Yesterday afternoon I was chilling on the couch, reading some H.P. Lovecraft, when the Biker called to me "There's some people here who want to see their gardener!"
And so it was that I was summoned forth by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
"We're here because we haven't come over for awhile," announced one. The other two nodded. "We didn't come over because-" and things devolved into the usual mix of chaos and fantasy. There was something about a crazy cat lady and a travel trailer and needing to sleep in a tent and I don't know what all, and meanwhile they're roaming around inspecting the place. I'd just pulled up a lot of things that had gone by, and I was informed that I'd made quite a mess. "But you'll clean it up," said the oldest.
They discovered my bicycle in the shed, and were absolutely amazed by it. "It's SO OLD', they marveled. "Why's it got a basket on it? Can you do a wheelie?"
And somehow I ended up riding out with Death, Famine, War and Pestilence. Since there are only three consistent Horsemen and the fourth position is usually taken by a random kid or kids, I got to be...I dunno, Pestilence, I guess.
I really needed to ride my bike slooowlyyy up and down the sidewalk in the middle of the hottest part of the day with three little boys, lemme tell you. The littlest doesn't know how to use the brakes on his bike so he crashed into me to stop, and I was told to expect this because "That's the only way he wants to stop, you know." Back and forth we wobbled, mostly in a tangle.
Somehow in the middle of all this, I went from being Mrs. FirstNations to Firsty. This is when it suddenly occurred to me: They are not my pet Horsemen. I am their pet old lady.
We are being given a break from the second heatwave, thank God. But I look at Oregon on the weather maps and you can see where I grew up, the Willamette Valley, show as one long and very distinct streak of red - and that's how I remember it during this time of the year. So hot that everyone stayed up until midnight or later and all the little kids ran around the neighborhood with flashlights, or slept on towels at their parents feet; and people wandered from house to house in the dark visiting. It's one of my favorite childhood memories.
But the days were hell. The Willamette Valley gets heat inversions (I may have that name wrong.) What it means is that one layer of air covers over the valley from side to side along it's entire geological length, and the air beneath just sits there and gets hotter and dirtier and more humid and the wind doesn't blow - not even the hint of a breeze.
The days were horrible. The air over Portland turned a lurid sienna color, and it smelled like smoke. Of course there was always a burn ban on, but everyone would have a bonfire at night, and of course folks were barbecuing and grilling outdoors; and there was usually a wildfire going on up in the Cascades - and that smoke just laid there. The moon would come up magnified to insane proportions by all the crud in the air, like the initial dome of fire in an atomic blast, and everyone would gather outside to watch it rise, blazing orange or bright scarlet, over the side of Mt. Hood.
There was a benefit, although it was kind of eerie - that kind of weather made all the plants just continue to grow and get bigger and fatter and more full of juice, because the wind didn't take the humidity out of the air, and the humidity was seldom below 90%. It would get positively Amazonian toward the end of August, the wild grasses growing six and seven feet tall, trees with their limbs hanging from the weight of the leaves, the fruit, and new, water-fat growth. To stand under an apple tree was like standing inside a terrarium that smelled of apple leaves and fallen, oversweet apples going by, and you could feel it on your skin, the damp. It was shade, but it was weird, freaky shade.
The wild things and the perennial things grew like crazy, but everyones' lawn was dead white in August. Even the people with in-ground watering systems ended up with perfect round spots of green around each sprinkler head, surrounded by dead grass.
There's a nice breeze blowing here, and I've had to learn to compensate for it by watering in the evening to avoid windburn during the day. That took me by absolute surprise. I had this body memory of the Willamette Valley and it just seemed so weird and wrong to be watering in August. In Oregon, your vegetable garden would be going nuts; the tomatoes would go rogue, everything got huge and Frankensteinian, and if you watered, those garden plants would rot. Different story here entirely. Everything waits until August to jump, and then you better be ready with the hose every evening or the next afternoon it will have fainted, coughing it's last, like a Victorian lady with a tight corset.
I hope that wherever you are, the weather isn't sucking. If it is, take care.