Wednesday, July 13, 2011

There Will Come Soft Rains

"There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pool singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence–wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone."

Sara Teasdale

Yesterday was another 100–plus–degree day here in Dallas.

I don't know how many straight days of this we have had. I'm sure we've cracked the old century mark every day in July, and the streak probably goes back to the last few days of June.

How long will it continue? I don't know. I check the NOAA website every day, and the last time I looked at it, the temperatures in this area were supposed to be in triple digits at least until this time next week. NOAA's forecasts don't go beyond a week — and Texas weather is notorious for changing without notice — so it may well be weeks before we see our next sub–100° day around here.

I've heard that, statistically, this is just a typical summer in north Texas, and I've lived through enough Texas summers in my life to know that there is a certain amount of truth in that. It's been common knowledge for a long time that it gets really hot here. The average temperatures in July and August are in the mid–90s, but it isn't uncommon for the temperature to exceed 100°.

Every summer, in fact — and often in the spring and autumn months, too — I am frequently reminded of one of my favorite quotations. It came from Union Gen. Phil Sheridan, who is remembered in the history books for his march to the sea, during which he burned the city of Atlanta (an event that was vividly re–created in "Gone With the Wind").

For a time before the Civil War, Sheridan was assigned to a fort in Texas along the Rio Grande. The experience of living here prompted him to say, "If I owned hell and Texas, I would rent out Texas and live in hell."

Sheridan, of course, lived here long before the invention of air conditioning, but I have encountered no disagreement with him among people who have lived here since A/C came along. If anything, those who live here today tend to resent the way they think the utility companies take advantage of heat waves like the one we've been experiencing this summer.

Air conditioning is a necessary evil here, especially when it is as hot as it has been lately. We are constantly reminded that heat is responsible for more deaths around here than any other meteorological cause. Makes sense. There's always more of it.

Anyway, to protect ourselves from the heat, we must run the air conditioning. We have no choice — and, when the daytime highs exceed 100° and the nighttime lows don't even go below 80°, the air conditioning seems to run ceaselessly.

And that leads to incredibly high utility bills — which are never welcome, especially at a time when gas prices are still well over $3/gallon.

But it will end ... eventually.

It was that thought that reminded me of Teasdale's poem from the collection titled "Flame and Shadow" that was published in 1920.

Well, I thought of the title of the poem more than the poem itself — because the poem itself speaks of a post–apocalyptic war world in which humanity has been destroyed and nature starts to reclaim the planet.

I'll grant you, scorched earth might be a good description of this place when the heat wave finally does subside — but that's the point. It will subside.

The temperature will drop — and cool, soft rains will return.

Someday. Maybe soon. Maybe not. But someday.

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