The other day I was laying on the warm deck by the pool after a dip in the saving cool water. I looked straight up into the tree tops far above me and beyond them, into the incredible blue sky of a late August afternoon. A southeasterly wind was blowing the trees around and they compliantly moved at its command, to and fro, with a swishing, easy, and quite pleasant sound. I watched a single leaf from a clump of many way above me, suddenly and with out any particular reason, become detached from its branch and it fell prey to the effects of these invisible winds all on its own. It twirled left, then right, then chaotically it continued its fall from the parent tree, slowly downward, drifting, spinning as do most of the white oak tree leaves, until finally it softly and quietly landed, just next to me, and its journey was done. Its travel time was brief, but, the moment was indelible and forever.
It is late August. To a person who lives in the south, this point in time of the year comes as a reprieve. Just to know the end of the intolerable is coming, is pure unbridled relief. I know many people in other parts of the country and the world are affected by heat waves and scorching temps that can cause all types of issues, but, the key word there is “waves”. A temporary shift in the climate does not form a norm of summer. No theirs is just a minor inconvenience and it provides something to chat about and for the weather channel guys to get excited about.
August usually brings a bit of hope in the form of the changing patterns of the winds that blow across the planet. They bring relief to the stagnant doldrums of July and June by allowing cooler air that comes all the way from Canada via the jet stream to pull winds from the south and the gulf, to stir up the days like a spoon in a mug of coffee. In a premature fall, browned and spent leaves begin their final journeys through the air tossed and twinkling like giant snow flakes until they find their resting spot on the ground below the canopy. Most seem quite determined to find the swimming pool like my single falling leaf had done, where I daily clean them out, only to find them back in the next day.
Ours, being a southern summer, it is unique. It is simply, an unrelenting hell. From mid May until sometimes even as late as the beginning of October it is hot and it is outrageously humid, dangerously so. The oppression of this beast of weather is what we bear as southerners, collectively we endure, we gripe and bemoan, but as stoically as possible, we ride it through with the faith that it will get better, because in truth, it couldn’t get worse.
We are slower people by design for this reason. We talk slower, move slower, and live life at a slower pace so as not to exert too much energy and suffer a heat stroke or two. There are tall iced drinks to keep us cool, swimming pools, and talcum powder to help us calmly ride through these long days of the suffering, sweltering misery. The beaded sweat on the outside of a glass of a Mint Julep mirrors the our plight. But, by sipping the minted, and icy brown elixir it holds, through a sterling silver straw, it relaxes the tension and makes one slow down even more. Quite often it is enough to force one to come to a halt under a front porch ceiling fan and sit for a spell in an ancient wicker chair next to a pack of resting dogs. I think that’s not too bad of a thing given the circumstances, slowing time down, that is.
We presently wait on more news about a storm that started off the coast of Africa a short while back, made its way across the Atlantic, slipped right between Cuba and the Keys, and has now pushed its way into the waiting warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. What began as an unorganized little group of clouds and rain has melded with the energy of the warmer waters, has barreled across the Gulf and is now a massive slowly moving hurricane. This one they are calling Isaac.
They predicted the eye would hit New Orleans, an ironic de ja vu of Katrina, which several years ago and to the day, fairly well demolished the town and good portion of the Gulf coast. Armed with new engineering of the levee system surrounding the bowl that New Orleans sits in, it seems to be keeping the tides out and is pumping the rain out to avoid a repeat. In a town where the state beverage is called the “Hurricane” one would give thought as to why one would want to live in such a potential hurricane target, but if you have ever been to the town it is easier to understand. Apparently out lying areas have not been so lucky nor protected and the rain continues.
Although still many hundreds of miles away, from here in the middle of Alabama, we feel its force. Strong gusts of winds are whipping the green water of the pond into a silver froth and the Spanish moss is gracefully swaying to its rhythm. The wind chimes on the porch softly add to the chorus. Although a shower or two has passed by in the long outstretched bands that circle the storm, we were hoping for more rain, but are grateful for no damage so far.
The other day Mark and I traveled to Birmingham, about seventy miles north of here, to do a photo shoot for a restaurant that had hired out friend, Master Chef Joe DiMaggio, Jr, as a consultant to help give the place a lift of sorts. We had worked with Joe before and it always amazes me at the level of skill he has in creating such beautiful, and incredibly delicious peasant Italian dishes. We ate, we shot dish after dish, we ate, we shot some more,and finally got in our car to drive home, bellies full, and tired but excited. It was so nice to have once again been able to watch a person do his work with such a strong conviction for perfection in his creations and his art with food. Mark made some beautiful shots for the restaurant to use and it was great to be around Joe in the process.
There was no need for supper when we got home. We were satiated in many ways.