The humidity was so high yesterday that it was hard to tell if it was raining or not. It was a continuous twenty four hour menopausal tropical rain forest sweat. A Bermuda high was stuck in a tropical ditch with its one good wheel spinning in air, going nowhere. I felt like a favored child duct taped between two equally possessive and obese grandmothers (who used to sing in the opera) melting pachyderm butter in a steam room as they hummed arias from Aida, the one with the elephants in Egypt. My mind became congealed as I’m sure yogurt does while it is slowly cooked. Dry air or possibly a breeze seemed like exotic luxuries beyond my sweaty grasp. I could not cut my grass with a clear conscience because of the heavy wetness all around. Somehow it would have been equivalent to running the mower in the fishpond. Three showers later I felt fresh enough to sit guiltlessly in air conditioning.
I recalled the old debate by winter lovers that they could always put on an extra sweater in the cold whereas summer lovers can only get to skin in tropical heat. “And you can’t take that off.” Well, that’s not an altogether fair argument. Try it again when it’s 100 degrees below zero. “Just put on an extra sweater, Sylvia.” But she can’t because she is in suspended animation due to total brain freeze and near death frostbite. At that temperature you can drive on freshly chewed frozen bubble gum if you can get your car to start.
Anyhoo, we went to Pat’s birthday party last night, which was outside in Clark’s lovely, whimsical fairy garden yard on the other side of Gettysburg Battlefield. The Al Parson’s Band played the favorites from 6 till 9 p.m. I danced so that my butt didn’t mildew onto the chair. As much as I like to hold my wife close, I had to lay down “no touch” rules while slow dancing. We swayed like two upright goldfish to Willie Nelson knock offs at a Catholic school junior high dance in an aquarium. Just clapping in the swampy air was laborious and damp. How did folks survive in the pre- AC era? Not to mention AC/DC.
Here’s the thing– I am blogging because of the oppressive weather. And I don’t live in the deep South. My house is cool and dark. Outside my sunroom the bright greenery, purple hosta flowers, and orange day lilies swarm together like a Monet painting. The center window frames the crystal clear waterfall. MMMMMMM. Nice from this environmentally controlled position since the hot breeze has every leaf swaying in the sunlight. Yet walking in that painting would be, well, like walking in vats of finger paint. So I sit and blog. I can see how writers in sweltering climes become alcoholics and drug addicts. Faulkner, Kerouac, and Burroughs come to mind. And Jimmy Buffett. Writing about life is a lot less challenging than doing life. “Bartender, another cold one for me and my friends, cuz it’s five o’clock somewhere.”
A couple of summers back we met my daughter in North Carolina for a short vacation at a lake house near Charlotte. Two memories remain. The first was the warm gelatinous green water. I thought it was cream of turtle soup at first taste. The humidity was so high and that water so warm that the only noticeable change upon “swimming” was a change in pressure on my skin that caused my reptile brain to think of suffocation. The actual lake water was heavier than the super-saturated Upper Dixie air but no wetter or cooler. The other memory came from a plantation visit that we made. A nice planter’s brick home sat above a river. Behind it were the slave quarters… unbelievable. The guide said that as many as 40 slaves lived in these barren shacks. They were like chicken shacks without the chickens. Man, it was sweltering to begin with, but then the pressure of tragedy and exploitation and cruelty settled in too. Just standing there was oppressive. I could not imagine some boss ordering me to go work in the fields.
“Scuse me, Sir. I didn’t sleep real good last night bein’ as I’s stacked like cord wood in that chicken shack all night with the lock on the outside and twenty seven of us on the inside with no blanket just straw laid out like a barn floor. Plus I have not eaten real good or had any medical care my whole slavish life long. Plus my family has been cut up and sold off like pieces of a hog at the market. So, I’s thinking about cutting your throat, Mista Sir, and thowing you into that green water for gator food, but you so mean they’d likely spit you out sooner than eat your sorry ass.”
Well, maybe that conversation was thought and not said aloud. Heavy, heavy tears of lead had to fall on many cheeks before that place could be detoxified. Many soldiers killed one another at Gettysburg on torrid July days in the mid 1860’s. The air there was heavy like I imagine Auschwitz air is, full of human fluids and byproducts and gunpowder and horror. How long would that slavery have sweltered onward if it were not for a fresh moral wind? Makes me wonder what hideous injustice may be hiding in plain sight right now, camouflaged by our moss covered morality. Which tribe is next for the scourging?
It’s funny how things, thoughts, feelings, experiences link up. I had no intention of getting deep and heady with this post. But one thing led to another as unmarked paths do… and I wound up with another type of stultifying humidity, where the brain no longer wants to ask hard questions or follow facts to inevitable conclusions. That sort of mental fog dweller wants to live in the past, a free man proudly drinking bourbon, while his slaves harvest the fields. Humility is what’s needed to counteract the hubris of that sort of torrential stupidity. If right and wrong feel about the same to you, stick your head in the closest freezer and put on another sweater, Sylvia.