Bringing the Heat

Over the years, I have had to befriend summer and soften my feelings for what feels to me like a harsh season. My husband, on the other hand, loves summer. I think there are many reasons for this difference between us:
I was born in March; he was born in early September.
I grew up in the cool, foggy bay influences of San Francisco; he grew up in San Diego – inland.
My favorite place to relax is the woods; his is the beach.
I am part fish and frog; he is part lizard.
I’m happy in the cold of winter; he hates it.
My skin burns after 20 minutes in the sun; his turns bronze.
Heat saps my energy, but somehow it gives him energy. I don’t even know how that works.

It’s comforting to know that this kind of balance exists in the world. There is enough love for every kind of everything. Some for summer, some for winter…and here we are the human minutiae making our personal preferences the spice of life. But what happens when a winter person not only runs headlong into summer, but lives in a place that can be a desert and regularly sees summer temperatures in excess of 100*? I am only able to survive this heat by escaping to the beach when I can and telling myself that the nighttime cool brings enough relief to allow me to enjoy at least the sunrise and sunset outdoors. Those elements are reasons I love where I live. Yet, I confess, the over 100* days are not.

When I was in my 20s I developed a dramatic seasonal allergy. It would always happen right at the end of spring, my whole body demonstrating its anxiety about the coming of the heat and trying to repel my entering it.
By making me allergic to summer.

I was unwilling to let go of my beloved spring! I didn’t want to say goodbye to the puddles, green grass, and vibrant rebirth! Yet summer has a way of coming anyway, and as I have gotten older and realized the physical BRACING that would take over my body in May was not an enjoyable alternative, I have had to do some inner work to come to an understanding with summer.

Maybe because of the reasons I am different from my husband, summer gets to me mentally and emotionally. Is this seasonal affective disorder? I think it is. The heat feels oppressive to me (grrr), keeps me indoors (growl), dries me out (rufff), and makes me equally resentful and grateful for air conditioning (how dare it!). I allowed my sensitivity and awareness of Mother Nature make me hyper-alert to drought conditions, even where drought is a relatively normal cycle in the overall scheme of things.

My mind patterned itself from the time I was young: don’t flush the toilet after just one use, turn off the water when brushing teeth, take just a 5 minute shower, and worry! worry! worry! about those poor bunnies outside panting under their hot coats. As a Pisces do I have a greater love of water? Did growing up by the ocean have something to add? Is my reverence for Nature a blessing and a curse?

Analyzing these things doesn’t help when a week of “extreme” heat is forecast and the news media (which I hardly see anyway!) is loud with its warnings. My body begins bracing again, until I consciously recognize and release the resistance and replace it with something more healthful and positive.

I must be grateful for summer.

Years ago, I listed all the things that I DO love about summer and I realized that if I was really going to change how I feel about summer, it was going to take more than these summer things. I couldn’t pretend to love the things I really didn’t… “Ooh, I just loooove the way the salt from my sweat crystallizes on my skin and makes me feel sticky!” Sure there are parts I appreciate and enjoy in summer but they mostly involve cooling off, which is fine but they also require resources, while I silently continue cursing the sweat and my wilted energy, while I also secretly continue being terrified that the Nature around me is suffering as I, personally, am able to escape.

No, that just turned my inner conflict into existential crisis.

If I can figure out what can I DO with heat, make it WORK for me, USE it and get something for my endurance, would I love it any more?
What’s it good for?
Absolutely nothing?

Permaculture has taught me “The Problem Is The Solution.”
The problem is the heat.
Heat is the solution.

Okay, that’s it! NOW I can be grateful for the heat!
Heat is the solution. Bring it on, baby, bring it on.

Here we are:
Reasons I appreciate the heat
My oven does NOT get turned on in the summer (no oven vent!), SO we popped meringue babies into our barbecue. No, we didn’t even turn on the gas BECAUSE on a 103* day, the bbq will maintain a temp between 150° and 200° which is PERFECT for drying/baking the meringues. Took 10 mins to whip up and they’ll be done after dinner without any more help from me. Thank you, solar energy! Solar ovens are great for baking cookies and solar dehydrators are great for drying summer fruit.

The family still has to do laundry and clothes need drying. The sun will dry them in less time than my clothes dryer. A clothes line is cute and quaint. It’s freaking awesome! Thank you, solar energy!

When it is so hot out that the power company declares a flex energy schedule, it is the perfect time to gather friends at one location. A public location is even better because those places are going to have AC blasting anyway. So, call the posse and turn off your AC (or at least turn up the temp on the thermostat), meet up with friends where you can take each other’s minds off the weather and be more efficient with energy use. BONUS points if you call your elderly neighbors and invite them to come with you. Thank you, Community!

Sleep in your tent outside. On the ground. No sleeping bag required. (I love this.)

Use the outdoors as my own personal sauna. The body’s ability to temperature regulate is something we lose over time if we don’t use it. I don’t like saunas but I know that they can be beneficial, so it allows me to have a change in my perspective about the summer heat. I pretend that when I step outside, I am really stepping INTO an expensive sauna. It’s a spa treatment, complete with vitamin D therapy. I try to stay out as long as I can tolerate, I time myself and try to make it just a but longer every time I go out. (*DISCLAIMER* DO NOT USE AS MEDICAL ADVICE AND PLEASE USE COMMON SENSE IN THE HEAT!) Thank you, sun!

I still have to make a point to mentally reach for this inner list of uses for the summer heat when I sense that –come August– I have really had enough of my friend summer. Summer is an intense friend; you can catch up with her really fast and don’t need to see her again for another 12 months. “Some things never change…”

This weekend when I felt myself lapsing into resistance of the coming heat wave, I added “using my imagination” to my list of what I could DO with the heat. I transformed it into something else. I’ve been taught that my thoughts create my reality, so I meditated myself into a beautiful, lush, cool waterfall. I could literally feel the mist from the water on my skin. In the morning when I awoke, the air outside felt cooler and I instantly felt a rush of victory. “I did it! I made it cooler!” I have no idea whether the number on the thermometer was any lower than before, but it didn’t matter. I felt great and the world felt safe and beautiful.

After all, my suffering isn’t going to help change the way summer acts. I might as well enjoy it.
Bring the heat. I’m ready.