Summer is near. The street sweepers are out this morning. After enduring a particularly harsh winter, during which I was housebound for two months, I vowed that I would not complain about the summer heat when it arrives. I forgot that I was going to have to endure desert temperatures of 100° plus at some point. “Oh, but it’s dry heat.” Yes, it is.
My parents and friends loved it. My father would get up at the break of day, dig up a cactus and move it to some other part of the yard in his desert landscaping attempts, but always before the heat of the day could burn him to a crisp. My mother would go about her real estate business, always soaked to the skin, hating the heat, but loving the desert. For that year I lived in the desert many years ago, my skin felt like a pincushion each and every day of that blistering heat and I hated it.
I had been to the public library to return some books prior to leaving for the Midwest in a few days. In my eagerness to wind up all my business and get the hell out of Dodge, I stepped out of the car, slammed the door and ran into the library, forgetting to do the one thing that I needed to do. I didn’t stop to open the little vent window in my vintage baby-blue-with-white-top Plymouth Scamp. As I left the cool air of the library and approached the car, I could see that the driver’s side vent window was toast. In the few minutes it took to check the books in and pay the overdue fines (just two days for three books, not so terrible), the window had imploded in the heat and shattered into the interior of the car. Glass was everywhere. I carefully cleared off just enough of the shards on the seat to drive to the car wash, where I vacuumed up as much as possible. Returning home, I washed every surface to get rid of the tiny slivers and then taped plastic film over the window. I wasn’t feeling well, but we had a lot to do before taking off in a couple of days. I woke up the next day with strep throat.
We drove for three days with the plastic in the window, slowly shredding under the force of air at a steady 75 mph. We had nothing to steal, so we weren’t worried about a break-in, but the noise was deafening. I was too sick to do my part of the driving. My husband drove the entire 1700 miles while I leaned back in the seat and slept as much as possible. We had planned to stop for the night in Santa Fe, but we made good time and while I slept during the afternoon, we drove right through. Around 11:00pm, not far over the Colorado state line, we found a motel with a vacancy and crashed the first night. The next two days were a blur. Once we finally arrived at our new home, a tiny 440 square foot cottage, we rolled out our sleeping bags midday and collapsed.
We slept on the floor in the humid, 90° Midwestern heat, with a small fan blowing and never once complained. Never have I been happier to move from any place to any place else. Our few belongings, such as they were, arrived three weeks later. The lush foliage and humidity, the thunderstorms and the perfumed scent of the earth after rain, the sound of crickets and cicadas at night, lightning bugs blinking in the evening, the myriad colors of flowers blooming all summer long were a much-needed tonic to restore both my skin and my spirit.
Although the heat and humidity here can become oppressive, I’ve never felt like a pincushion since returning all those years ago. Which brings me back to the present day. While I’m looking forward to visiting my family who love living in the desert, I’m already dreading the 100° plus temperatures that will frame my entire visit. They can have them. Meanwhile, the street sweepers move on block by block, and I know summer is almost here.