Sunday, July 18, 2010

Yes, It’s the Heat. And the Humidity, Too!

[While I’m finishing up the 2011 book in which Deborah Knott meets Sigrid Harald, I’m going to reprint some articles that have appeared in other places.]

It’s been brutally hot here this past month with several straight days of the temperature hovering near 100° and no rain to speak of. Our grassy lawn is so dry and burned, you could bale it for hay. An hour ago the thermometer outside my window read 99° and the muggy air was like a wool blanket. Just going to the refrigerator for a glass of ice water was enough to break a sweat.

Right now, after some menacing thunder-boomers, the mercury is sitting at a delicious 74 and there’s a real rain falling that just might last for an hour. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

When the temperature hits 95 and the air is so humid that you could squeeze a handful of air and get enough water to wash your dog, people look horrified to hear me say that we don’t have central air conditioning. (There’s a small unit in my office but I don’t turn it on more than one or two days a year.) As long as I don’t have to do stoop labor in a field, the heat and humidity are an integral part of what I love about North Carolina summers. That soft languid air makes me take a glass of sweet iced tea to a rocking chair beneath a ceiling fan that stirs the air just enough to ruffle the pages of my book. I smell newly-cut grass, my grandmother’s gardenias, the basil I’ll pick for supper. Through the open windows and screen doors, I hear crickets, wrens chirping to their nestlings, the drone of a tractor in the far distance. The heat slows everything down. It ripens tomatoes and green peppers and okra. It makes the magnolia buds swell. It builds into a late afternoon thunder storm that cools and freshens the air. You can smell rain on the air several minutes before it arrives.

Step into an air-conditioned, hermetically-sealed house and you can’t tell if you’re in Maine and Florida. Step into my house, though, and for better or worse, you know you’re in North Carolina.

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