Flower Pot Fail

It’s been beastly hot in Columbus over the past few weeks, with temperatures in the 90s and very little rain.  You might aptly describe the weather as broiling — but that’s July in Ohio for you.

We’ve been gone for a few days during this torrid period.  That’s been good for us, because we were enjoying much cooler weather, but for the plants in our front flower pots?  Not so much.  When I got home they were dried out and teetering on the edge of death.  I’ve been watering them in the morning and again at night in hopes of saving them and am seeing some hopeful green signs, but it’s obvious the hot weather combined with lack of watering knocked them for a severe loop.  The flowers and plants in our beds, on the other hand, seem to have survived the hot dry weather just fine.

It makes me question whether having flower pots during a midwestern summer makes any sense at all — unless you are going to be around on a daily basis to water them.  Since we’re on the road regularly, I’m thinking that next year we might forgo the cruelty to the poor potted plants and the guilt that comes from seeing desiccated brown leaves.

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Fire And Ice

It’s been so cold for such a long spell lately that it’s got me thinking about cold and heat — and which is worse to endure for long periods.

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Extreme heat is bad for a lot of reasons.  It saps your energy, you’re a sweaty mess for most of the day, and — for me, at least — it’s impossible to get a good night’s sleep in a hot room.  And, when a heat wave hits, you read stories about heat stroke and even death for people left in rooms without air conditioning.  Extreme cold is bad for a lot of reasons, too.  It’s uncomfortable and wearing to constantly feel chilled and shivery, bundling up produces hat head and static electricity shocks, and the cold, dry air leaves your skin feeling desiccated and cracked.  And extreme cold can produce frostbite and death, as well as sad news stories about unfortunate dogs being found frozen solid on porches in Toledo.

Right now, in the midst of an arctic blast that has kept temperatures in the single digits and teens for more than a week, I’m sure I would gladly trade brutal cold for heat — and come the next August hot spell, I’m equally certain I would happily swap terrible heat for cold.  But I think Robert Frost had it right in one of his early poems:  both heat and cold have their own distinctive destructive powers.

Fire and Ice, by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

A Failing Grade In Sweaty White Guy 101

Today I wore a purple cotton golf shirt on our walk around Hyde Park. That was a mistake. In fact, Richard described it as failing to learn lessons I should have learned in Sweaty White Guy 101 — namely, wear an undershirt.

That’s20140628-152031-55231399.jpg probably true, but I’m not sure an undershirt would have made a significant difference under the circumstances. Today was one of those soupy, ultra-humid days where the air feels like electrically charged steam and thunderstorms roll through every hour or so. I could wear five t-shirts and I’d still be embarrassingly wilted and sweat-stained after walking only a few blocks.

At least Kish and Richard were able to do some Rorschach free-association analysis on the sweat patterns on my shirt.  And I would yargue that I didn’t completely flunk Sweaty White Guy 101 — I at least brought some extra shirts.

Our First Cold Morning In Months

This morning — only a day or so before the official start of autumn — we had our first cold morning in many months.

The last few weeks we’ve moved gradually from hot, sweaty, shorts and t-shirt mornings to cooler, pleasant, long pants and long-sleeved shirts mornings.  This morning, with the temperature hovering around a bracing 40 degrees, I had to break out my favorite hooded sweatshirt for the first time — and I needed it, too.

The night skies were clear and the stars blazed, and it was as if the warmth had been sucked from the world.  Water vapor billowed from the surfaces of the darkened ponds and creeks into the brisk air as we walked past, and we were just on the edge of frost on the ground and visible breath.  I felt the familiar sensation of numbing cold creep into the tip of my nose, my exposed ears, and my fingers.

As we neared the end of the walk, I looked forward with anticipation to a piping hot cup of black coffee.  We get accustomed to the heat, and then we get accustomed to the cold.  A steaming cup of coffee helps.

Spoiled Food, Cold Showers, And Hotel Hunters

The brutal thunderstorm that barreled through Columbus Friday night continues to have an impact.  Although our electricity was restored last night, I learned today that many people still don’t have electricity — and have been told they won’t have power until next Saturday, July 7.  An entire week without electricity, in modern America!

One of the people so affected is UJ.  Being of hardy stock, he plans on toughing it out.  He doesn’t keep much food in his refrigerator and he drank the milk that was there when the lights went out, so he hasn’t had anything spoil.  He’ll eat out, sleep with the windows open, grit his teeth through ice-cold morning showers, and hope that Mother Nature has pity on Columbus and allows for a few unseasonably cool days or some rain this week — so long as there are no storms that make things worse.

Other people don’t have that option.  If they are susceptible to the heat, they can’t take a chance on suffering heat stroke or dehydration in homes that have been heated to uncomfortable levels.  There’s been a run on generators, and I’m betting that there aren’t many available hotel rooms around.  And if you have a pet that you hope to keep cool, you’ll have even fewer hotel options.

Richard and I went to Kroger today to buy a few items, and the store was jammed.  People in our area lost just about everything that is perishable, and ice was at a premium.  When we were at the store the loudspeaker announced that the ice shipment had arrived, and shoppers made a beeline for the loaded pallet between aisles 11 and 12.  We also noticed that, on many of the refrigerated shelves, lots of the product was gone — presumably the result of shoppers who had lost their orange juice and milk and needed to replenish their supply.  Who knows how much food has spoiled because of the extended power outage?

I’m betting that people will be telling stories about the thunderstorm of June 29, 2012 and its aftermath for a long time.

Hitting The Triple Digits

Today the outdoor temperature in Columbus hit the triple digits.  According to the outside thermometer in my car, we got as high as 101 degrees, Fahrenheit.

I was feeling kind of sorry for myself and the rest of the overcooked residents of Ohio’s capital city until I talked to some folks in St. Louis and learned that, there, it was supposed to hit 106 degrees today and 109 degrees tomorrow.  109 degrees!  It sounds like part of a recipe, the setting on a sextant, or a section of the instructions on how to locate a distant galaxy in the evening sky, rather than part of the daily weather report.

I normally don’t really mind hot weather, but when the mercury hits 100 or more the nature of the heat seems to assume an almost physical dimension.  When I stepped out of my car at a gas station this afternoon, the wall of heat hit me like a fist.  When I drove home tonight at about 8:45, with the sun hanging low on the horizon, it was still 95 degrees.  I can’t imagine trying to sleep tonight in a room that isn’t air-conditioned — I don’t care how many fans might be running.

The Mountains In Summer

When the hot summer months hit — and they’ve definitely hit much of America, which is broiling under a hot sun and a stifling heat wave — our thoughts naturally turn to summer vacation.  For most Americans, that means a trip to a beach, or a lake, or some other water-bound destination where swimming will be a big part of the vacation activities.

It didn’t use to be that way.  Long ago, summer vacations were designed to get away from the heat, rather than seek it out.  For many Americans, that meant going up into the mountains to enjoy the cool air and breathe deep the scent of pine.

Somewhere along the way, however, trips to the mountains were eclipsed by the lure of the sand and the scent of suntan lotion.  That’s too bad.  Speaking as someone who has just returned from a trip to the mountains in Whistler, British Columbia, I would recommend a mountain vacation to anyone.

Our trip to Whistler was beautiful and refreshing.  The temperature during the day was in the 60s, and at night in the high 40s and low 50s.  A morning walk was a brisk experience and chance to gulp down cool, fresh air.  You could sleep at night with the windows open, and walk around during the day without becoming drenched in the sticky, cocoa butter-infused sweat of the beach.

With the emphasis on skin cancer and the aging effects of constant tanning, perhaps the summer trip to the mountains will make a comeback.  The only downside I can see is the shock to the system when you land back home, walk outside, and gasp at your first encounter with the 90-degree wall of heat.