Heat

The late Summer heat has settled in, and we do battle with it as we do the snow and ice when in winter’s coldest grip. The day divides into the early morning hours and evening–when it’s possible to walk the dog, mow the lawn, or play a game of golf–and the midday stretch, when we resign ourselves to that curious summer version of cabin fever, gazing out the windows at a formidable landscape as we listen to the hum of the air conditioner and wonder how they stood it out here in those first sod-busting years.

I remarked the other day on a rabbit, sitting in the near garden looking as rabbits always do whether winter, spring, summer or fall. All business, he sat still as stone and stared with his right side eye at me, while he surveyed God knows what with the one on the left side. Over 102 out there, and he remains at ease, not the least bit concerned, or at least appearing so. Is he hot? Is he saying to himself, “Damn, it’s hot out here?” No, because all he knows is “out here.” In the evening he will crawl into his warren, somewhere in my yard, and be cooler, though not cool. For now he watches, and waits, nothing but rabbit in late summer.

We time these days by the sprinkler. When did we last drag them out, when do we need to do it again? Is it really going to rain this time, or will it just be more sound and fury, a few stingy droplets on the sidewalk? Do I detect a brown patch? They come out of nowhere, despoiling an otherwise resplendent lawn and garden that grew without effort in April and June. This indifferent and unrelenting sun–it tries the living like the barker at a dance marathon. We have only so much stamina and patience for drudgery and sameness, for dull bright days of pounding sun and sizzling streets and sticky car seats.

But we know, like that rabbit knows his warren, of those evening times, and those morning times. In the morning the air is weighted with dew, it’s visible, it softens the landscape, and you can taste it. The mourning doves and robins and cardinals and sparrows all take advantage, and they look at you knowingly–“This is the time, eh?” they seem to say with that look. (Where do they go at midday?) At twilight the fireflies come into the yard by the hundreds this year, bobbing about slowly, clumsily, awkwardly looking for a date in the cool grass. Will-o’-the-wisps. As the yard darkens their glow increases, eventually becoming the defining pattern out there, always changing and chaotic with stop-and-go flickers of fade-in, fade-out motion. The summer’s night fire dance–its amusing repost to the day’s oppressive stillness.

And we dream the autumn will come, as we dream of spring’s first mud and tight budding in the depths of winter. We dream of cool breezes on skin warmed by the October sun, of swirling golden leaves and long walks in light jackets, the comfort of a temperate time. We know it will come, which makes today’s long sojourn between morning and evening something we can smile about. It will come, and we’ll forget the heat of long days, watch the moon come out like a huge clock face, and cherish that time until the first sprightly frosts of winter rekindle the cold fire of longing for change.

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