Heat … oppressive heat.
I am spending a long weekend at Dad’s here in sweltering North Carolina. It is so smothering it always makes me wonder why on God’s earth would anyone settle in these parts before there was air conditioning?
I came down to lend a hand with some projects around the house that Dad can’t do anymore at his age. Now, if these projects were indoors I doubt that Dad would really need my help. After all, he does have central air conditioning!
No, these projects would require a lot of time outdoors … in the heat … in the humidity. There was a storm a little while back and there was a lot of fallen tree limbs and debris in the back yard; the back yard is quite large and runs about 50 yards from the house to the river bank. The debris was close to the river and had to be cut up, gathered and hauled to the front of the house and piled near the street. Back breaking, sweaty work with many long trips back and forth.
Given the heat advisory of over 100° (yes, I picked the hottest weekend of the year to visit), it was essential to life and limb that I start out in the cool of the morning. So, I began. The back yard was sheltered from the sun on account of the tall pine and ash trees. I was thankful for the shade for it provided at least a 10° temperature relief for some of the work but the shade was little consolation for the misery that the humidity brought.
Although the back yard was shady I was not so fortunate for half of my journey dragging limbs and brush to the street. The front of the house provided nowhere to hide from the already blitering heat. So with each trip the shirt and shorts become more drenched in sweat. With each trip the sun beat down with increasing intensity as the morning wore on. By Noon, the job was done and I was spent.
I cooled off down by the river with a cold drink in the hopes it would revive me. By the river there was not only shade but also a cool breeze blowing in off the water. I felt myself returning to life but that was not to last as I still had to walk back to the house. Walking back to the house, the refreshment was short-lived and was replaced by the oppressive oven of heat a mere 10 yards from the river. The only air moving at this point was the incessant vibration in the air caused by the cicadas singing their summer song and the buzz of the countless dragon flies. It felt like someone had thrown a hot, wet, wool blanket over me.
I never really understood why people in the South moved so slow; I understand that I’m from New York and everything we do – talk, eat, move, think – is fast but Southern life always seemed to move in slow motion to me. I didn’t get it … until today. During the summertime in the South there isn’t much activity in the heat of the day. Even with air conditioning things slow down, way down, in the sweltering heat and humidity. I didn’t really understand why until I had to work in that heat today. It wasn’t until today that I understood the method to their madness. The slow-down was a matter of survival in the steamy heat of the Southern summertime. If you’re foolish enough to be working in that heat you won’t last for very long in this world. I mean, there’s a very good reason the song “Summertime” is sung at such a slow pace!
So I got to thinking; if I could learn a little something about someone else’s culture and customs and get some insight into their way of life perhaps I could understand them a little better. I don’t think it’s enough to be tolerant of others (although that’s a start). Maybe we have to better understand where each other is coming from, walk in their shoes, to understand them a little deeper; understand the environment, understand the customs, understand the beliefs and behaviors.
Taking the time and making the effort to understand someone just might make us more human, make us act better toward each other and maybe, just maybe, allow us to see just how similar we are to one another. Instead of out-shouting each other we could learn to respect each other because we’d be able to recognize that there is no “other” there’s only “us”.
I think we could use that around here.