July 17, 2016
Savannah Morning News
I can think of a million things to do in this heat. Just not at this moment. Not in the middle of a long afternoon where the plants are droopy, the cat is sprawled on the porch and I’m still bleeding from an unexpected encounter with the Spanish bayonet. The chickens are burrowed in some cozy and crazy pile of dirt. The hens look dead. I know they’re not. I also know this: none of the million things I can do in this heat involve going outside at this moment. Not while the sun is high. The cat is hungry and we have no cat food? Give her dog food. We’re out of milk for coffee? We’ll make do. “The book you ordered is at the Bull Street library,” says the automated voice on my cellphone. I’ll take one off my shelf instead. Why read “Killing a King” (even though I’ve been waiting for someone to finish and return it) when “War and Peace” is steps away. Lots of day – and daylight – to read “War and Peace.” So what if there are all those multiple Russian names that make no sense at all. I’ve started it six times and gotten nowhere. Seven is a charm. Maybe now that I’ve been watching “The Americans,” a riveting series about a KGB-trained couple transported to the U.S. as spies, I’ll understand a little more about the Russian psyche. Maybe. Must be a Russian summer. Now I’m rereading Julian Barnes’ novel, “The Noise of Time,” an artsy, imaginative narrative about composer Dmitri Shostakovich. A little light reading, you know, a quasi-biography (but more fiction, methinks, not that memory can be anything but fiction), a commentary on mortality and death. Cheerful subjects, right? Perfect for 100-degree days. Gosh, I didn’t even mention the challenge of living under the authoritarian arm of Soviet rule. Yikes. Talk about strict.
We’re in the thick of summer. C’mon, people. Toughen up. This is our winter. This is pay back. We can do it. We don’t shovel snow, look for mittens, cover every square inch of skin before venturing outside (except for following the dermatologist’s instructions and slathering expensive and special sunscreen on our faces). We don’t worry about scraping ice off our windshields, turning the steering wheel back and forth, back and forth on black ice at 5 o’clock in the afternoon in the winter on a hill when it’s already dark, heart in throat all the while, or slipping and sliding all the way to that giant room at Optim Orthopedics, which is usually filled to capacity with people who are really not in the best of spirits. You haven’t been there? Good. I hope you never have to.
Nope. None of that for us. We wear flip-flops, sleeveless shirts, bathing suits under loose dresses. Frocks, we like to call them. We carry towels in the car. Just in case. We walk the dogs through what seem to be empty streets, past empty houses. Where does everyone go? It’s ghostly, desolate. It’s quiet. We know which streets are shady, which lanes are sunny and when. We keep our eyes on the fig trees. They’re getting close. We plot to beat the birds. Ready, set, go.
We go to see 3-D movies like “Tarzan” and take a sweater. Maybe we go twice. We could have missed something the first time. We drive to Tybee Island at dawn to swim with the pelicans and the gulls while the giant freighters make their way against the horizon. We do a little swimming, careful to keep an eye on the shore, aware of the undertow. But mostly we bob in the water. We float. We let the waves take us where they wish, all the while knowing that July is the best time to be in the ocean because August brings jellyfish and swimming with jellyfish means long sleeve shirts and long pants.
We revel in the overhead breeze. Did you feel it? Did you feel it? Quick. Find the list. It’s time to do chores. it’s safe to go outdoors.