|A cottonwood in the bosque|
Whoever said, "Oh, but in the West it's a dry heat," as if heat in a dry place isn't actually hot, was obviously visiting in May when it wasn't actually hot. Ovens also have a dry heat, may I point out, but we don't expect turkeys to come out of them looking refreshed.
Having just woken up from an accidental nap, I am groggy and a little grumpy. The whole afternoon siesta thing as a way to escape summer heat—I don't get it, not if you're supposed to be functional afterward. Not that I can complain, because the house is perfectly comfortable. The swamp cooler is chugging merrily away, and from inside, the heat of the day is pretty much theoretical. I pour a glass of herbal iced tea and fix a bowl of farm-fresh cherries and curl up on the bench by the kitchen window to eat, sleepily watching the play of light and wind across the sand cherry leaves in the garden. Sir Marley is there, spread-eagled on the path where it's been mostly shady all day, limbs stretched out to maximize the surface area exposed to the cool ("cool") brick. As I watch, he gives it up for a lost cause, stalks over to the water dish to drink, then out to the bird feeder in the side yard to bother the finches for a while. He looks ready to spread some irritation around.
|Ponderosa pine and gambel oak in Paliza Canyon|
Afternoons have hit or neared the 100°F (38°C) mark for the last few days, with relative humidity below 5% and gusty late-day winds. (Where my sister lives in the southeastern corner of the state, one day reached 117.) Even the shade is hot, and that's saying something.
I'm remembering summers in the humid northeast, where my strategy for coping with the un-air-conditioned over-90° days was to imagine myself in a movie scene wearing a floating, white linen dress and broad-brimmed straw hat; the strains of a swing orchestra would be wafting over the manicured lawn from the veranda. I figured that any time you could insert the word "veranda" into a mental sentence, you would automatically slow down and relax, and then you couldn't help but be cooler. A student trudging up the hill in shorts, T-shirt, sneakers, and heavy book-bag to study at the library will be hurried and sweaty; someone in miraculously unwrinkled white linen, who expects a waiter to swan into view with a tray of mint juleps, will be cool and poised. That was the theory. No harm came of it, at any rate. Jumping in a lake later on worked pretty well, too.
|Turtles at the Rio Grande Nature Center, finding respite from all that cool, still water in some glaring hot sun.|
Since the heat was inescapable, the idea was to embrace it, to turn it into something with entertainment value if nothing else. I've thought about trying the same thing here, not with whatever imaginary movie the white linen dress/orchestra/mint julep combination came from, because it just doesn't "go," but maybe with something out of Carmen. Not only is it my favorite opera, but it takes place in a similarly dusty location (and the film version with Julia Migenes-Johnson and Placido Domingo is out of this world)—surely one of the scenes would help me romance a hot, southwestern summer day. But whenever I ask myself, "What would Carmen do on a scorcher like this?" the answer is, "Nothing legal," and that puts the kibosh on that.
Shelling peas for dinner, I am lulled by the steady, easy rhythm of the task. Sir Marley stalks back into the garden and flops down in a new place on the path. After a minute, he gets up, moves two feet farther on, and flops down again. An indoor oasis isn't a bad thing. In fact, I really love it. Maybe it's because I'm in my 40's instead of my 20's. Maybe it's because I have the option.
|A wildlife blind overlooking a natural spring at Elena Gallegos Open Space Park|
But when did the idea become to escape from summer rather than to embrace it?