Now is the summer of my discontent.
This is the time of year that I loathe above all others. While people in non-desert locales complain of 80-degree temperatures mixed with (arguably heavy) moisture, the people of the Sonoran try desperately to avoid passing out in 108 degrees with little relief on the horizon. It’s especially difficult this year. The heat came in like a fire bolt. Frankly, none of us would survive here without the miracle of modern refrigeration. But even with that comfort, I am a miserable, dried husk of a person. I’m made even more miserable because that is not my normal state. I like to move. I like to explore. And I like having possession of all of my faculties. Summers have longer days, but it feels as if time has been sapped from us. Some people adapt better than others. I’ve been here for 20 years; I’m working on it.
The summers are the biggest reason why NOT living in Laveen might seem like a good prospect. They are a perfect reminder that nature, when challenged, can and will try to KILL you! The desert isn’t the only thing having a temperamental drought. With nothing left to do but stay inside and grump (or suffer heat stroke), many humans like myself find that they spend their time in the desert wandering the recesses of their minds. The hot months are my diaspora of the soul. I wander and I starve and I stumble, begging for some sign of life, for something wet and green to sustain me.
This isn’t depression; it’s isolation. Man was meant to be a part of nature. I’ve been cut off from a friend as if we’ve had some bitter falling out. Trying to reconcile with her requires quite a commitment. I could simply walk outside and let fate take its toll. What harm is there in charred shoe soles, dehydration, and sunburns (or cancer) between friends? I could also just go somewhere else for a while, but that takes effort and who wants to exert effort in 108 degrees! I’m also not so wealthy as to have a cabin in the woods for summer get-aways. California beaches are my only brief respite. If I could afford to live in Carpinteria, I’d book a one-way flight there now. But I am where I am for a reason, and I try to make the best of it.
While it’s easy to keep cool in our modern homes, it’s much harder to pull myself out of the shadows of my emotional, mental drought. I feel like a tree, stuck in place but still the most influential thing in the environment if I can hold on through this season. This is the time of year when I just need to re-find myself. It’s a constant process, I think, finding yourself. That little bugger keeps changing, like trying to tie down a hyperactive ant! But, it can also be exhilarating. I can’t explore real forests now, becoming a part of the rich landscape and stretching out my limbs, but I can certainly take a path or two through my limitless mind.
Now, I don’t mean finding myself as it refers to all that branding stuff that’s out there. I don’t need to create myself; I’m already created. I’m already me. What really needs to happen is this: I need to dig my roots deep and allow myself to just breathe, to just grow. I can wait out the heat as well as I can wait out a storm. Weather weathers us in many ways. Trees don’t care what form they take, they never bother with the twist of their branches or whether their leaves are perfectly colored. They simply move toward the water and toward the light, bending only if the wind wills them so. But still they grow. I’ve never met an ugly tree. They’re all magnificent, they’re all worth knowing, especially the old, solid ones that look like they’ve seen much change.
In times like these, I try to remember that my roots are covered in a soft, black mud. I’m from the green, wet hills of North Texas, and I carry that with me as I spread out, branch out in this desert. Those roots are grounded in nursery rhymes and fairy tales with my grandmother. They are nestled in memories of barefoot adventures through abundant life: grass, buttercups, and fireflies. Humans are strange types of trees. We can move about, stretch, and explore, but still come right back to where we started. I don’t need to worry about drying up in this drought, this diaspora of the soul, because I’m nourished by deepest waters. In short, when I cannot go any higher or any deeper, I spend my energies on strengthening the stuff within. I pick up a book and I create something to sustain me in this hibernation. Accomplishing something that allows my mind to grow is necessary for survival.
It’s not easy to find a moment for self-preservation when so many shelter under my canopy and depend on me. There’s a meme out there that suggests that we humans have just as much time in our days as the remarkable artists Michelangelo and Leonardo. Bwhahahahaha!!!! NO! I will never be mistaken for a well-to-do man with patrons to sustain my hobbies and servants to do the menial tasks. That sort of self-expression is discouraged in this century as it is. It’s not about honoring God or propelling the betterment of humanity; it’s about money. Money doesn’t breathe life into me though, so I take the time that I can and try to find just a bit of the joys, challenges, and exultations the masters had once upon a time.
So, even though I can declare in dramatic Richard III-like fashion that this season has left me discontented, I can also be honest enough with myself to realize that such discontent forces me to rediscover what it is that makes me who I am. I’m soaking up a different sort of sunshine, one leaf at a time.