Hot

It’s 8:18am and already 84 degrees. Many people hate it, but I love summer weather, up to about 100 degrees, where my body’s desire to melt kicks in and the sweltering temperatures are no longer invigorating but rather depleting. Maybe the fact that I’m a late July birth, my poor mom suffocating in her pregnant state in stifling July air, programmed my DNA to enjoy summer weather. I’ve mentioned before that I thrive on the Sun; my body and mind are like solar panels, restored by radiant energy. It seems to evaporate some of the mental and physical pain that normally colludes my mood and must be contended with as I soldier through the demands of my daily life. The added energy in my fuel cell and the hot sticky summer nights are the only significant challenges the summer weather imposes on me: Wrestling with my pervasive insomnia is exacerbated as I toss and turn with restlessness and discomfort. I must be cold to fall asleep. In the winter, I open the windows. There’s no equivalently viable option in the summer and yet my body longs to be that chilled.
I remember hating the sticky July weather as a teenager because my priority far above all others was running, fast and long, and that is considerably less comfortable and hindered on extremely hot and humid summer days, the ones that get everyone making weather small talk at each interaction. Today’s priorities are different; happiness and a sense of comprehensive wellbeing top the list, and for me, summer weather seems to usher in these sometimes-elusive, yet precious, feelings.
So today, it’s particularly easy to feel grateful and happy, and I’ll take it. Things in my corner have been trying lately, so it’s nice to ride the wave of goodness while it’s here, acknowledging its blessing and relishing in the genuine joy it carries.

Summer Screen

It feels like a summer morning. It’s just past 4:00am and I finished my meditating so I’m lying on the rug in the living room. It is still dark out but all of the windows are open in here and the birds are serenading each other. Our house, admittedly, usually has an unpleasant vegetal smell from all of the vegetables we cook, but with the breeze coming through, it smells sweet like budding trees, dewy grass, and what I call “summer screen.”

This term has its origins back when I was a young kid. On summer nights, my mom would open my bedroom windows. We never had air conditioning and while sometimes I had an ineffective fan somewhere in the room—a tag sale relic or duct-taped old dinosaur from grandma’s house—I was usually way too hot to be comfortable. My bed abutted a window that looked out to the side of the house, where, incidentally, I observed squirrels and documented their “mysterious behavior” in my “science sleuth” journal, a small yellow spiral-bound notebook that sat in my windowsill among the dust and dead bees.

On hot nights, I’d drag my pillow, a pillow-shaped lion, from its position on the mattress and into the window sill gulley so I could put my face right up to the window, drinking in as much of the fresh summer air as I could. While an ineffective way to cool down (especially on stagnant nights), it distracted me enough from the sweltering humidity that I would stop rapidly flipping every which way on my mattress to try and find a cool spot (which only made me hotter), and just slowly breathe in the nature around me. I’d listen to the concert of cicadas, crickets, and toads, and crane my neck to try and spot the moon or the North Star through the trees. Whenever I found it, I felt like a ship navigator, finding a stable beacon to lead me home (of course, I was home). I’d narrate everything to Lion, the pillow, and explain to him the night’s story: what the insects were singing about, where our “ship” was returning from, and what the neighbors (“the enemy pirates”) were doing making noise, if they were around. I would press my nose so forcefully against the wire window screen as if trying to break through with my face to join the outside world. It felt cool and I’d put my hands on it too, and wiggle my fingers, as if making snow angels with them on the mesh. And that’s the smell of summer screen: the faint metallic wire of an old window screen with the warm summer air of a New England summer night.

I catch myself even now putting my nose right up to the screens in my new house in the early morning hours. It’s not quite summer and it’s not quite the same sweet mix of smells from my childhood, but it’s enough to remind me of those nights as an imaginative, happy kid full of wonder and possibility and take a pause in my current struggles to realize part of her magic is still in me.