Being Historically Minded
The Superintendent


"All through our gliding journey, on this day as on so many others, a little song runs through my mind.  I say a song because it passes musically, but it is really just words, a thought that is neither strange nor complex.  In fact, how strange it would be not to think it --- not to have such music inside one's head and body, on such an afternoon.  What does it mean, say the words, that the earth is so beautiful?  And what shall I do about it?  What is the gift that I should bring to the world?  What is the life that I should live?

(Mary Oliver, in Long Life: Essays and Other Writings)

I don't know what it means that the world today is so hot.  One hundred and seven my car thermostat leaned over and said, gasping.  I imagined how the tires must feel --- rotate, rotate, rotate --- and how the hard plastic of the wheel might simply melt in my hands, leaving me with only a kind of rutter, one with machine.  And the poor air conditioner --- cool it, cool it, cool it --- struggling to keep up.  But I like it, somehow.  I like it.  Leaving work I sat in my car for a minute or two, basking in the sauna of my seat, windows up, maybe 120 degrees, who knows.  People pay good money for this, I mused, and I have it free.  I don't even need a coupon.

I don't know why it is so hot.  It could be global warming.  It could be the accumulated wind of 100,000 political bloggers, the ciphers of The Health Care Opinion, combined with the insubstantial  soundbytes of politicians.  I don't know.  It's too hot even for the modulated and slightly cynical voices of NPR.  To hot even to listen to the Beach Boys (sacrilege!).  Is it my imagination or does the road have a certain elasticity in this heat?  I see it undulating in my windshield, my heat-shield.  I wonder what sunstroke feels like.

Do the trees look exhausted to you, their branches sagging?  Where are the birds?  Did the brook in the dip of my street go undercover?  Did the grass retreat, fall back into the soil?  Is everyone on the street diminished, shorter, wider, wading through the hot breath of the earth? Is the sun closer, larger, glorying in its day?

I don't know why it's so hot.  But I kind of like it.  I like the fact that I have an excuse not to do yard work  (what, cut the grass, in this heat, are you kidding?), not to exercise walk, not to clean out the attic (it's only about 140 degrees in there, but then who's counting, what's a few Fahrenheits).  I don't even have to water the flowers (too flipping HOT!).  may even drive the car down to get the newspaper at the bottom of the driveway (heat exhaustion, you know, sunstroke).  Garbage is piling up in the garage (too HOT!).  The cat ran out the door when I opened it, did a 90 degree turn in mid-air, and returned, never having touched the ground.  Not fit for man or beast out there.

But I like it.  Think I'll bask in the sun, just me and the garden hose.  Grill something.  Shoot some hoops.  Wash the car (no need to dry it).  Dream up a mirage.  A cold, watery mirage.

What kind of a song would Mary Oliver have in her head here, today?  She lives on Cape Cod, for goodness sakes, what does she know about HOT weather?  She did write a poem called Thirst.  That resonates. I can hear her now, whispering in my ear, "What does it mean that the world is so hot? And what shall you do about it?"

I'll tell you what I'm doing about it: I'm going inside, turning the air down to 68, pouring an ice cold drink, reclining in my chair, and unlaxing. (that's the superlative of relaxing). That's the music I hear.  That's the song in my head.

(written really fast, at 102 degrees, slightly deliriously, as our air conditioner on our second floor has resigned)