Simply put, it’s hot outside. Real hot. The kind of hot that tries to sneak into every crevice of the house, that turns blacktop into water, that makes the simplest of tasks — like breathing — a sweaty mess. It’s the kind of hot featured in Body Heat, the crime noir film in which the sultry weather was as much of a star as Kathleen Turner and William Hurt.
I happen to enjoy hot weather, mostly because a) I’m usually cold and b) I’m fortunate to not have to work outside for a living — and thankful for those who must. I, on the other hand, can squeeze in any gardening duties before sunrise or after sunset.
And so each morning, I awake with a song buzzing around my head — and it’s not the cicadas. It’s a classic from Marilyn Monroe:
“We’re havin’ a heat wave, a tropical heat wave. . .”
That’s my cue to begin my primary chore — delivering water to the garden. I’m one of the few people in my neighborhood that does not have a sprinkler system. Why have an entire system to deliver water when I can drag hoses and mobile sprinklers all over the yard, careful to not crush any plants or knock over any pottery along the way? Besides, the old method gives me greater control — and the chance that I might get wet if I have to run through the sprinkler to fine tune my aim.
At least that’s how I approached the heat wave at its start. Since then, I’ve watched the news, and the reporters informed me — in their best end-of-days voices — that this heat wave is the longest one in decades. People are dying. Highways are buckling. Power is failing. Even my local supermarket is conserving energy by turning off large banks of lights. Maybe I need to rethink my summer position.
And with that, my love for extreme heat melted away faster than a Fudgesicle in July. Although the zinnias have held up beautifully (an upcoming “Bloomin’ Update” will celebrate them), the temperatures are starting to take their toll in the garden. Not only is there no night-time relief, there just isn’t enough of me — or water, for that matter — to keep all of my plants sated. Despite my best water brigade efforts, the new grass is burning, the hydrangeas are wilting, and the daylilies are more like half-daylilies. Admire them before noon; they may not make it beyond 3:00.
I also notice that I am eerily alone while I’m outside. My neighbors are absent, although I see their automatic sprinkler systems continuing to operate. I wonder if they’ve adopted a vampire life, emerging after the sun has set. Or have they fled north in search of cooler weather? I hope not, because they’re missing out on some very green lawns.
I shield my eyes from the sun’s glare as I look through the film of ozone that hazes the distance. I’m looking for Rod Serling to appear to let me know that I’ve entered “The Twilight Zone.”
One of my favorite episodes from that series is all about heat. In “The Midnight Sun,” a young woman and an elderly neighbor are trying to hold on as the world, knocked out of its orbit and headed toward the sun, burns up under increasingly heated temperatures. (The kicker is that the earth was knocked away from the sun and the young lady is actually delirious with a very high fever.)
Fortunately, I have someone “The Twilight Zone” characters didn’t have. I have Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel — who is a bit like Rod Serling. Like Rod, if Jim shows up outside your door, you know some weird stuff is about to go down.
In a recent report, Jim explained that the heat wave is the result of an enormous high pressure system stalled over the eastern half of the country, acting like a bubble that was not only heating up, but trapping the heat inside of it — a kind of meteorological Under the Dome, if you will.
Whew, I say to myself, that’s a relief. At least the earth is still in its orbit.
He then finished his report: “This thing is getting bigger!”
A few things, Jim. First, when you say a sentence like that, it sounds like bad dialogue from a b-movie. Second, your tone of voice really doesn’t make me feel calm. I mean, I was feeling pretty good about the earth staying in its orbit, but you’re making this high pressure dome sound like the high pressure dome that ate the world.
Hope for relief came in tonight’s weather forecast, with promises of cooler temperatures by the end of the weekend.
Truthfully, I don’t want cooler temperatures. I don’t want summer to rush away.
Besides, cooler weather will be coming all too soon. It’s called autumn, followed by winter. Speaking of winter, this was the view from my front window a few months ago. It kind of looks like an earth moving away from the sun.
Until then, I’ll happily hydrate, wear light-colored clothing, and hope for the best with my plants. And if Rod Serling or Jim Cantore knocks on my door, I’ll let you know.