Wednesday, July 27, 2011

run away

Even the heat loving Bermuda grass has gone brown and crispy now. What sounds like rain outside my window is the drought stressed river birch dropping its leaves. The temperature's 108.1 °F according to the constant bringer of bad news, Weather Underground, and it's like this day after day after day.

Some of my earliest memories are of wanting to be somewhere else. There have been years in this life when that wish to be elsewhere was spurred by an internal distress. That's long since resolved and still this feeling is with me with some regularity, a lot of late.

I can't capture the essence of it in words. Maybe you've felt it too, this itchy restlessness, a sense of things missed, of other worlds. Lying on my back under a full moon at the top of a mountain in New Mexico, looking at that endless sky, the urge to go, to see, to experience everything in this world is so strong as to be near irresistible. The voice inside whispers run away, run away, just go. I've felt it, too, in the thick of the bird-filled mangroves on the Black River in Jamaica, at the top of a downtown high rise looking out at the city lights. It struck me with wrenching intensity standing alone on the edge of the Grand Canyon watching the sun rise and sparkle on the snow. In my younger years, the urge was always for the city, but these days it's for a big emptiness, for mountains, for the endless horizon of ocean, the rush of a wild river.

Recently, along with the run away urge, comes an awareness of time passing much, much too fast. That, coupled with these dreadful hot days of summer, feeds the sense of urgency. Escape. Where to? I fall asleep reading the GAP Adventures catalog that comes in the mail a few times a year. Where to? Nepal? Overland through Zambia? Mountain trekking in Morocco?

I don't know where I want to go. Actually, that's not entirely true. I want to go everywhere, I just can't settle on a single place. I want to see everything, experience everything, get out and away and on the road. I want away from the sameness and the drudgery of working day after day after day. Time's wasting and this is no way to spend what remains. Had last year's plans worked out as intended, I'd be writing this from the terrace of our Mexico house. The different-ness of that place would be a welcome change, but surely after a while, even there, it would again be time to go.

Do you want to go? Where to? Tell, please.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

cool blue

Never a fan of summer, I am confident the reason I've few memories prior to age four is a result of the heat. Our house on 12th Street had an old swamp cooler that barely reached the bedrooms. On Elmwood, it was central air and my remembered life commenced.

We spent summers until I was 15 or 16 at an air-conditioner-free cabin on a lake at 99 Springs. The difference between western Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma is this: At 99 Springs, nights are cool and mornings are a pleasure. In Tulsa, the hellish heat of night can only be endured. It does not waver in intensity until the early morning hours, dropping briefly to the 80s before the blast furnace reappears with the first rays of sun.

My house A/C is faithful. We're comfortable and grateful inside. I lie around under the ceiling fan reading old magazines and whimpering. Invariably, summer is presented as a grand opportunity for Outdoor! Living! With! Family! And Friends! People are cooking out, resting on the open porch, taking lunch under the trees at 2 p.m.

Just as gardening books always seem to be written for northeastern gardeners (Grow Short Season Tomatoes rather than the desperately needed Kill Those @#%@#%@ Spider Mites), home and garden magazines focus on the joys of living in sane climates, those high-in-the-sky or on-the-globe places where 90 is a heat wave.

Bless your hearts, all you Yankees and mountain folks. Bless. Your. Hearts. Here we're just trying to survive, and daily I check the temperature in Yucatan, thinking of that front porch where the ocean breeze kicks up around noon, and the heat is somehow more tolerable than it is in this dry and dusty landlocked city. Maybe it's the view.

At night I go to the gym and swim. I'm not a good swimmer. Since the summer of '63, when I faked my ability to dog paddle and nearly drowned in Bogan Pool, I have managed to remain afloat, but never in a graceful way.

I care not at all. The pull of the water is irresistible. In that cool, blue world, the only sound comes from my kicking feet and my breath escaping the snorkel. Yes, it's true. I don my snorkel and mask and swim that tile pool, never lifting my head, cutting through the water as if I'm above a coral reef. The dark blue line leads me end to end, and I find absolute peace in the rhythm and the sounds and the softness of the water.

There's no heaven in Tulsa this time of year, except in that pool, late at night. There, I imagine I'm in the tropical waters I love. I escape this life completely. An hour back and forth and my mind empties of anything beyond the sensation of water on skin, of hands and feet propelling me forward.

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