Friday, June 18, 2010

Summer in the South

June.

Farmer's markets sprout on every corner. In their depths lie bushels of red tomatoes, juicy and ready for slicing. The bristly tips of corn peek out of a huge basket near the cash register. A pyramid of cucumbers is built next to the overflowing bins of squash. Fruit is heaped in wicker baskets everywhere - peaches, plums, blackberries, fragrant in the dim humidity.

Children are everywhere - on skateboards, on bikes, on rollerblades, on bare brown feet toughened by hot asphalt and dead scratchy crabgrass. They squint against the sun's constant glare, playing games of make-believe, pretending sticks are swords and trees are forts. They cluster in pockets of shade, trading stories, making plans. The ice cream truck circles endlessly, its tinkling melody maddening in the heat.

That heat is merciless and demanding, leaching every ounce of energy from your flesh as you work your way through the morning and into the afternoon. Air-conditioning is a given in any business; the silky rush of climate control on your skin as you step from the sweltering parking lot to the cool interior of a bank (or grocery store or restaurant) is shocking and sweet. The heat pushes its hands into your face and runs its fingers over your scalp, prickling and uncomfortable. It rides on your shoulders and settles in the fork of your crotch. It kisses your face with wet smacks and makes you wish for the deepest recesses of winter - although such tremendous heat makes you question if the season ever existed at all.

Every afternoon a thunderstorm rolls in, hiding the horizon's blue mountains with a scrim of gunmetal gray. Clouds tower in the southeast, rolling over and over like strange dough worked by huge invisible hands. Trees whip back and forth, whispering together in an uneasy chorus. The skies open and rain cascades in sheets so thick you can see it on the road, moving like a curtain of water. Thunder roars overhead; lightning spikes the horizon with a crooked finger. Fifteen minutes later the sky is blue-over-pink and cloudy tendrils of steam hang over the blacktop like restless ghosts. In the distance, a brilliant rainbow marks the passing storm's edge.

As the sun sinks below the horizon the fireflies appear one by one, stuttering coded messages to each other from across the yard. The twitter of birds is replaced by the constant reeeeee of crickets and cicadas, a chorus which stretches into the wee hours of the morning. The humidity presses sweaty hands on your skin.

A glass of sweet tea, the rind of a lemon dancing in the liquid as you drink. Ice cubes chatter against the glass; the condensation makes it slippery. The bed calls you, promising you can wake up early to do the things you had planned for the evening. You slip between cool sheets and let your exhaustion melt into the mattress, knowing you'll probably be unable to get up early but too tired to care. The day plays through your mind as you drift off, the humming circle of fan blades above lulling you into sleep.

And then up in the morning to do it all over again.

20 comments:

welcome to my world of poetry said...

A wonderful write, most enjoyable to read.

Take care.
Yvonne.

J M.Smith said...

I'm an "official suburban farmer", and yet you've moved me to wanting a trip to my farmer's market.

Elliot Grace said...

...great read, Becky:)

I'm originally from Florida, my family guilty of yearly get-a-ways to Charleston, this post has me yearning to pack the car and roll.

"...where the humidity lingers about, unseen, yet with the strength to down the largest of men."

(still a southerner at heart, and always.)

Cruella Collett said...

Despite the fact that I don't deal very well with heat and humidity, I desperately want to go to the US South now! And I want a plum and some sweet tea.

Any chance the South delivers to Norway?

J.L. Stratton said...

With all its small town politics, slow pace of life, and different thinking; the American Southeast is still a wonderful place. I say this as a transplant.

Your post takes the normal daily activities of southern folks, the weather and heat of summer, the sounds and smells, and makes the reader stop and reflect on just how nice it really is. Thanks. Great post.

Al said...

Lovely,
I really enjoyed this.

It sounds so like the tropical North of Oz. I hate the heat and humidity until the afternoon storms roll in, then it all seems worthwhile!

Al

Publish or Perish

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That sounds like summer in the south all right! I hate humidity and heat.

Laura Marcella said...

I enjoyed reading this very much! I love summer. :)

sarahjayne smythe said...

Great post. I loved how it took me from where I am to somewhere I'd like to be. :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Thanks for the reminder - it's been in the 90's for two weeks now. YUCK!!!!

And a blogger buddy of mine, DL, is looking for a blogger from every state and he lacks SC, so I told him about your blog.

Wendy Ramer said...

Great imagery...but you forgot the mosquitos ;-)

Watery Tart said...

You write so beautifully... I can feel my skin prickling with heat, even though it isn't nearly that hot here, and I love the mix of good and bad you've included.

Ellie said...

Your imagery is great ;-D You wrote my life...lots of crickets in frogs in my parts; How did you know I drank tea with lemon... lol

B. Miller said...

Thanks guys!! I wish I could transport all of you here. I'd share some sweet tea and we'd watch the afternoon storm roll in together. ;)

hampshireflyer said...

That was lovely... although I'm perversely glad we don't have summers like that here :)

Kierah Jane Reilly said...

love the image of ice cubes chattering! i'm with alex though. i hate humidity!

Jemi Fraser said...

I can't even imagine heat like that. We had humidity up to 35 degrees Celsius today and that was more than enough for me!

Raquel Byrnes said...

That was amazing. I love your word choices. Crooked fingers of lightning, gunmetal gray, restless ghosts...lemon dancing in the tea.

You are a wonderful writer. Thanks for that snippet of southern life.

Ashley said...

You don't know me, and I don't know you really, but I promise I'm not creepy :) I wandered onto your blog after you commented on Allie Brosh's site and could not stop myself from leaving you a comment on this post. I myself am a lifelong Texan and what you wrote here is probably the closest thing to "painting a picture with words" that I've ever encountered. Just...wow. You did a beautiful job with this!

B. Miller said...

Wow, thank you so much Ashley!! Hope to see you around here again really soon... :)