The weather has turned hot again in this part of the country, with predicted heat indexes to be over 100 degrees for most of the week. Whenever the long winter months finally give way to heat, everything changes: moods, activities, habits, even expectations. We like our winters in the Upper Midwest for the most part, but when summer finally breaks through, we are ecstatic.
Warmth generates an honesty that we miss in the wintertime. People are outside both day and night, visible in their activities and even their shapes, as the bundled layers of clothing give way to minimalist drapery (which is sometimes good and sometimes not so good). But it creates a freedom of feeling and movement regardless of the visual effect, and in a sense we feel as though maybe we can see people for who they are, without the subterfuge of hidden agendas. We’re much more likely to see each other, walking, biking, running, just being. There is a “coming out” that is the midsummer. Backyard barbeques and community socials generate togetherness, a shared celebration of the return of warmth, and a closeness radiates among us as we jointly bask in the fervor of July and August. Beaches, baseball, bare feet and fireflies light up a summer’s night as well as our own internal sense of bliss, no matter what the temperature extremes. We become more mobile, and it seems as though we might smile and laugh louder and more frequently, though that could be simply because more people are out and about to hear it. It’s as if we are somehow comforted at knowing our community is alive and well, that we can go about our daily work in the visual assurance that every one else is, too, and we just feel more like we’re together in this thing called life. There is power in such belief that boosts our sense of well-being, even if in an obtuse way. This week we will inevitably complain about the heat, just as we gripe about the cold in January. But deep inside, we don’t mind it at all, because of its reassurances. There is great solace to be found in warmth, and even the mere presence of one another.
The heat of a summer’s day is really more than 180 degrees opposite of winter’s cold. The thermometer is but one measure. In the winter the air is frigid and we normally don’t enjoy the daily presence of one another. It’s more than the mercury that drops. Spirits sag, as well, as we are hidden from one another in the confining clothes in which we surround ourselves. Our immobility limits both our actions and interactions. There’s even a medical condition that afflicts some during these dark and cold days, Seasonal Affective Disorder, that seems to embody at some level what is wrong with all of us who are cold. We know the symptoms: slow responses, social withdrawal, unhappiness and irritability, loss of interest in activities and people. It’s a list of symptoms that could be the mirror opposite of the positive phenomena described above, so it should be no surprise to learn the suggestions for treatment: getting out, exercising and interacting can make the symptoms better. Keeping active socially, even if it involves some effort, has the ability to salve the symptoms. It turns out that warmth is a pretty effective antidote for a lot of things.
I know that when I travel to Nicaragua I’ll be feeling the heat, no matter what time of year. I marvel at Nicaraguans and their ability to live in the heat. I know that warmth is part of their lifestyle and they embrace it as part of their heritage. But I also know that they sometimes fear the frigid temperatures of the North, for cold can be a dangerous thing….