WEEK THIRTY-FIVE: BEATING THE HEAT

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It is suddenly summer here in Florida. Mornings have turned sultry. There’s a warm heaviness to the air, threaded with the mild scent of jasmine, and even before dawn one can feel the low rumble of thunderstorms building far out in the Gulf. By noon, the searing heat is unbearable.  A loud chorus of crickets sings its tribute to the season – a throbbing one-note chant. By late afternoon, all that energy has been captured in onshore thunderheads and is released in a torrent of rain, followed by near-sauna conditions.

There are precious few options for beating the heat. One can simply stay inside, of course – an option that was not available before air conditioning came, none-too-soon, to the southern states. Minimizing clothing helps a bit, and old-timers advise against any type of physical activity while the sun is high. Of course, the very best way to forget about temperature is to simply get wet.

When I was young, my sister and I and the neighborhood kids played a brilliant guessing game. We sat cross-legged in a circle. One child announced that she was thinking of something, a color for instance. Each child then, in circular order, had a chance to guess what that color might be. If you guessed it correctly, a thimble full of ice-cold water was abruptly delivered to your face. It was exhilarating, we dissolved into giggles and the heat was forgotten in no time.

WEEK FOURTEEN: WATER MOCCASINS

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I know very little about Native Americans, and less about the Timucua, who were among the early inhabitants of Florida.  But what a magical existence they must have enjoyed here on this unusual river.  Their story is the familiar tragedy; the population was decimated by the mid-1700s and the last few individuals deported to Cuba.

Often when I gaze out at the river, with no other witnesses save the occasional curious otter, I am reminded of those first and rightful owners.  I feel their presence, especially in fog.  Each day this past week, they appeared in that ephemeral fog, slipping in on silent moccasins before each early twilight and lingering until forced into hiding by the warmth of morning sun.