Hotcha!

Monday

  • Noel Coward’s song “Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” seems to apply to local joggers who grimly exercise as humid heat reaches into the nineties, with blazing sun piling on.  They assume they risk degradation and death to pursue dreams of fitness. Certainly to listen to self-qualified “experts” in such matters, mankind was never meant for such conditions.  We should be burrowing underground until weather becomes more favorable.  Or at least leave the heat to the leaves, and limit excursions to air-conditioned malls, cars, and _ in the words of Henry Miller _ nightmares.
  • I grew up in a time when as I recall only movie theaters and a few larger supermarkets had cooling facilities.  The Delaware Valley is famous for nearly 100% humidity, stifling stillness, and blazing solar beams.  Farmers never cared, neither did we, and my friends and I played and worked outside shirtless without a care in the world.  Somehow,  apparently against all the odds, most of us are still alive.  Either we were exceptionally hardy or the experts are not quite so expert.

Tuesday

Dog days of summer settle
Named for rise of Sirius
Back when folks could still see stars.
Today seasonal tribute is less cosmic
We seal our boxes tightly

Flick a switch from Heat to Off to Cool.

Wednesday

  • Thunderstorm sweeping by last night brought heavy downpour and colder Northern air, temperature is ten degrees cooler today, accompanied by a dry breeze.  Even in the midst of our most extreme seasons, we experience great variations.  It’s doubtful that the rest of nature notices _ it’s warm or not, there’s water or not, food or not, predators or not.  Life in instants has no time nor means to reflect on longer patterns.
  • People, on the other hand, can attune themselves ridiculously.  Some think any variation beyond 72F _ give or take a degree or so _ is uncomfortable.  For them, 80 remains a heat wave, with danger at 90 or _ Heaven forbid! _ 100! Connoisseurs of climate.   Our individuality and worth seems too welded to acquired specialization.  I’m as guilty as anyone, as I stroll about thinking how grand I am.  We should cultivate contempt for any expert who becomes too obsessively expert.  We must experience narrow vivid instants, but also holistic perceptions which require no particular delicately encrusted expertise.

Thursday

Trying to prevent drips from my peanut butter sandwich at a Halesite picnic table.  Even in the shade, sweat dripping into my eyes makes the lovely water scene waver and sting.  I’m startled by Ed’s loud shout _ “Hot enough for you, young man?”
“Oh, hot enough, I guess.  Not really a roaster.” I sadly indicate my lunch. “This is just a mess because it was in the sun while I was walking here.”
“I think it’s about as hot as it should ever get!” declares Marie, bedecked in in wide-brim tan straw hat.
“I, on the other hand, still consider it slightly cool,” maintains Ed.
“Normal variations, I guess, we’re all different that way.”
“Well,” he looks around at boats large and small, “I know you’re right, but you’d never guess we knew that from reading or watching things lately.”
“What’s that got to do with heat?” demands Marie.
“Just this,” he continues.  “I’m sick of the grouping of people as if they were sacks of rocks.  ‘White college males think …’ for example.  People are complicated.  No two people think the same about any issue any more than we do about whether it is too hot or not.”
“But if you took a poll here,” I point out, “they’d all agree it was generally hot.”
“Well, OK,” he admits.  “But the politics today is on the tweaks.  I’ve never seen such lather over Tweedledum and Tweedledee.”
“Controlling nuclear arsenals is hardly tweaks,” starts Marie …
“Hey!  Hey!” I try to calm them down.  “I just want to eat my sandwich in a lovely spot on a perfectly fine afternoon _ without paying too much attention to exactly how fine it may be _ and enjoy this moment of being. “
“But don’t you think …” insists Ed.
“Nope.  Not now.  No opinion.  Undecided.”
“But …”
“Ed,” I say ge
ntly.  “Hate to tell you but nobody cares if you or Marie or I think it is too hot, just right, or not hot enough.  No more than what we think about the state of the state.  Would you like a grape?”

A loud horn sounds nearby and we pause to watch some private behemoth easing out from a nearby dock.  

Friday

  • Optical illusions demonstrate how easily the mind slips from one conception to another when presented with visual evidence.  Similarly artists have woven illusions or abstractions to enlighten or confuse thoughts.  At first glance, this picture might well be a Monet water pond, or a Pollock abstract, or some meaningless scatter painted by an unknown.  A second look picks out reeds and reflections and makes sense of the photograph.
  • We have only recently realized exactly how arbitrary and fragile our vision.  The eye may see what a camera lens does, but only an interpretive brain can produce “common accepted reality” or an artistic revelation or some internal Quixotic interpretation of the scene.  I enjoy unfocusing almost as much as deciphering the photons reflected into my retina.  The world is marvelous not only because it may be “just so”, but also because it may not be at all what we so confidently imagine.

Saturday

  • Conventional wisdom claims we live in places that would be impossible without modern technology.  Florida and Arizona before air conditioning were terrible places to settle, at least for Europeans.  Without rapid transportation of bulk goods the vast grain farms of the Midwest and the cattle ranches on the parched plains of Texas would be impossible.  No matter where we look, we seem to be tied into a social and technological grid without which we could not survive more than a week.
  • That is obviously true.  But it is not new.  Civilization has been like that since the taming of agriculture, which just about everywhere in the old and new world required bureaucratic government and irrigation.  Only disease and harsh conditions, which thinned populations dramatically, let some humans avoid that fate, but we could seriously question whether the nomadic and brutal life of native Americans and the short and uncertain lives of all other “primitive” peoples in places like Africa were better than the lash and the wheel. 
  • Intellectual contemplations like those do not matter.  The fact is that generally people today, whether by choice or force, live or aspire to live with access to full consumer comforts.  Few parents would willingly consign their infants to aboriginal life with a tribe in the Amazon rain forest, or any other such “romantic” notion of going back to nature. 
  • What we have, however, learned over the last few centuries, is that such “progress” has costs, many of them not immediately apparent but accumulating nearly fatally over time.  That is what we are dealing with today, in life, in outlook, in hopes, in politics, in every phase of life.  What will we trade for what, and what will we not?
  • I think we have been living through a few years of grace, while these profound cultural questions sink in and various answers rebound not only by word but by entire lives.  When there is little more to strive for, as an example, is the only proper response a hermit-like lethargy, or a constant chatter of games and conversation and arts, or a drug-induced internal withdrawal, or an artificial fanaticism leading to active anti-social madness? 
  • Hot times, for the mind as well as the body.  We wonder if this period is our summer, with decline to follow, and if so, how long the heat can last and how well the water will hold out.

Sunday

  • “Heat Dome” seems to be as bad as predicted, although hard to tell how much of it is psychological.  No question sweat pops out with the slightest exertion in the shade, spontaneously in the sun.  Thick haze a constant reminder of bad air quality.  Fortunately, Huntington by the harbor has at least a steady light breeze, barely waving flags but cooled by evaporation.  From all accounts, it is one of the more fortunate areas of the country this weekend.
  • Nevertheless, I stayed in yesterday, perhaps deciding to act my age, perhaps merely being lazy.  I only went out to do some necessary watering, or to read on the patio later in the afternoon until the mosquitoes arrived.  What surprises me is not how lethargic this lack of normal exercise made me feel, but rather how dull my mind became.  Stimulation through motion and exposure to nature seem to be necessary if I am ever to have a creative thought. 

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