“Heat, like an article of invisible clothing, makes us want to take it off.” —The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa.
It is difficult to explain my relationship with heat. As a child I lived in western Arkansas—a part of the south. I suffered from hay fever terribly. At night, I sometimes slept with a damp cloth over my nose. I was not able to mow the grass even though I really wanted to—especially after my dad bought a riding lawn mower. We had attic fans that would draw warm, moist air through the open windows. Within a few of the windows were mounted huge water-cooled air “conditioners” that were essentially water coursing through a big radiator that would absorb the latent heat. I would tape a sheet over the air outlet and let it billow the sheet up and over my body as I slept. My brothers and I would wake with a pool of sweat defining our body shapes. During the summer days, shade was the main place of refuge. It was a time before every room was air conditioned to the set-point that would keep freshly cut meat safe. A time before ladies would wear coats to the mall to keep warm. A time before my mother would turn down the air conditioning so that she could, when the mood struck her, light a fire in the fireplace and eat freshly churned full-fat peach or strawberry ice cream that we boys spent 30 minutes making—and then packing down with ice to “get it real hard.”
From 1977-2013 I lived in an environment that was the opposite extreme: Minnesota. Where the ice was as ubiquitous, from November to March, as the sweltering heat was in Arkansas. These extremes conditioned me in ways that I am now discovering in Mérida.
The summer season has arrived in Mérida. Our daytime temperature now will be hovering a little higher than 90ºF and the peaking to +100ºF in May, June and July. The rainy season then starts bringing with it a whiplash of post-rain, early evening cool dry air following the storm; the storm erupting just before mid afternoon when he earth has warmed. With a burst, the skies release the water vapor in the form of a downpour that will cleanse the city by ridding it of the days accumulated dust and debris.
While living in Minnesota there were rarely what I call trigger days. These are the Proustian days that open up memories of my childhood in the summer in Arkansas. In Mérida, I have many trigger days. So rather that piss-and-moan about the heat I see it is a key that is unlocking some important coming-of-age memories. I can say with certainty, however, that there will be no trigger days that unlock memories of Minnesota—unless of course you don’t count the local cinemas that are deep freezer cold. Those memories I have to conjure up without the aid of mother nature. Bring on the heat.