Archive for summer

Heat related

Posted in Me with tags , , , on July 31, 2011 by redswandiaries

It’s been thundering for more than an hour, yet no rain. With each rumbling in the distance, my anxiety grows. The windows in my car are slightly open and the charcoal briquets are on the deck, but I’m afraid if I rush outside to close the windows or bring the charcoal inside the storm will dissipate and the rain won’t come.

This is what it’s come to, superstitious behavior and feeling like I’m on the precipice of weeping for days. Whenever I hear someone, usually someone older, talk about the summer they’ll never forget “when the heat was so bad birds were dropping from the sky,” I smile and think to myself how it couldn’t have been that bad, everyone likes to embellish a story or two. Not anymore.

I know for a fact I will remember this summer and how the sound of the crunching brown grass beneath my feet as I walk to the community mailbox almost makes me sick to my stomach. Or how I’ve added to my prayers each night an ardent praise for allowing our AC  to make it through another day and each morning consider rushing outside to bless the struggling unit with holy water. Or how each evening I fill my watering can and douse the diehard few flowers still vibrant in their pots on the deck, refusing to allow the Kansas drought to wither them to yellowed stems, thinking if I let them die I might wither away along with them.

I’ve now created playlists on my iPod of songs with “rain” or “storm” in the title, almost 4.5 hours of rain summoning music I keep on repeat. I watch the skies, urging any tiny cluster of clouds to blossom into thunderheads and drench the earth. On Friday, when a small shower moved over SW Wichita and passed too quickly over campus, I ran outside and stood in the parking lot, letting the warm droplets splatter my clothes, skin and frizz my hair. It was the best four minutes out of the entire day.

Until today, I’d yet to let the heat win. I”ve continued to be busy going to concerts, riding my bicycle on Friday through Old Town, sitting on the patio in the humid evenings, and venturing out in the hottest part of the day. But this morning, I didn’t feel like fighting. I chose to hide inside, blinds drawn, AC chugging, fans whirling, and read a book. I picked it from the pile of summer reads I’d intended to rally through before Labor Day weekend. I’d only read one from the stack of seven before selecting a book today by Alice Hoffman, Fortune’s Daughter. In spite of the heat, I brewed a cup of tea, sat in my favorite reading chair and opened to the first page…

“…As the temperatures hovered near one hundred degrees the days melted together until it was no longer possible to tell the difference between a Thursday and a Friday…(coyotes) followed the scent of chlorine into backyards, and some of them drowned in swimming pools edged with blue Italian tiles…tap water bubbled as it came out of the faucets; ice cubes dissolved in the palm of your hand…for miles in every direction people just snapped, lovers quarreled in bedrooms and parking lots, money was stolen, knives were pulled, friendships that had lasted a lifetime were destroyed with one harsh word. Those few people who were able to sleep were haunted by nightmares; those with insomnia drank cups of coffee and swore they smelled something sweet burning, as if a torch had been put to a grove of lemon trees sometime in the night.”

Even in books, my one true means of total escape, the Kansas heat finds me. On the opening page, I am reminded I will never forget these long days of superstition, silent prayers, awkward rain dances, and a heat worn like an itchy serape, reddening my chest and sending slow caterpillars of sweat down my back. Many years from now I’ll recall burning my fingers repeatedly on the car door at lunch and sleepless nights spent pondering a move to Colorado or Washington.

I”m just waiting for those poor birds to begin dropping from the sky.


Get thee behind me, summer

Posted in Me with tags , , on June 27, 2010 by redswandiaries

I despise summer. All the sweat and skin. But I remember a time when I used to enjoy soaking up the sun, working on my summer tan. I used to bake on a sweat-sticky chaise lounge in the yard, lawn sprinkler at the ready, my body slick with baby oil and iodine. Yes, baby oil and iodine. Something I learned from my big sister. Waaaaay before all the health warnings regarding skin cancer and the need to apply 200 SPF before walking to your car.

Just fifteen years ago, Brad and I, when we had the means to do so, would select vacation spots with beaches and plenty of sun. We would sizzle together, Pina Colada’s or a bucket of beer between us. We swam with the stingrays in the Cayman islands, and lounged for hours on the sands of Aruba. But these days, when we have the means to do so after such a rough time during this fabulous economy, I’m planning a trip to Alaska.

I’m not sure when it happened. Now, I’ve never been a big fan of summer. I don’t like sweating in my car or seeing all that skin. There’s nothing like being at a barbeque and glancing down to see overgrown toenails and bunions to ruin your appetite. And the pedicure with the best intentions, daisies and all, cannot conceal a case of Fred Flintstone feet on any woman. And yet, I sun bathed with the best of them.

Thinking back, my sunbathing was more or less an attempt to catch up with the skin tones of my family. I am, what my Godfather jokingly describes as a “white Mexican.” My mother’s family is from Mexico, as well as my father’s, but his great-grandfather is from Santander, Spain. I attribute my lighter skin to my Spanish heritage. So I believe my hours spent in the sun were a grand attempt to darken my skin. It never worked. I usually ended up with red cheeks and scorched shoulders while the rest of my body turned just a shade darker. And I mean, just a shade. Only when I was able to spend a week on a beach did my skin actually become that golden brown I’d been seeking.

And while I often see the sun-kissed skin of women in their sundresses or shorts, and for a moment wish I had their coloring, the work behind the tan is too much. Last year, I think I spent a total of six hours in the sun during the entire summer. I have the white legs to prove it. This year, I thought I’d make a bigger attempt, but so far I’ve racked up a mere four hours. Today it was 35 minutes. My husband stated the obvious when I entered the kitchen, beach towel, ice water, and book in hand, “that was quick.” This coming from the man who is always darker than me. My parents once joked he was the real Mexican in our family. I’m convinced he has skin like my brother, the two of them able to get a great tan while standing under a street light.

It’s the sweating. It’s the heat. It’s the dampness of my swimsuit, wet with sweat,  and the salt taste in my mouth, the glare of the sun in my eyes. I just can’t hang. I believe my sun-goddess days are over. Often I wonder if a swimming pool might help. But I’m not sure. It’s not like I don’t have friends with pools and an open invitation. Or maybe it’s all these skin cancer warnings, although honestly, it’s too late if all of their science is correct and most skin cancers begin with the first sunburn. I think mine was in the late 70s while vacationing in San Diego with my family. My entire upper body peeled in wafery, gray chunks. It was hideous.

All I know, is that while I type this I’m under a ceiling fan in the air-conditioned sanctity of my study, and wishing for fall. And it’s not even the fourth of July.