Mad Dogs and Englishmen

July 23, 2010

Just as I received an email from the village warning me about the dangers of being outside today, I braved the heat and left the air conditioning.

My god is it hot. The goldfish swim languidly, the bees hover listlessly. It seems that it’s even too hot for the birds, as I don’t see any flying or perching. They must be too hot even to splash in the pond. The lilies shrink and shrivel and the stamens dangle, like an old woman who’s skin and bone. The garlic chive is budding, but without enthusiasm. The phlox is a burst of magenta among the grasses, like the well-watered impatiens.

It is hot. The cicadas buzz and click in the trees, adding to that feeling of intense heat, reminding me of hot summers, baking hot tents and hot bacon on the fire.

When I was young, my family was great campers. Almost every weekend until my brother started playing baseball, my dad would pack the trunk like Harry Houdini, my mom would pack a cooler with food all wrapped in tin foil, chopped, seasoned and ready to cook on the campfire, and Rich and I would climb over the sleeping bags wedged on the backseat floor and start aggravating each other. Rich liked to perch in that space between the two front bucket seats, and I liked to sprawl on the seat and put my feet up in the back window. (When we were bringing cacti back from our California (and the entire West) trip, that habit was unfortunate, as the cacti sat on that back window to bake in the sun. I can’t tell you how many times I accidently bumped into those spines and spikes and slivers – ow.) The cicadas ticked each morning and we would bake in the heat of the tent until could stand it no longer. That heat always compelled me to get up alot earlier than I might have liked. The smell of eggs frying and bacon grilling had something to do with that early rising too.  For me, the sound of the cicadas is the sound of White Pines, Cass Lake and many other places we pitched a tent in the summers. It is the sound of hot summers and heat, heat and heat.

It is hot. Before I am halfway around the house, while I’m still leaning over the veggie garden and twisting off (more) zucchini, I can feel the sweat along my back, my head and my arms. The watermelon that hangs through the wire looks more and more like Jacob Marley, the panty hose resembling that bandage around his jaw as the melon grows to the size of an adult’s head. There is another good size melon on the ground, but that one is not Dickensian. I am a great deal confused as to where all the other melons are. I will see them in droves, hairy little eggs, and then they are gone. I believe the birds are eating them, as it’s certainly not the rabbits. Another modification for next year – bird netting draped over the top. Can’t any of the Wild Kingdom appreciate that we need to eat too?

It is hot. There is one large yellow butterfly (maybe a Clouded Sulphur?) that flits away before I can make a photograph. The milkweed is a drying, dying tangled mess of petals. The coneflower are drooping, fading into grey. The scabiosa sits, the bee balm sags and the hydrangeas have given up for the season it seems. The sunflower follows the sun with its buds, soaking in the heat. The milkweed bugs dot the butterfly garden in singles today; no one is interested in copulation in this weather.

It is hot. From the look of the Doppler, it’s supposed to start raining tonight at 8 pm and continue right on through for over 24 hours. My aunt is coming for breakfast in the garden tomorrow, but we might have to eat the spinach quiche in the house and look out the window.

At least we won’t be hot.

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