Writing is to descend like a miner to the depths of the mine with a lamp on your forehead; a light whose dubious brightness falsifies everything, whose wick is in permanent danger of explosion, whose blinking illumination in the coal dust exhausts and corrodes your eyes.
Blaise Cendrars (Swiss/French)
For several months of the year, Phoenix resembles the origins of its name. Days burst into flames, only to leave people panting in a heap of their ashes by nightfall. I’m mostly a puddle, rather than dry ashes. By the end of October, the desert comes to its senses and rises to present its inhabitants with temperatures more realistic and less flammable.
If you’re wondering, this mention of the Phoenix desert has absolutely nothing to do with the quote at the top, except that the cool air of a mine would be welcome relief today. Yesterday, we topped out at 115F and maintained triple digits until late into the night. We didn’t need lamps on our foreheads; we merely glowed with heat, the skin of our fingers were seared when we touched the handles of our cars. The brightness was neither dubious nor false in its illumination. Even sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats didn’t turn down the light.
Still, in the middle of the hottest day yet this summer — a record setting day — people were out on bicycles or hiking the many desert mountain trails near my house. They were JOGGING! Crazy people, no doubt. People who’ve had one too many knocks on the head, I imagine. People who haven’t the good sense God gave a duck.
Me? I exercised in my house. In the center of our downstairs area is a staircase walled on three sides. It makes a perfect square to walk around. And around. And around. The dogs stand off to the side and watch their mistress “walk the square” as I call it. Around and around. They look at me as if I’m crazy.
In fact, I mutter to myself while I walk the square — only for the sake of the dogs, of course, who consider craziness just another form of fun. My muttering, circling, forays around the square only serve to complete the picture of a woman, dazed by the Arizona heat in July, who just wants to move a bit without having to drive to the mall. The mall isn’t really that great for walking unless you get there before all the texting teenagers who don’t look where they’re going. Still, other than the square in my house, it’s the only cool place in all of Phoenix.
Except maybe the movie theater, which if you close your eyes and plug your ears, for just a moment it might resemble the cool, dark depths of a mine.