If You Can’t Take the Heat …

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.

4 thoughts on “If You Can’t Take the Heat …

  1. I was thinking of you today as my daughters lamented the heat in our God-forsaken town, and when they asked me why we live here, I said, “Because Phoenix is hell in the summer”. I thought of you melting away in your car, waiting for the air conditioner to kick in, sweltering under your baseball cap, and mulling over in your mind cooler days in California when temperatures were sane. I thought of how you would welcome our 98 degree days and 70 degree nights, and how miserable we think we are, until I remember Phoenix, 7 months pregnant in August. The mall got us that year. It was the only place of refuge and I shopped because it was cool and I was not. I remember cool descending like magic every year on Halloween and wondering where it came from. I remember hating the snowbirds for being able to afford to escape the hellish days and only live there in the beautiful months where 75 is the norm and everything blooms. I will think of you walking around your square and be proud that at least you are doing something–which I am not, and I will think cool thoughts for you. Don’t melt, my friend. I don’t know how to turn a puddle back into an incredible person. I am not even that good with a mop.

  2. Tell the girls that 98 degrees is for sissies. Real women do 115. In fact, last night our temperature still read 104F — at 10:30pm!

    It’s good that you’re skilled with a mop. If you lived here, you’d be flinging that mop in my direction several times a day. Phoenix is lovely, the desert is magic … but the summer heat truly is hot, hot, hot.

  3. But isn’t it a “dry” heat? Anyway, you mentioned the folks jogging and all that. When we were stationed at China Lake, we were constantly advised to drink enough water because the heat, low humidity, and wind would suck the moisture out of you so fast you would sweat and not realize it.
    Of course here in Spokane, anything into the 90’s is “HOT.” Had that sort of a temperature over the 4th and again this past week end. Sunday night we got storms and it was barely 70 yesterday. Think it’s about the same today. Back to the 90’s tomorrow. Nicest think is that what ever the weather and temperature, it doesn’t last long.

  4. Dave —

    I loved Seattle and its motto: If you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes and it’ll change.

    In Phoenix, it is: If you don’t like the weather, wait six months or move away.

    And that “dry” heat? Very much like the dry heat of a blast furnace these past several days. We’re cooking here and your Spokane sounds really nice about now. Enjoy your fluctuations. 🙂