with the canning season in full progress.  It would smell of dill and vinegar and sweet peaches and the tang of tomatoes.  Mothers, grandmas and aunts would sit in sweltering kitchens and fan themselves but look with pride at the bounty of summer standing on tables ready to head to root cellars and cool, dark places.

Spider webs formed magically everywhere and paper wasps became nuisances.  The dogs seemed content to rest under the porch or the cool cement floor of the big barn.  The haymow, so alluring during much of the rest of the year, was avoided as too hot and itchy, our only concession to the weather.  We thought of school starting at some point but never really longed for it.  We rode our bikes everywhere and had long conversations with friends in the shade of big maple trees.  Summer was a time of community and the living was slowed and savored.  We didn't have to hurry anywhere.  Hurrying was for the winter and the chill that made you move to keep from freezing.  It was for crisp fall days, running to catch a school bus.  It was for jumping mud puddles and the melting snow in spring's first elusive promise.  But summer was for just grabbing hold with arms outstretched, for laying on the lawn, looking at a star studded sky and marveling at how vast was the world and how magical.  Anything was possible then.

I wish I could still reach my arms wide and pull it all in, and remember what it was to be hot in the summers of my youth.  It was somehow better....I know that now.

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