Rain: Transforming Heat

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It has been so hot the last week. It seemed like the heat of one day gathered up into the next with an ever increasing intensity. It was like a snowball of fire that kept rolling into itself and getting hotter and hotter until I thought I would melt yesterday. I hardly went outside at all over the weekend. I tried Sunday because my dog was sitting there staring at me like she was going to go crazy if she didn’t get outside. We drove over to City Park and took a slow walk under the shade of the Live Oak trees. But, it was so hot after one little lap around the tennis courts, she ran over to the car and eagerly jumped in. There’s just no way to be out in it right now. We went back to my little cottage and turned the AC way down.

The Storm

I kept checking the weather forecast today because it was supposed to rain, and it was supposed to rain a lot. Please … please … please … let it rain, I prayed. I don’t feel like myself when I can’t get outside. I don’t sleep well when it’s hot, and I don’t want to exercise. I don’t mind walking at 5 AM, but that’s about all I can handle. Running is out of the question. On this morning’s walk, I saw several runners, and I tried to imagine what it would feel like to see if I could push myself to try it. But, it just felt like it would be oppressive. I didn’t dare pick up the pace. The other night the car thermometer registered 102 at 8 PM. It wasn’t really 102 degrees, but it felt like it. I’m just hanging on the hope that it will be over soon so I can resume my normal lifestyle and get back to myself. So, I’ve wanted it to rain for a week at least. The rain brings cooler temperatures in a hurry … much faster than the days on a calendar inching their way into fall.

It started pouring down rain about the time I got home from work. The thunder sounded like a caged animal growling. It rolled and growled between flashes of lightning. I felt a sense of relief come over me. It’s over.. at least for today. I went to acupuncture in the middle of the downpour for my third visit in as many weeks. I told my acupuncturist that I really thought the heat contributed to my insomnia and anxiety. He mentioned that his father told him that when he was young they didn’t even have air conditioning. I laughed and said we didn’t have it when I was a girl. We got a room air conditioner when I was 10 or 11, but we didn’t get central air until I was about 13. The school didn’t have air conditioning at all. He asked how we managed. I told him we were used to it, and we used fans…. lots of fans.

The Puddles

 

When he left the room, I tried to put myself back in that old school in the heat of the day. Of course, we were out of school during most of the summer, but we were back at the end of August, usually the hottest time of the year. I remember sitting in Mrs. Lester’s English class at 6th period… probably the hottest part of the day. The wooden desks with metal frames at varying stages of age sat in rows running parallel to the huge open windows on the outside of the classroom. A hallway on the inside precluded us from having cross-ventilation, but they would leave the doors of school propped open to get as much air flow as possible. This was before the days of school lockdowns. Everybody was welcome. Even the bugs came in. The highest priority was getting more air into the building.

Most classrooms had huge box fans or those oscillating fans blowing the hot, humid air around so we felt cool. I know I wore jeans most days. I can’t imagine that now. My jeans stay stored until cooler days now. I can’t imagine wearing blue jeans with no air conditioning. What were we thinking? The home economics classroom was right outside Mrs. Lester’s classroom window and so was the baseball field. We could watch friends playing outside in the heat. Voices I’d known all of my life floated over the steady hum of the fans. I was smart, so I actually didn’t pay attention all that much. I got bored. I’d spend a lot of time daydreaming. I was trying to remember today what those dreams were about. I think I wanted to be a Mom and have my high school beau as a husband. I thought it would all be so romantic. But, I also remember dreaming about being famous and speaking in front of crowds. Maybe I knew I was a natural born teacher even in those days. The things I wanted most were to have straight hair and to be liked by a boy. I actually don’t think I cared which boy … any boy would do. Well, he had to be cute. And, both seemed to be impossible for me. But they were my dreams, and for a teenage girl, there is nothing in the past. Life is a blank page waiting to be written.

Water transforms everything. My acupuncturist has water elements in his office.

I remember the rain at school but not nearly as much as the heat. The rain in Louisiana pours as if the water gods are pouring huge pitchers of water down on the already soaked swampland. I can remember it raining for days at a time. I’d get so sick of it. My curly hair was awful in the rain. No matter how much hair spray I put on it, it soaked up the humidity like a sponge and lost all semblance of a style. I felt so ugly and awkward with my curly hair and my boobs that were way too big for my age. I wanted to be skinny and have long straight hair that never changed day after day.

The ground here can’t soak up that much water so it lays in the grass in deep puddles. When we were really little, we’d slip and slide in the puddles in the yard and in the deep ditches that try to siphon the impossible amounts of water into natural waterways. We’d put on our swimsuits and go swimming in the yard. By the end of an hour or so we’d be soaking wet, bits of grass covering our skin and filthy with mud. Even though we probably didn’t know the difference in the temperature, I imagine in some way we were celebrating the break in the heat.

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I looked down at the thermostat in my car on my way home from work today, and it said 74 degrees. It hasn’t been 74 degrees at anytime in the last week. The lows have been 77 or 78 at best. I’m sitting outside at the coffee shop tonight, and it’s cool enough for Ashok to join me. The breeze is blowing, and I’m not even breaking a sweat. I’m already looking forward to a cooler walk in the morning. But, if it’s raining, I’m not going to complain. At this age, I let my hair curl in its natural crazy way, and I really don’t care if boys like me all that much. So much has changed over the years. I still daydream, but I dream as much about the past as I do about the future. As the pages were written, I discovered what was past Springfield Road and the baseball field outside the school window. The world was so much bigger and better and worse than I ever dreamed it would be sitting in my school desk scrawled with graffiti. But, some things don’t change at all. The heat is still oppressive down here, and the rain and the breeze are cause for celebration. I watch Ashok as she runs and plays and drinks from the puddles. She just knows that it feels better. It’s just that simple.

 

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