If we are not careful and paying attention, we can let the professional weatherpeople lead us down the path of meteorological despair. “It’s 90, but it feels like 106!” they warned today as summer made the apparently unwelcome visit to Minnesota even though we’ve been longing for it for weeks.
When I let the Blog Dog back in from her morning inspection of the south 40 this morning, she was panting like a two-stroke engine, a reminder to me to keep the windows shut and the air conditioner on. You don’t want to go out in this weather because, you know, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity that will get you if you’re not careful.
That’s a phrase that still occupies a disk sector in the hard drive in my head, “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”
It’s around 1960, the memory bank reveals, and I’m at my mother’s feet while she utters those words to someone. We’re in the driveway of our home.
“What’s humidity?” I asked.
“You can’t really feel it when you’re a kid,” she said. “But when you get older, you’ll know.”
I’m older now, of course. I recognize humidity and loathe its existence and the passing of time that made its recognition possible.
The senses are a time machine. A song on the radio takes you anywhere in the past you want to go. A smell — for me, it’s Candyland in downtown St. Paul — transports you to a boardwalk, a summer night, and a lost love.
I could avoid the outdoors no longer this morning. I had to dump the coffee grounds in the compost bin. I had no choice but to accept fate, open the back door and step into … 1964.
This temperature. This humidity. I remember this exact combination in a place and moment that no longer exists. It’s a trailer on the oceanfront of Plum Island in Newburyport, Massachusetts, which seemed like luxury then but which I realize now was a desperately cramped spot for five kids and two parents.
I am 10 years old and it’s the beginning of another perfect day, me with my freedom to spend it roaming the beach looking for lost lures, watching the charter boats head for George’s Bank, seeing what’s up at the Coast Guard station, standing at the end of the jetty as the tide comes in pretending I’m the captain of a trawler in the storm, smelling the rope at the tackle store, or riding the bike to the variety store for the latest Archie comic book. My parents are half the age I am now. It is summer, I don’t know what a dewpoint is, and these are the best days of my life.
Be careful if you go out today. You might become 10 years old again.