The summer here has been pretty mild so far, with one of the latest “first day over 100 degree” dates in years. But we’re paying for it this coming week, which is forecast to be full of triple-digit temperatures, reaching perilously close to the hundred-and-teens (Wednesday’s high is supposed to be 109°.) We will be facing an awful lot of this:
This doesn’t even look so bad, because of all the green and because the tree casts welcome shade. Shade is key in the desert; when the heat is dry, stepping into the shade knocks the temperature down some noticeable amount. Shade in a humid climate doesn’t really do anything – the moisture in the air conducts heat wherever you try to hide. In a dry climate, though, shade protects you from your enemy, the sun.
Cool becomes relative. Right now, it’s 11:00 at night, and it’s 88 degrees. Stepping out the front door still feels like draping yourself in a warm blanket, even after dark. (But a dry blanket.)
The locals are used to this, of course. Their summer is like winter where I grew up: you hole up indoors and spend as little time as possible outside. But I still suffer from cognitive dissonance, because I think of summer as the season of free time and outdoor activities and picnics and relaxation and all those things that don’t really work with the weather here.
At least the sunsets are awfully pretty.
It just feels wrong to wish the days away, but: is it September yet?
I know it’s not June yet, but it looks like summer here: we hit 100° yesterday, for the first time this year. We’re predicted to hit at least 100° for the next five days, and the next five after that only drop to the upper 90s. It’s about the time of year when everyone hunkers inside during the day, and goes out at night, when it’s still hot, but not blistering. This afternoon I opened our west-facing screen door to let in the local friendly semi-feral, and the metal burned; the cat trotted in and immediately flopped full length on the poured-concrete floor in a puddle of floof.
I’m not sure how well I’ll be able to show the heat in photographs, because 100+° here looks much like 75-100° here: blue skies, clear air, golden light. Maybe the glare is a little brighter, the colors around you a little more bleached, and the world a little emptier. We’ll see. You may just get a lot more indoor pictures, of cats and crafty projects. But for the moment, have a few pictures of what it looks like here before walking to the mailbox makes the sweat trickle down your neck.
One of the things I find fascinating about the desert is how it’s a land of contrasts: the hard and soft, vibrant and bleached, fragile and spiky, natural and man-made – all live together on top of each other.
I find the desert beautiful, but I grew up in the deep dark fairy-tale woods of New England, and the desert constantly challenges my ideas about “nature” and “beauty” and the like. There are some apartment complexes around here with grass lawns, and every time I see those blankets of cool emerald green, I have the same knee-jerk reaction: “How pretty!” Then I remember that I live in a desert, lawns here are unnatural, and it’s a tactic to make an inexpensive prefab complex look appealing. It works, it totally works, and I don’t know if my gut will ever get over wanting to see green grass.
But there are lots and lots of other kinds of green in the desert, even if they don’t usually look at all like what I associate with “plant.” They look like they come from a faraway planet, governed by different rules. For that very reason, they’re fascinating, and I can’t stop looking at them, and looking, and looking again.
People who don’t live in the desert tend to think of it as drab and dreary, but it’s really not. The desert loves bright, cheerful yellow.