Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Dead Season.

The city is iron hot and just as steamy as July rolls on. My cobblestone street here in Red Hook, a near-peninsula along the west coast of Brooklyn with hazy views of the Statue of Liberty, is quiet but for the rumble and hiss of the air conditioners in windows above and below me. Sometimes I hear the gate across the street open and close as children wander over to buy homemade icies.

This is the first summer in three that I've been able to bare my arms and legs and as July's noon sun flattens out shadows, I'm feeling a little too exposed, blanched and wilted. Last summer I was in hot, dry Africa where women are not squeamish about baring their breasts but won't expose anything below the waist but the ankle. The summer before I was in Egypt, where women still dare to show their faces but little else.

Because I'm working from home, I have kept the habits I established over the year and a half of travels: one shirt and one pair of paints, washed when dirty and hung to dry overnight. Some days I don't even dress, sitting around in my nightie until I decide to make the walk to the deli half a block away, if only for a cold drink or just to say I got out of the house. But those days are the bad days and I'm trying to have good, productive days. If only this heat would go away.

Fall, when everything is dying and rotting, is a season of color and cool. Trees dress up in red and yellow, preparing for a wild party at which they will eventually dance around and then get naked. Fall drags you out from the oasis glaze of the hot months to rejoice in crisp smells and cool temperatures. It is a time to make plans, get to work and to write out lists of goals.

The traditional "dead season", winter, is not dead at all. The holidays come around and we sing and wear fancy clothes and see our families. If we're lucky, snow dresses everything up in white, we don our big coats and move quickly to stay warm.

Spring is, well, spring. All wound up and about to pop. And then it pops and birds come back and trees get all yellow-green and we all fall in love.

But summer, when nothing moves, is a great pause. A dead season that keeps you from enthusiasm, from making decisions of consequence, from moving under the great weight of heat and humidity. Colors and constitutions bleach, flatten out in white, relentless sun. It is the pause when all things are put off and nothing seems urgent. Which means that nothing seems to matter at all.

This week, a dead week of 98 degrees, my love killed me. I'm poached like an egg, immovable, talking to the fan and writing overwrought paragraphs. I want the summer to be over now, I want to pull on long-sleeved shirts and long pants and go for a walk, then close the windows against an evening chill and make a pot of tea. I want to crawl into cool sheets at night that tell me I exist by warming to me. I want to make lists and care about them, to watch the trees get dressed in bright colors and to hear the kids run back to school.

But its only the middle of July and the dead season will surely drag on for too many more weeks. All I can do is let it drag on.



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