This is a re-post of one I wrote last September. The heat is back. Time to share the misery once again.
Living in Southern California (San Diego, specifically) leaves me so little to complain about when it comes to seasonal weather that it is downright discouraging.
I mean, how can I complain to people from the rest of the nation who year after year live through blizzards, followed by “mud season”, the spawning of Mosquitos of Unusual Size, and locusts for all that I know. Outside of my SoCal bubble, there seems to be a brief period of lovely spring-like weather followed by monsoonal storms, and then tornados, blistering summer heat, and mind-numbing humidity. I hear fall is nice, but can the beauty of fall colors get a person through the inevitable knowledge that the blizzards are on the way once again?
I get it. Even throwing in our occasional earthquakes and wildfires, my meteorological complaints can’t compare to those of the average Nebraskan or Upper Peninsula Michigander.
However, as the climate changes, a fact universally acknowledged by any everyone except the 30% of Americans who get all of their wisdom and opinions from Fox News, summers are getting longer, hotter, and more miserable here in paradise. For me, it means longer periods of frayed nerves, slothfulness, and despair.
If you aren’t from around here and you keep an eye on the weather pages, you might regularly curse the seemingly endless reports from San Diego of temperatures that never exceed 85 degrees. Please understand that those temps are being recorded on the coast, in the shade, and I suspect, in an air-conditioned room, so that San Diego will have an endless appeal to tourists. Each mile inland from that thermometer means a one degree increase in temperature, so that in my corner of the county, 85 on the coast usually means 100 degrees in my inland valley. The thermometer seems to be stuck there for long stretches from June through the middle of November. It is becoming increasingly popular to plan Thanksgiving as an outdoor picnic.
I try to adjust. I really do. I get up earlier, get my walk done before the worst of the heat begins or take late evening walks. I blow through my outdoor chores sometimes as the sun is just coming up. As soon as the sun goes down, if the heat has not beaten the life out of me, I try to enjoy the warmly comfortable evening out on my deck or at a nearby bar that features an outdoor, big-screen TV with endless sports coverage.
As summer comes on, I become obsessed by the daily forecasts. None of them accurately anticipates the suffering I’m going to feel the next day. I recently bought a digital indoor/outdoor thermometer so that I continually, throughout the day, can check the exact temperature so that I know EXACTLY how miserable I am and EXACTLY how much I should be able to complain about it. My family has grown weary of my constant updates as the heat climbs toward triple digits.
My self-esteem sinks on days like this as my motivation to accomplish anything wanes. Sweeping out the garage seems like a monumental task. Watering the roses?—Herculean. I stare at the phone but the idea of actually picking it up to make an appointment to have my car serviced is just too much. On such a day, can’t watching 5 episodes of Scandal be considered an accomplishment? My lethargy weighs on me.
Essayist Joan Didion described this phenomenon brilliantly in her essay on the effects of the Santa Ana winds, a weather condition that brings high temperatures and hot, dry winds howling through the inland valleys, frequently in September and October when the tips of the palm trees turn brown and we start to hope for fall. It’s good to read her words and know that my desperation at day-after-day heat is not isolated. She recounts the effects as the populace senses the onset of the super-heated winds: “The baby frets. The maid sulks. I rekindle a waning argument with the telephone company, then cut my losses and lie down, given over to whatever is in the air.” She further quotes Raymond Chandler who wrote about the winds saying, “On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen.”
It gives me comfort to know that external forces are toying with my actions and emotions. I know that I will rise again once our three weeks of winter begin some time in January. Until then, I wait in quiet desperation for the sun to go down. I give thanks for Netflix. I lie in bed at night waiting for the first cool breeze of the day to come drifting in my window, listening to the sirens wailing and the coyotes singing in the canyons.