This Familiar Heat

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It’s hot.

There is a heat index of 118. The un-humidified temp is about 105. Either way there is some weather going on here. I remember it being this hot without the “index” when I lived in the Sonora Desert and when I called my dad he would say, “Yes but it is a dry heat.” A dry heat–kind of like a blowtorch. 

The humidity is high, and breathing is difficult even without the mask.

This year already sucked. Now it’s hot. 

First of all, full disclosure: Depression is always not far from here, hiding behind trees when I walk the trails. It keeps me walking, though, staying a step ahead. Well, it’s been a hell of a walk these past two years, and I’ve found some balance in nature, even on hot days. Like everyone else most of the troublesome issues in my life are self-inflicted and the graces have all been gifts, so I find balance by going outside, scorching sun or not.

The heat doesn’t bother me. Nor the cold for that matter. In college in western New York the freezing temperatures were tempered by the dryness, and a ten-degree day might warrant a mere sweater, whereas the humidity here at the beach combined with cold temps can be to-the-bone bitter. In either case, many people simply stay inside.

But I have a strange routine: I like to experience and absorb every degree of the extremes. I long for the strong sun on my shoulders or, equally, the cold wind on my face, my boots crushing snow on the walk. As early as mid-July I sense summer slipping into cooler temps and changing colors. And while I might claim autumn to be my favorite season, I miss summer before it is even half over. It is as if it is the only summer that ever was and ever will be again, and I want to suck the marrow out of it, drain it of every ounce by my constant participation, let my senses explode from the enormity of the very reality of feeling summer happen. 

That’s borderline psychotic, I know. 

But listen, when it is hot we want it cooler, when cold we want it warm. When it is dark we turn on lights and when it is sunny we wear sunglasses. We constantly temper reality. My natural instinct is to dive deeper into reality. That’s not to say I want to stare into the sun, but honestly, that really IS where the fun is. It is familiar to me.

I rely upon the familiar, even if it is a steamy hot day. When I am not traveling, which is all the time now, I walk to the river and follow the same routine, barely noticing the weather most of the time. Twenty years ago I built this house frequented by hawks, the occasional eagle, countless osprey, and geese. In recent years the number of bald eagles has increased. I have never been complacent watching such majestic birds of prey in flight. One move of her wings and an eagle can glide on a draft clear across the river before turning east across the bay. Still, they make no sounds. Oh, sometimes hawks call out to each other in a very distinct high pitch caw. But mostly Eagles perch in silence. Their lack of sound creates a distance between us like strangers in a waiting room. Once I walked back from the river and saw an adult bald eagle atop the house. But because of the raptor’s silence and blank stare, we lacked connection, some sort of shared space.

Despite my own random migrations, I find comfort in the familiar. The sounds of nature as well as the voices of those I have loved and lost talk to me sometimes when I sit at night on the porch and recall long-ago conversations.

I am comforted by sound. 

In a world where we often seek silence to escape the never-ending noise, where we know we’ve disappointed those we love, when we can’t get our footing, when we taste self-doubt and don’t know what to do next, when we just don’t know what to know, it is the laughter of friends and companions that call to us through the fog of daily life and steer us home. The bells which I respond to are the sounds of friends laughing, family telling stories, a football game on television on Thanksgiving Day with the smell of turkey filling the house, an old western on a rainy summer Saturday afternoon. I love the daily calls of life, the drifting sounds on a hot summer evening, the persistence of the ocean waves, the relentless ranting of house wrens in the morning.

Wine pouring into wine glasses. Talking with my brother while waiting to tee off. The quiet sweep of the paddle while canoeing with my son.

Bacon in a pan in the morning. The laughter of old friends. 

Children.

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