summertime swelter

I used to hate the summer.

Don’t judge me too harshly. When you live in a state whose climate is classified as humid subtropical, spending time outdoors can be mildly unpleasant. My childhood was an endless game of mom pushing me outside to play and me sneaking inside to read in the AC.

It took years of living in frigid Idaho to make me appreciate the beauty of humidity. “It’s like being wrapped in a blanket,” said one friend who longed for the South. I thought he was crazy. Yeah, a big nasty blanket you can’t wait to shed, I thought. But after spending six years away from Alabama, I now crave the feeling of a sultry, sweltering summer.

It’s perfect.

Sweat pools between your toes the moment you step outside. Forget trying to keep flip-flops on your feet. Barefoot is best. And don’t bother trying to fix your hair, because there isn’t enough product in Ulta and Sephora combined to combat this much moisture. You can feel and hear your hair poofing out like a hot air balloon. I know Southern women get mocked for big hair, but have a heart – it’s an “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” kind of situation. You learn to embrace the angelic halo of frizz.

Shade is always a friend, but even it offers little respite in a heat wave. Sometimes it’s necessary to bust out the patio’s best accessory: a big ass fan. With legs propped up, head flopped back, and arms limp over the sides of your chair, you’re at last ready to properly enjoy the afternoon.

By now sweat is trickling down your neck, filling the folds of knees and elbows, and beading across the small of your back. Yes, you will need dry underwear when you go back inside. But, if the gods are smiling, a soft breeze will soon ruffle the heavy locks of hair off your neck and turn those drops of sweat into tears of blissful joy. The wind chimes echo your enthusiasm for the breeze.

In the Idahoan tundra, I wrote frantically to keep myself warm. I had to put words on the page before my fingers or brain shut down. I would stomp around, type a few lines, jiggle my legs, type a few lines, inhale deeply over a mug of tea, and eek out the rest of a paper. With a third of my attention spent controlling chattering teeth, it was hardly the most efficient way to work.

But in the balmy heat of the South, I find my mind relaxing, unspooling, sprawling across the world like a fat, contented cat. Time moves slower. Thoughts have the space to bud and blossom and wilt as needed. All life needs heat to thrive, and in the summertime swelter I find my best ideas blooming from the page.

It took over twenty years for me to appreciate the climate I’d been born into, but you’ll never be able to drag me away now. Here I am rooted, and here I will stay.

And you’d never be able to catch me. My sweaty palms are far too slippery.

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