Friday, June 17, 2005

Heat Wave

The summer heat is upon us!

This is my first summer as an official Florida resident. In the past, as tourists, my husband and I avoided Disney World from June through August. It wasn't just the heat; the idea of waiting in three hour lines with thousands of other hot, sweaty, cranky people didn't hold much appeal. We'd do a last hurrah in May, while the kids are still in school, and then return in September when they've gone back and the temperatures are starting to moderate.

Now, as residents, we're here 24/7. We avoid the heavily-trafficked tourist areas, but here in good old Celebration we're right in the midst of the heat. We had a long, pleasant spring, but now the heat index has shot past one hundred degrees (the temperature itself hovers at a "mere" 90-something). The mugginess bathes you the moment you step outside, and getting into the car is like stepping into a blast furnace.

I had heard many horror stories about summer in Florida, and I wasn't sure I'd be able to take it. Once the temperature starts hovering in the 90s, and the humidity reaches 100 percent, I have a hard time breathing. When I try to fill my lungs with air, it's like drawing in a cloud of water vapor. Chicago gets a few snaps of blistering heat, and I know how badly I've reacted to them in the past. I was worried that the same thing would happen in Celebration.

But surprisingly, I haven't had that problem yet. Maybe my body has undergone a gradual transition that started when we came down in January. Like one of those pod people in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," it has slowly but completely transformed itself. Or perhaps there are Darwinian principles at work...adapt or perish. I suspect that my once-thick blood has gotten as thin as red-tinted water. I used to be proud that I could swin even when the air was as "chilly" as 70 degrees (which is a downright balmy winter temperature by northern standards). Now, I strongly suspect that I'll be wearing a jacket at 70 and a winter coat if hte mercury dips down to 50.

I reveled in the gorgeous days of the long spring season, and then summer suddenly snuck up on me. I started suspecting the heat was here to stay when my t-shirt ended up soaked after my early-morning walk. My friend and I usually enjoy a Barnie's beverage while sitting on the lakefront after our exercise. I realized that summer was here without a doubt the day that Barnie's air conditioned interior was more appealing than a rocker by the water.

My cat, Stitch, also recognizes the weather change. He is mostly black, so his fur soaks in the heat like a solar panel. He used to explore my entire garden, getting his leash tangled on the flowers and bushes. Now, he takes a few steps out, then collapses on the shady porch or under a bush in the cool mulch.

The unrelenting summer temperatures are taking a toll on my flowers, too. I used to be able to get away with watering them once a day, but now they all wilt if I don't take the hose to them at least twice. My lawn has developed some ugly dead spots, but I've managed to revive them a little. I water them judiciously and transplant the grass that invades my mulched areas into the barren patches.

It amazes me that I can walk and garden and generally enjoy the great outdoors without gasping for breath. My internal temperature gauge is obviously adjusting, but my lungs must be doing so, too. I'm glad because I didn't want to live like a vampire, venturing out only when the lethal sun has slipped beyond the horizon. I like to walk and bike and swim and garden during the daylight. Now, if my albino skin would just take on some protective permanent pigment, I'd be all set.

I know that the temperatures haven't reached their peak yet; it's only June, so we have still have July and then the Dog Days of August to survive. But somehow I think it's going to be easier than I thought. I knew that my husband would be fine, as he thrives on heat that would make Satan weep, but I had grave doubts about myself. Now, surprise surprise...I'm loving the tropic climate.

I never thought the day would come, but I'll bet it happens this winter: the hearty northern tourists will all be laughing at me when I'm bundled up in 60 degree temps. in December or January. When that happens, I'll know that I've become a true Floridian at last.

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