Although I was born in British Columbia, Canada I would say that I grew up in the heat of Delaware summers, where the temperatures routinely spiked upwards of 90 and the humidity ensured that everything was soft and limpid by 11 a.m. In Harper Lee’s novel To Kill A Mockingbird (do not even get me started on Go Set A Watchman – I swear to the literary gods that I will not read it no matter the temptation to open that Pandora’s Box of disappointment) she writes about the heat that turned the women of Maycomb into “. . . soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum.” Of course, the residents of that fictional Alabama town did not have central A.C. or even box air conditioning units and therefore suffered more than their modern counterparts.
I had the luxury of central air-conditioning because my mother, like Ms. Lee’s female characters, wilted in the heat. She would rise early to do her gardening and then disappear inside to clean, organize and do various forms of paperwork, including the payroll, for my father’s construction company. We had a pool and I’m sure she swam, but I don’t remember it being a frequent activity – apparently even that wasn’t enough to keep her cool on those sticky afternoons.
I’ve been craving a nighttime swim these last few evenings. There’s nothing quite like sinking into cool dark water when the air around you is thick and warm, the stars glittering in the inky sky above while the invisible insect world talks to each other in undecipherable chirps and whirrs. Of course, a hot night in the Adirondacks is degrees cooler than anything I knew growing up and I wonder at my newfound vulnerability in the face of 85 degree weather. And it’s not as if I’ve toughened up to the negative degrees I experience every (too long) winter. But, no, I refuse to talk about winter when summer is far too short. Indeed, I’m nervous to even appear as if I’m complaining about the heat as I don’t want July to suddenly slip into a cool, wet August as punishment.
So, instead, I’ll think of all the delightful ways to stay cool in the heat. Midnight swims in the river or lake. Gelato and ice pops. Cold beers over ice with lots of lime. Lying in a hammock with a fizzy cocktail that tastes of the garden (I’m thinking cucumber and basil with white tequila and some seltzer water).
Look at that. I’m cooler already. And what about you? Any favorite ways to keep it cool this summer?