Contrary to the unusually cool spring this summer has dazed us with heat and humidity. Sultry days with dew points in the 70 degree Fahrenheit range and temperatures hovering near ninety, and sometimes above, for days on end. Only twenty miles away in the Connecticut River Valley it is much worse; the temperatures have been in the mid and upper 90′s with sultry humidity that makes clothes stick to one like glue.
There will be some readers from the south and Midwest who might chuckle at this declaration. These temperatures might sound a bit mild to them. In these parts we are simply not that used to it although with the ever warming temperatures we should realize that we will have to get used to it. It’s likely a long range pattern that will be with us for quite a while.
The good news as that we have had more than adequate amounts of rain. Many would say too much. But with these hot conditions I favor rich amounts of precipitation because the one thing that would be worse is hot and dry. Droughts impact everything from drinking water supplies to wildlife habitat. Extended droughts like the ones we had in the early 1960′s in New England wreak havoc on both plant communities and wildlife, both of which are dear to my heart.
Given I have a very bad wheel, a right foot that is broken and seems to be healing slowly (at least from my point of view), I am still moving slowly which seems to fit the current weather pattern. It might just be a bit more frustrating if we had cool, clear invigorating weather and I had to watch all of the fun from a distance. Moving slow seems more natural right now and just a little bit more in tune with our present weather conditions.
Yesterday Maureen and I went for a slow walk with our hounds. I’m allowed to walk until the foot hurts more than normal. I wear a special shoe that supports the foot but leaves the toes exposed; sort of a funny looking sandal that allows my foot to breathe and gives me adequate protection. If I need or want to walk in a more difficult area I wear a bulky air cast. It is hot, uncomfortable, and easy to dislike. The dogs were happy to plod along slowly. While I sweated they panted; both of us using our cooling mechanisms to the best of our ability. Normally, James Fenimore Cooper (our male bloodhound) likes to pull ahead; straining the leash with his head on the ground to follow any scent that he can reconnoiter. Adia (our female bloodhound) typically tries to surge ahead so that she can pretend to be leader of the pack; a scout dog of unparalleled status. But on this day they both moved up the hill slowly. Even though we were walking on a dirt road under the shade of overhanging deciduous hardwoods they made no effort to take the lead. It was simply too hot.
You know its hot when you see jewelweed drooping in the shaded woods. Yes, it will recover, but its tell-tale droop is a sure indicator that it is H-O-T! There is a brook that runs along the road, crossing the dirt way in several locations, where a bridge gives one a good overhead look at the clean fresh water. The brook still has plenty of water from all of the rain we’ve had this summer. The water flows quickly downhill bouncing over smooth rocks and cutting under vegetated banks. Standing above the brook on the bridge was the one cool spot on our short journey. There is nothing quite like a clean, clear brook dancing over cobbled rocks to raise my spirits!
At the top of the road there is a pond. We let the hounds wade in and swim around to cool off. Bloodhounds have incredibly dense bones. This does not help in their swimming abilities. It is kind of like swimming with a stack of steel weights attached to your legs. Nonetheless they clearly enjoy the brief respite from the hot and surly temperatures. Our trip back to the homestead, all downhill, will be much easier for the hounds given their now more happy dispositions.
It’s too hot to do much talking. Maureen and I take in the beauty of the warm summer day on a country dirt road that is shaded by the green leaves of a deciduous forest. I started to think about cooling off and suggested to Mo that we go for a dip in a nearby lake when we get home. Maureen looked at the brook and suggested we just sit in the cool water after we get back. It really did look inviting and a much simpler solution to the heat than driving somewhere.
The remaining walk was a bit easier knowing there was a solution to the heat at the end of our trek. My foot was hurting and the cool water might help with the swelling. The sweat, now having soaked through my T-shirt, was no longer acting as a cooling mechanism but rather seemed to weigh me down. The idea of a dip in the stream took on disproportionate feelings of satisfaction. It somehow seemed like Mecca.
Upon arrival back at the homestead Maureen and I changed into our bathing suits. The stream runs immediately in front our our property and there are a few pools that are deep enough to sit in and cool off. I noticed that Maureen’s step quickened as we walked down our driveway towards the stream. I lagged behind, limping, but still feeling chipper knowing what was to come. We found a path through the brilliantly green ferns that led to a pool. This pool is below a sudden drop off in elevation in the brook’s course. In the spring there is a six foot high water fall here but in these lower flows the water simply runs in a thin sheet over the white and brown bowling ball smooth rocks.
We entered the pool, sitting on a flat rock that is beneath the surface of the water, which allowed us to be wet up to our waist. Our overheated bodies immediately began to cool in the chilly water. The overhead sun made the water glisten as it ran over the rocks. Whirlygig beetles floating on the waters surface and moving in random patterns provided a little visual entertainment. I learned recently that the whirlygig beetle has split eyes. The top half can see into the terrestrial world and the bottom half views the aquatic world. It is no wonder that they move in random motions aimlessly. Apparently it is an advantage that allows them to avoid predators from both above and below. Certainly this is an amazing trick of evolution!
I built a simple rock sculpture while sitting in the cool water; a pile of wet rocks that point to the sky. Little was said between the two of us as we soaked in the coolness of the water. Our bodies drank in the refreshing water; every single drop adding to our temporary pleasure.
It was a moment of paradise. A brief reprieve from a languid summer day. A moment of bliss that one can only encounter in a rural area. It was quiet, peaceful, meditative.
Another good reason to live where we do.
Written for www.wildramblings.com in July of 2013.