A bead of sweat trickles into my eye. I suddenly am keenly aware of my navy blue t-shirt, as hot against my back as if I’d just ironed it. I realize my ankle, stretched out to accommodate my sloping posture on the brick front steps (I am bent low to paint the roughened, rusty spots on the bottom of the metal front door), is turning roasty red. A neighbor walks by and waves his baseball hat. His gray hair is matted to his sweat-sheened forehead.
“Hot enough for you?” he asks, and walks on, not waiting for the obvious answer.
It is 11 a.m. on a late September Saturday in Ohio. Mark is out back, on the ladder, putting a second coat of ‘Serious Gray’ on the high-points of the garage. I am touching up trim out front. We had the house painted in late summer, but committed to doing the finishing touches ourselves.
Who knew that waiting until autumn began would meaning working outside on the hottest days of the year?
It is NOT, learned sources tell me, ‘Indian summer.’ Indian summer only occurs when bright, hot, sunny days come after the first chilling frost. We’ve had a mild, breezy summer; some lovely sleeping nights have had temps plunge into the forties. But nothing cold enough to put frost on the pumpkins.
No, it’s just hot and sunny and entirely summer-like.
I am not complaining. I am aware that many people would love to have this kind of weather, right now, right where they are. There are horrendous storms and their aftermaths. There are forest fires. There are early blizzards and torrential rains, and there is mud sliding down hills, sluicing toward people’s homes. This day–90 degrees, bright sun, with just a little breeze to cool the flush–is a blessing, nothing less.
I think about my niece in Florida, who rode out the hurricane in her home, with her family,–about their lucky, lucky emergence with no harm to house or people. They had, then, over a week with no power, and the challenge of keeping cool—and keeping food–in the tropical heat of their near-Miami home.
I think of another niece in South Carolina, who experienced the storm surge a day after the hurricane hit Florida. Their streets were flooded; their schools were closed; their power was intermittent. People wrote to ask if she was worried about alligators coming up in all that surging water. No, she replied, the big worry is water-bound snakes.
Climate is what we expect, Mark Twain once wrote. Weather is what we get.
I am thinking we ought to think about writing about the weather, too.
Oh, I don’t mean we need to get all meteorological, with barometric readings and wind directions, highs and lows, and weekly predictions. But as we reach out over the blogosphere, connecting with each other, we might want to mention what the weather is like out our way.
It could be hot, humid, and oppressing–the kind of weather that keeps one in the cool indoors, craving shade and iced water and perhaps an afternoon nap. It might be utterly pleasant–mild temps, soft breeze: weather to write outside in. There could be a storm raging, gale-force winds bending trees to sweep the pavement. Rains might pour. Snow might inch up toward the windows.
Whatever the weather, it affects our written voice, our energy, our mood. That’s worth mentioning.
And thinking about it anchors us, brings us those moments of awareness and mindfulness–the moments from which clarity blossoms. From my cramped front porch perch, I see the sun baking the leathery leaves in my neighbor’s front yard, and I try to put the image into words. Across the street, Oscar the dog lies panting in the shade of Anne’s maple tree. And acorns are arhythmically falling—thocka, thocka, thocka, all around me–hitting shingles and rolling down roofs, bouncing off the metallic hoods of cars. Sun: hot and high and baking. Sky: bright blue.
A moment ago, I had been so intent on my work I hadn’t noticed the weather. Now I am in it. I am HERE.
And sharing it broadens us. “It could be worse,” my son will often say, quoting a favorite scene from Young Frankenstein. “It could be raining.” And somewhere–maybe YOUR where–it IS raining, softly in places and driving down in others. Winds are blowing, too. And in some places, my 90-degree ‘hot’ would be a welcome respite from aching, baking, heat.
I need to crawl out of my local perspective. I need to think about the air that people I care about are breathing, across the world, out on the coast, or a mere 200 miles away.
And maybe, to get the whole picture, we need to push away from the news sources that blare and bash, and write to each other. Is this weather, this storm, this weirdly hot autumn, is it different? Is it a new and frightening trend? What is going on in our world?
History, someone once said, is best understood one story at a time. And maybe present is best understood that way, too, and one way of sharing ‘present’ is to weave in a description of the air that floats around us. Every story, carefully told, broadens my horizon, makes me see a deeper, fuller picture. And each bit of knowledge, thus gained, helps me craft a plain for the future.
So I ask you, my friends, is it hot enough for you? And here in the blogosphere, we are not walking away. We are here to listen when you have time to answer.