Thursday, August 22, 2013

30th Year Reflections/55: Heat Wave

“Short term trends indicate one more day of high humidity/heat for the eastern portion of the CWA [County Warning Area] will continue the heat adv [advisory] for 96-101 [Fahrenheit] indices over the east this afternoon.” — Area forecast discussion, National Weather Service, Chanhassen, Minnesota for August 21, 2013.

I have never dealt well with high heat combined with high humidity. Give me five minutes with temperatures in the 90s and a tropical dew point and I turn into a glistening, damp mess. Such swamp-like conditions and the handling of a book (think summer/vacation reading here) don’t mix. Combine this meteorological state of affairs with an inoperative domestic central air conditioning system and a week of “staycation” and you have a perfect storm—and an opportunity for creative atmospheric avoidance.

My plan for avoiding steamy exteriors combined Mother Nature’s own timing with an abundance of available air-conditioned spaces, both public and private. Even if the forecast high was in the 90s (with triple-digit heat indices), I knew that mornings would still be in my comfort zone. Afternoon, when the mercury climbed, was a time to seek artificial cooling (or the relative relief of my basement) and quiet activities. I arranged my schedule accordingly: walks or anything approaching rigorous were for the mornings; trips to museums, malls, movie theaters, or libraries for the afternoon. A late morning visit to my daughter-in-law and two granddaughters (with the comfort of air-conditioning), and an early lunch before the young ones settled down for afternoon naps was the one exception to this plan. That, and a late afternoon/evening fishing trip with my father.

Cultures around the world have known this survival strategy from time immemorial. During a five week summer sojourn in Greece over a decade ago, I quickly discovered that nothing of consequence happened in the afternoon. Only when the sun headed toward the western horizon and evening breezes from the Aegean brought relief did life resume, often into the wee hours of the morning. (In retrospect, those who organized our Greek summer school were both clever and anciently attuned. Classes were held in the mornings. Times of study and homework were for afternoons and evenings. Only on weekend treks to historical sites did we fully encounter the Greek summer in its blazing glory. But even here we were buffered by air-conditioned buses as we traveled from one site to the next or the shade of olive trees during a midday lunch.)

I am now midway through this domestic retreat. It has been, for the most part, a success. Today I’ll breakfast out with my wife, visit the Walter Art Center and its outdoor sculpture garden together, see her off to work after lunch (she’s on the late shift where she works), and siesta during the heat of the day. If the forecast proves true, I’ll find myself on the water late in the day for a few hours of fishing. Friday is predicted to be a repeat of Thursday, a brief respite before heat and humidity return for the weekend.

If I were to ascribe any negatives to this week away from the office, they would be attached to the technological tether that remained unbroken during my absence. Because of pending projects and upcoming responsibilities, I checked my office e-mail more than once. Even though my e-mail account includes a vacation notice, more than one message begged for attention…and received it, however terse my response. During a trip to the mall this afternoon I purchased a tablet, another potential tether to my work. I realize such intrusions to a week of rest are self-inflicted. Thankfully, I have another escape in the works, this one planned to a place where Internet connections are few and far between. I have no intention of bringing web accoutrements to that part of the world. Here, finally, I will escape the heat wave of modern technology.

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