Beating the summer heat

The unofficial start of summer kicks off with Memorial Day weekend, but where I live, we’ve already seen triple temperatures. Bleh. This no longer counts as springtime to me. Some of my friends love the hot weather. I do not. Though I was raised in a place of heat and humidity, summer is not my favorite season. It’s not even my second-favorite season. Life in California—with its cloudless days, searing heat, lack of shade, and rattlesnakes—has bumped summer down to my least favorite season.

As a runner, I find myself getting up earlier and earlier to dodge the baking sun and rising temps each morning. Yesterday, desperate to avoid a repeat of Monday’s too-hot, too-late-in-the-morning run, I found a handy tool that tells you when the sun will rise and set where you live. (Just for fun, I’ve set it to show times for Daphne, Alabama. You can type in your own city/town and see how it changes for today. Drag the daily line along to see how it will lengthen until June 21 and then begin to shorten. Type in a place south of the equator, and you’ll see the opposite effect.)

I’m not the only one trying to find ways to beat the heat. Western screech-owls have returned to nest in the box on our house, and a couple of evenings ago, I looked outside to see this:

A thirsty owl

An owl sat perched in the waterfall of our backyard koi pond. I didn’t want to scare it away, especially because the fish didn’t seem concerned about its presence. I grabbed the camera and took some shots from inside the house.

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Wild irises and other running diversions

I’ve been ramping up my running mileage lately to prepare for races later this year—a half marathon in August and a full in December. The already-blistering summer heat has me questioning the sanity of these plans, as they’ll require solid training through the summer months.

To take my mind off the running, the weather, and the cruel sun that gets up earlier and earlier each day, I’m always on the lookout for distractions along the trail. Yesterday it was a coyote watching the dog and me from a safe distance. Today, deer and jack rabbits were doing the same.

Along the river, I’ve discovered one of the best diversions: wild yellow irises.

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I’m enjoying these blooms on my morning runs.

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When rain is grace

Today is joyful for me because it has brought a gentle rain. For more than five hours now, the cloudy skies have let their rain fall on the drought-parched land.

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Even with the rain today, the grass likely won’t survive the summer. The soil is already cracking.

I wasn’t the only one celebrating the rain. I went to a favorite coffee spot and sat outside. Several others stared out at the rain instead of looking down at their phones, a good humor showing on their faces. While no one sat in the wet, uncovered chairs, few rushed to their cars. None carried umbrellas. Most wore no raincoat. We were all of us thirsty, trying to soak up the lovely, rare raindrops.

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A rare sight here: rain-covered chairs, rocks and streets

Moving from a place where summer afternoon thunderstorms are the norm, my husband and I have found this drought especially hard. Not that we’ve never experienced drought. We have. We’ve just never experienced such a deep, abiding drought in a place known for scorching summers and wildfires.

I’m nervous about July and August (and probably September, too, if I’m admitting the truth to myself). Heat and relentless sun can turn me cranky and impatient. There will be little rain—and therefore little respite—to quench that ill temper.

Today is different, though. I don’t know when it will rain again, and so I am delighting in this day. The flowers and fruit and trees in our yard are, too. The rain brings a drink that no bucket from the kitchen sink can imitate. The rain brings a cleansing, a renewal, a needed rest from the sun and the heat.

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Parts of the country have been devastated by too much rain, by roaring floods. My heart aches for their losses. But here, for this special day, rain feels exactly like grace.

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John Updike was right: Rain is grace. And I needed both today. How about you?

Favorite trees of summer

Woweee – it’s hot here. After a cooler and wetter than usual season, the summer heat and humidity have finally arrived.

I’ve struggled to run all week. It doesn’t matter how early I get up to run. If I get up before the sun, it’s more humid. If I wait until the sun rises, the humidity starts to drop a little, but then there’s the blasting heat of the sun to contend with.

That’s why I especially love and appreciate trees during the summer: their glorious shade. I can wait for the sun to come up and then run a mostly shaded route. The shade keeps me from getting burned and provides good resting spots so I can catch my breath.

While I’ve been appreciating the shade that trees offer, I have also been thinking about the beautiful and delicious offerings trees give us in summer.

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My favorite summer fruit from a tree

Of all the summer fruit, I love peaches the best. When I was little, we loaded up on peaches when we visited my great aunts each summer, and Mom would make an amazing peach cobbler with some and can the rest to last until the following summer. This has spoiled me to the point that I cannot eat store-bought canned peaches. But I do love eating them fresh during summer. I don’t even bother to peel their fuzzy skin.

In the beauty category, nothing tops the showy display of crape myrtles. I realized just yesterday that all of a sudden (at least, it seems sudden to me), the crape myrtles have flowered. The young tree in my front yard hasn’t bloomed just yet, but I drove over to one of my favorite streets in the city to take a few pictures of the crape myrtles in bloom there:

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One of my favorite streets near where I live

It’s a narrow, twisty street, with cars usually parked on both sides. So drivers have to be polite to one another and let one car at a time go through the space between the cars (for the most part, drivers are respectful of one another while navigating this road; it’s a free-for-all again on connecting roads). The crape myrtles that adorn the street, though, make it worth the slow drive.

The trees on this particular stretch of the road are mostly dark pink, but I found one darker red one in bloom among the pink.

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Red crape myrtle blooms among the mostly pink trees

The largest crape myrtles, like the one below, offer not just beautiful color but also a canopy of shade against the scorching sun.

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What summer trees do you love best, and is it for their beauty or for their fruit?