We can’t beat this latest blast from hell that has beset much of the upper Midwest’s weather pattern for far too many days . . . so some of us write about them.
Below is one of my short stories that published a couple years ago in Julien’s Journal, a marvelous regional magazine that touts all things Iowa, historic and Mississippi River-flavored in the Dubuque, Iowa area.
We’ve been through these summer heat drills before; eventually they do move on. (And Iowa is more than ready to have this one move on!!)
A Fickle Lady
Hades was no match for East Central Iowa the summer of 2005. We were a third of the way through August when I heard the weatherman announce that our area had sweated through twenty days over the 90 degree designator as compared to only two days the previous summer for the same timeframe. Add to that grief the fact that the Rain Gods hadn’t blessed our part of the state with sorely needed rain, and it felt like ‘The Summer That Wasn’t.’
In Iowa we wait and wait . . . and wait for any little sign of spring that suggests our interminably long winter is coming to an end. Frost danger passes by mid-May and it becomes a contest to see who can open their windows first, get the garden tilled, plant lettuce and onion sets, and hose off the patio furniture because summer is peeking around the corner.
And then She arrives.
And so does 75 . . .80 . . . 85. . . 90 . . . and that’s just the humidity. The temps aren’t far behind and a great many of us turn on the air conditioner, and then we’re right back to where we started. The little wheel on the electric meter whirs round and round in an attempt to make it to Mechanical Heaven ahead of schedule. The energy bill arrives in the mail but lays unopened for a week because we’re afraid to face the damages.
Inside, with the windows locked down, we scrutinize the Weather Channel hoping for a cooling Canadian flow to come through and whisk the terrible temps and oppressive humidity off to the East. We’re anxious to get back outside “to summer” so we can swat mosquitoes and gnats away from all major arteries and veins as we toil to rid the flowerbeds and garden of yet another invasion on man’s summertime tranquility–weeds; those hardy, healthy looking nemesis of gardeners everywhere that don’t mind 105 degrees in the sun, minus five inches of subsoil moisture and rock hard top soil. They actually seem to love those conditions.
There is one steadfast way to deal with such a heat wave, however: ice cream. Why is it a red light lasts longer when the temperatures “on the outside” soar to the upper nineties? Even a pale colored car seat, if allowed to sit in the sun long enough, will provide a free-of-charge derma peel. (I need to remember to lay a terry cloth towel over the seat!) The hot black smell of fresh asphalt accosts me as I leave the ice cubed air-conditioned car to take my place in the long line at Dairy Queen, entertained by the heat mirages rippling off the paving as I wait to order a Blizzard. Creamy cold treat in hand and not ready to go back into A/C lockup, I head for the park–the one with the aqua painted pool, and look for a shade tree to sit under while I drink my Blizzard. The warm smell of chlorine water rises as dozens of brightly colored bodies bob, jump, float, cannonball and lounge in and around the perimeter of the cement swim hole.
Back home, my curiosity overtakes me and I actually break an egg on our patio just to see if there is any truth to it being able to cook on a surface parched by the sun. Do you know how hard it is to clean warm, slimy raw egg off red patio brick?
The turning point of summer is announced by the arrival of the “wheeza-wheeza” bugs, as my daughter calls them. Cicadas would be another name. Folklore has it that from the time you hear the first of them, you have six weeks before first frost. I assure you I have actually clocked this possibility on a calendar and we had far more warm season left at that six-week mark and well beyond, before first frost actually happened. Half the fun of folklore is putting it to the test. This was the same year I broke a sweat while wearing shirt sleeves as I hung Christmas lights on the front bushes.
The first crisp morning in September will pull us back to reality when Mother Nature says, “Guess what? The 90’s really are over!” And for brief moments, people will consider the question: “Where did the summer go?” But we will settle in for the warm balmy days of early fall with its cool nights, smiling with gratitude as we think back to the last hot, hot days of our Iowa summer. And the truth is–most of us wouldn’t have it any other way.