Monday, August 12, 2013

August: The Month for Hibernating

I used to feel obligated to get outside in the summer. I'm a Deep South girl. I grew up with one window A/C unit. My dad turned it on for Sunday afternoons, strategically placing floor fans around the house to squeeze every dab of cold out of that expensive air as it circled the interior of our big, drafty old house. We didn't have ceiling fans back then. (I have no idea why!) What did we do on hot afternoons in the summer?

We sat and waited for cool evening air.

My mother sweltered in the kitchen, fixing supper. We kids might go play in the garden hose or sprinkler. I usually looked for the darkest, coolest corner of the house and read a book, with difficulty, in the dim light. I still love dark, cool places. There was no point in going outside because there was no breeze in central Mississippi. And sitting in the shade of a tree was just as hot as sitting in the sun. The humidity in the air transferred the heat around everywhere equally. The asphalt roads shone with mirages. The air seemed to quiver with oppression in mid-August. For many years school buildings weren't air conditioned either, and kids got out for heat days!

Still, Southerners all around me gardened through these months of inferno heat, wearing overalls and hats. Ladies pulled on pantyhose and went to church. Our church was air conditioned, but many churches weren't. You sat and dripped and fanned yourself with a bulletin.

I've lived in Iowa and in Massachusetts since then. I noted what Northerners do in their oppressive months, commonly called winter.  They stay inside. If they do go outside, they bundle up against the elements. They double-bundle their babies. They keep engine warmers in their cars. They preheat the cars. (And yes, in the South, we do pre-cool our cars, but we're not very good at it.)  In the North, if you spend time outside in January, you're either 1) shoveling snow, 2) chipping your windshield, or 3) participating in snow sports.

Why don't Southerners follow this wise example? Why do we insist on torturing ourselves with this obligation to "enjoy summer"?  What's to enjoy? If you're outside in the South in August, you should be participating in a water sport. Otherwise, you should stay inside. Doesn't this make sense?

Today is sweltering in Oriental, and we generally have a little breeze. (I have not set a toe outside the house all day.) In central Mississippi I know it's 95ยบ plus, and stifling. It's the month when Mother Nature is hollering at us: "Stay inside! Hibernate! Enjoy your A/C! Save all that yard work for December!"

Seriously -- when we finally moved South again to Prattville, Alabama (just inside the sub-tropics, and I'm serious), we found that the best time to do serious, rip-out-the-vines yard work was December and January. You can wear long sleeves and jeans. You can actually penetrate the jungle in your front yard. The poison ivy is restrained. And you don't Sweat To Death. Yard work was a pleasure then!

This is only my opinion, but I've arrived at it after years of rumination and testing the climates. January in the North = August in the South. Stay inside. Crochet. Bake. Plan for Thanksgiving. Call your cousin. But don't go outside.

2 comments:

  1. Funny! It makes sense! I do not like being hot at all. I am a polar bear and when the air conditioning in my classroom isn't working right, I complain.
    I guess you can get used to the stifling heat, but I've never tried!
    You'll get lots of crocheting done!

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  2. You are funny. I have to acclimate myself. I sit outside every day no matter how hot it is. Now, I do have a covered porch that happens to have an outdoor fan on it, but I just NEED to be outside. The sun shines on my legs, and my eyes soak up all the green scenery while I sip iced tea. I'm a summer girl though. But I do love my a/c, too, especially for sleeping. Stay cool!

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