Sunday, August 6, 2006

Relief

I almost take the hot weather personally because I hate it and the men in my life were always trying to drag me into it. My view of the perfect climate contains snow-capped mountains and woods of northern pine and clear glacial lakes and alpine flowers. My father forced me to live in Southern California and Arizona. My husband convinced me to move to Charleston, South Carolina and Houston, Texas.

When we lived in Trona, California, a high desert town owned by American Potash and Chemical Company, surrounded by lakes of poisonous substances, salt-topped and odorous, we were warned about going outside for too long. Because there was almost no humidity, you could keel over from heat prostration without even realizing you were hot.

By contrast, not realizing you were hot, was never a problem in Houston. In Houston, you were continuously aware of exactly how hot you were. You were stifingly, bakingly, hellishly hot. And you were that hot for approximately nine months out of the year. Houston winters are perfect - 72 degrees each and every day (at least that's how I remember it) but they couldn't make up for nine months of pure heavy humid blistering misery.

I think of the differences in climates as being characterized by water. In northern climes, water is energetic. It riffles over stream beds and races over rocks; it falls down cliffs and surges into shore.

In the hot part of the south, they have bayous instead of creeks. The heat even saps the energy of the water. It oozes between its banks with scarcely a ripple. When you look at the brown sluggishness of a bayou, you feel that if you dipped your hand into it (which you don't want to do because there are sometimes alligators in bayous), it would have the consistency of molasses.

Poisonous things seem to be drawn to unrelenting heat. Think of Indiana. How many poisonous creatures do we have? Timber rattlesnakes and brown recluse spiders. That's about it. But consider the southern states with their scorpions, killer bees, fire ants, rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths, alligators. Even the killer kudzu plant suffocates the other plants around it. It is a scientific fact (okay, maybe not so scientific but it seems pretty unrefutable to me) - deadly beings prefer hot weather. (Come to think about it, even politics seems more murderous in the south).

But, now, whether because of a natural weather cycle or global warming, the midwest seems to be getting progressively hotter. We no longer have the rock'em, sock'em winters that we used to have - the howling blizzards, walls of snow lining the streets - but we do have longer, more heat-drenched summers, at least it seems that way to me. (When Brenda and I went to Ohio this spring, the Lake Erie folks complained because the lake didn't freeze over last winter as it always does).

If this keeps up, pretty soon the kudzu, the killer bees, the fire ants will be here. Our cockroaches will get bigger and our water will get slower. Along with the possoms and coons, we'll start to see dead armadillos along the side of the road. If you ever go past my house and see a "for sale" sign, you'll know I'm moving to Minnesota.