Summer began this week, and we were made known of this without much subtly. As we made our way through the longest day of the year, it seemed that the temperature and humidity were in competition to see who could rise the highest. As I get older, I feel like I notice these changes in the world. I walk out the door and feel what is in the air. I smell things that my senses would have ignored in earlier years. I can feel the world turning and circling the sun. I can feel the wind change and it tells me when it brings something new.
Even though it has gotten hotter, I get tired of hearing the complaints of June heat. It is in the 90s during most of the daylight hours. The sunshine is pretty unrelenting, especially if you are unfortunate enough to spend a lot of time in unshaded, blacktop ares. But please, is your memory so terrible, that you have forgotten what happens in July and August? Do you not remember that our ceiling here has about 10 more degrees to climb and that the humidity can get even worse? It’s probably not so much that these gripers don’t know we are in for something hotter. It’s more that it is easy for complaining to become our language. In those awkward moments when there is nothing to talk about, we move straight to other discomforts. If I’ve broken a sweat, it is hot enough to find common ground with someone else. Even if we can’t agree on politics, religion, sports, what tastes good, or how you should spend your days off, we can assume people don’t like to be too hot or too cold.
I’ve tried to convince myself to embrace the weather, whatever it brings. I think I am more agreeable to it than the average person here–I don’t adjust my thermostat to arctic, sweater-wearing temps to overcompensate for the cold. I think that it’s honestly good to sweat each day, and it’s not so bad if you just spend enough time in it. But, still, there is a discomfort in this humid heat that discourages me from going outside–and I always want to be outside.
My work shifts this week have been very early–4am – 1pm. The optimal time to water plants is just before the sun rises, and my major role is to keep the plants hydrated. Since it’s become important to me to spend time waking up and preparing myself, mentally and spiritually for a day, I try to wake an hour before I leave, so on days like these, I wake up at 2:30am. This wreaks all kinds of havoc on the rest of life. My meal schedule is thrown completely off. My body goes shuts down about 3pm. For some reason, though, I still want to stay up late. That is a part of me that’s just hard to shake. So, on many nights I won’t go to bed until 11pm or so. In case you’re bad at math, that gives me about 3 1/2 hours of nighttime rest.
I think about people before me and people even now who will do this for the better part of their life. I know there are generations before me who worked these kinds of wild hours doing tougher work than me, to lay the foundation that has allowed me to go to college and live pretty comfortably, to take more abstract pursuits without much worry. Some of these generations never even met me, and I am living easier from their sweat. I wonder what I will pass along to the generations down the road–the ones I never meet. Will they be better because of what I’m doing right now?
Today, I’ll play in the 12th annual Mark Wiggins Soccer Classic. This was a silly little soccer game we played during the summer, the year Mark died. We were going to play soccer because it was the weekend, anyway. We tagged the name onto it, half jokingly, because he was still heavy on our minds. I think, even that year, we realized it meant more than we thought it would. There were not enough people to field a true game, and the soccer field at camp didn’t have any standard dimensions. It was a close game, and it ended on penalty kicks. The goals were much smaller than a standard goal, so no one was making their pks. I was the last person on my team to kick, and that choice was based on my skill. In my memory, no one had hit one. I was not expecting success either. In my head, I planned to angle my body towards the right in an attempt to make Scott go in that direction, but kick to the left. Somehow my body did what I told it to, even though I’m not that great at soccer. Scott read my body language, and I fooled him the way I planned. And the greatest miracle of the shot is that I didn’t end up just shanking it into the lake. I buried the ball on the left corner of the goal. My team won, and I had sunk the winning goal. Since then, this game as grown to a yearly event that draws close to 100 people. I still play, but I am very much overshadowed by much younger, much more skilled players. I go out and run hard, but I doubt I will be all that crucial in this year’s game. But there will be generations here. I will know them all. I feel like a patriarch of sorts here, bringing the family back together. And Mark, my brother, joins us on this day.
I walked out on my porch this morning, and the air was light, the sun was low. The breeze was slow and cool. It felt like paradise. I don’t know if I will spend my whole life in this humid place. I crave wind. I crave a friendlier air. My body is begging me now to get away from the blacktop and plant trees over these places that the sunlight punishes. I want to take those plants I’ve watered away from the spots that make them wither so quickly and put them in the places they were born to grow in. I want the bees to come, the birds to build nests above us and sing. I can sense these things much better today. I heard cicadas this morning emerging with the sun from the trees. They know it is a good morning too. After years of waiting, even they know that today is a day to rise up and live. We can find this together. I can feel it now.