Perfect Day

Today is one of those very rare and perfect summer days. In the nine Julys I've lived in eastern Virginia, it's the first relatively cool summer. Yes, we've had our HHH (hazy, hot, humid) days that feel like a wet dishrag, but today it's in the 70s and I don't think the humidity is any higher.

When I opened the door this morning and discovered it was cooler out than in, I shut off the air conditioning and opened all the windows and turned on all the fans. The house is cool and occasionally the natural breeze blows through it. It is a vast improvement over sitting on the lower level of the house freezing when the temperature outside it near 100 with a comparable humidity.

There's a distinctly cold breeze that feels so delicious in the deceptively hot summer sun. As I walk to the mailbox, the smell of hot tar reminds me of just how hot the sun really is. While not a particularly pleasant smell, it brings back pleasant memories of childhood summers in the city.

Returning with the mail, I pass by the steps to the kitchen to take a short walk around the house. As I pass by the dryer vent from the laundry room I am greeted by another childhood memory. Although as a child this memory was created by wandering through the clothes and sheets hung out in the sun to dry, what wafts from the vent is still pleasant.

Around to the back of the house. Here I smell the earth, still damp from last night's thunderstorm. Mingled with that is a green smell, probably created by the hot sun on the leaves of all the trees. Beneath those trees, the grass is cool under my feet. Even in the sunny sections of the lawn, because the back yard holds moisture. It entices me to bring a lawn chair or blanket. Sadly, my skin and the sun are not on friendly terms. If I sit out, it will be in a shaded area. Under the trees it is still too damp for a blanket. I'll probably opt for the lower deck which is now well shaded.

The garden needs weeding. I may not like the high humidity and heat, but the plants (especially weeds) love it. Even the good stuff needs to be cut back. It all grows more than the nursery descriptions say it will. All of this is an after dinner task, when the sun's rays are kinder. The trick is to get it done before the mosquitoes come out. I'd like some bats.

The only sound has been when the wind goes through the trees and they rustle gently. Birds have settled in for their siestas and even the insects are quiet. But the garden borders on our neighbor's fence and their dog has been sitting quietly in the shade of their garage. When she sees me she barks. I talk softly to her, but she still doesn't know me. We need more meetings at the garden fence before she will know me well enough not to bark.. Still, her bark is less frenzied than when the teenagers walk by with no concern of talking gently to her.

Back to the front yard again and I see how the thunderstorm has removed all the yucca blooms. Nothing but the tall bare stems remain above the sharp, sword like leaves. These, too, need to be cut back.. Same for the Fairy roses next to the front steps. Their luxurious first bloom is now spent and they can be cut back so visitors feel like guests again, rather than intruders. I didn't notice any Japanese beetles here although on the bushes in the back they were as prolific as the rosebuds.

It's just after one o'clock, so I must get out of the high sun after this short walk.

After five o'clock, as people return from work and where ever, the dog starts to bark again. The birds' siesta is over and even the insects are making some noise now. There is a distinctly nostalgic sound and feel to the late afternoon. Although it's not a noisy neighborhood, one becomes aware of a business that was not there at one o'clock.

When dinner is over, it's time for my walk. This is forty-five minutes to an hour and a half of wandering through the neighborhood at the fastest speed I can comfortably keep up. Unlike last night, there is a breeze. It's not really cold, but there is an icy edge to it. It's definitely from the north even if it's coming in from the west.

With my Walkman in my pocket, I head out, listening to Jacky Cheung. I nod to other walkers and neighbors working in their yards. A chocolate Lab walks over to me during the fourth song on the CD. I can't resist stopping to pet him. He makes me aware of how I miss my own dog and how much she would have loved this walk. At the seventh song some children are rolling down their driveway on a skateboard. I don't understand their thinking. They watch me and wait until I'm crossing the driveway before rolling down. I have to stop abruptly to avoid stumbling over them.

As I near the final leg of my walk I decide I want to continue. Rather than turning, I continue straight ahead and turn two blocks later and repeat the last third of the walk. The sun is now below the treetops. I notice more people have come out to enjoy the evening before it ends. The door-to-door missionaries are calling it a night and get into their car. They ask me directions before they drive off. The rest of the walk is uneventful.

On the last stretch, coming uphill to the house, I slow down. It's so pleasant not to be soaked after a walk as I am on a normally humid day. I look up and see my husband in the window. When I get to the house, he asks what window downstairs is open. He's cold! Once the downstairs windows are closed and the door locked behind me, he turns in for the night. I'll follow a bit later. (I don't have to get up at four in the morning!) We'll all sleep well in the cool non-air conditioned air tonight!

2001 by F.S. Junaid

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