Judith Heartsong's call for August's Artsy Essay can be found here.
It is only now, late in the evening, with the sun having left another blazing dusty trail and darkness riding on its tailcoat that I am able to breathe. I can still feel the heat being released by the ground of my yard, the asphalt of the parking lot, the simmering sidewalks. Every outdoor object is pulsating with heat-waves radiating into my tender skin, as I push my way into the grocery store, the blessed chilled air soothing my sticky sweated brow.
And I breathe deeply. Here in Mississippi, we are begging for relief from the unrelenting heatwave that has gripped us for most of the month. In August alone, we have already broken the record high temperatures a dozen times. Air-temps have been about 100 degrees for weeks now, and the humidity adds to the heat index, making life truly unbearable for most.
I've been seeking refuge in the public library (sucking up the controlled climate the books share with me), the gym where I can sink into the cool pool, and LJ's (a local coffee and bakery) where I can soak up the fan's breezes. My own home, an old single wide trailer in the midst of hay fields, imitates hell quite well. The air conditioner labors on the hi/hi setting and an additional fan do nothing to combat the steadily climbing temps that call forth sweat from my pores. I'm drenched and panting merely sitting still by mid-morning.
Area schools have started over two weeks ago, pointless as I cannot fathom attempting to learn and process anything new. One elementary school in town had to replace their central air, while adding supplemental air conditioners for some spaces where heat is generated, such as the computer lab and the kitchen. An added expense that is painfully pinching to our already strained budget, we simply cannot function without more moderate conditions for our children.
Summer has not been sweet this year. It's been blistering, sweltering, and humid, yet we are in need of refreshing rain. Crops have been damaged, due to the lack of rain and the abusive sun that burns what little moisture vegetation provides. Angry tempers have run just as hot as daily temperatures, as more and more altercations are reported by listless newscasters.
In the night, when the air cools to the low 80s, I pour myself a large glass of swe'tea. I quench my thirst and then hold the sweaty glass to my throat, feeling my pulse carry cooled blood to my overheated brain. It is when the night has fallen that my spirits rise. In the kitchen, I pull the basket of lemons closer to me, preparing to squeeze every last drop of this sunshine from my summer into tomorrow's pitcher.