July 1, 2012

Some Like It Hot

One of the things I shared in common with my mother--on a list that is far too short--is a love of warm weather. I always joked that if the temperature dropped below 80 degrees, she would reach for a sweater. Part of it was growing up in a house without air conditioning, a common enough thing in New England, even today. Some of it may have been a testament to our southern Italian genes. In my case, you could add a year in the tropics courtesy of Uncle Sam. Throw in a pinch for old age, add it up, and you have a wonderful feeling as your bones warm up at about 90+ degrees.

We are in the midst of a bit of a heat wave down here, so my wife and I decided to make lemonade out of lemons and apply that solar heat to defrosting our freezer, a long-overdue piece of maintenance on a freezer that is already over 30 years old. (That New England thrift is something else I share in common with mother, who sewed clothes for my sisters, refinished furniture, braided rugs, and maintained extensive vegetable and flower gardens, not to mention a blueberry and strawberry patch.)

So for the last two hours I have been out in the 95 degree heat melting ice and washing the inside and outside of the freezer. Some might say I was crazy to be out working in this kind of heat, but honestly, I never broke much of a sweat. Part of it, as I said before, is due to my internal wiring. But there is a mental aspect to beating the heat, as well.

Joseph Conrad, in his masterwork Heart of Darkness, has a brief scene where Marlowe--who is being sent down by the company to replace a captain killed in a dispute over two black chickens--is being given a physical by an old Belgian doctor. The doctor asks Marlowe if there is a history of madness in his family, a question Marlowe finds irritating, prompting the following bit of dialogue between doctor and patient.
'Pardon my questions, but you are the first Englishman coming under my observation. . . .' I hastened to assure him I was not in the least typical. 'If I were,' said I, 'I wouldn't be talking like this with you.' 'What you say is rather profound, and probably erroneous,' he said, with a laugh. 'Avoid irritation more than exposure to the sun. Adieu. How do you English say, eh? Good-by. Ah! Good-by. Adieu. In the tropics one must before everything keep calm.' . . . He lifted a warning forefinger. . . . 'Du calme, du calme. Adieu.''
That advice has helped me through many a hot day. Surprisingly, it works pretty well in cold weather, too. Du calme, du calme. Before everything keep calm.

No comments:

Post a Comment