Saturday, July 23, 2011

Heat Wave, and some afterthoughts

A heat wave is scorching America, and also Ukraine, and most of Europe and other parts of the world. It’s summer, and it’s hot, hot, hot. We're all melting, like the wicked witch of the East at the end of "The Wizard of Oz." Maybe it’s the effects of global warming. The humidity makes it worse. Some say it’s hotter than usual, and getting hotter all the time (yahoo image above). But I’m beginning to think it’s just normal summer weather.

Heat Wave. We had one at this time last year in Ukraine. We wilted, like the gardens all around us. It was so hot the sunflowers turned brown. Some 20 hearty souls attended a "Know Your Rights” meeting in the nearby village of Chmyrovka, fanning themselves with the new informational booklet NGO Victoria had just printed. Vera Flyat, Victoria's director, said the weather kept many folks away, but the new booklet came in handy!

I faithfully held the English Club, but it too suffered diminished attendance. There's no air conditioning at the Library, or anywhere else in Starobelsk. It's what Florida must have been like before the advent of air conditioning in the 1950s.

I also remember driving to and from Lugansk to buy books for the Library, filled with gratitude for the Peace Corps Partnership Grant that made it possible. This gratitude did not cool us off, however. It was over 100 degrees F, about 43 celcius. The old car was blowing hot air on us at the same time, literally almost scorching us to death. I had to keep my feet up on the seat to prevent burning. The driver looked straight ahead without a word and without turning his head right or left. We sat silent all the way. An almost two-hour trip. We stopped once when the car overheated (it actually felt cooler outside the car, a welcome relief), and once for water. I don’t know how we survived, but I was told later that putting on the heater kept the engine cooler. Couldn’t say the same for the human passengers, whose stoicism was remarkable.

Heat wave. The title of a few books, a musical group, several songs, poems, lots of artwork. I googled "heat wave" and learned how vast the subject is, like any other subject, how multi-layered, how one thing leads to another, how a subject radiates out in circles like a pebble tossed into the water. I learned more than I needed to know probably, but it’s endlessly fascinating.

Heat wave. Some of us actually don’t mind it. At least we can tolerate the heat. Some, like my daughter Elissa and sister Andy, have never acclimated to heat. They can barely function when it’s as hot as it is now. Too hot to do anything. Lucky for many of us we have air conditioning. We can stay put and drink lots of water, especially important for the elderly and the sick. This isn’t so in Ukraine, and in many places on earth, where the only relief comes from age-old remedies like cold towels on foreheads, a splash in a river, and maybe, every once in a while, fans. The death rate from heat is also higher.

It seems to me that "heat waves" are becoming a normal weather condition everywhere in the world. We better get used to it. Soon it will be summer year-round, even in Alaska, even in Canton, New York, upstate, where my cousins Kathy and Leo Curro live!

Heat Wave
by Ellen Grace Olinger
heat wave
the beach almost as quiet
as winter

Heat Wave, from
Try to focus on how free your toes feel
in your brand new flip-flops
or how cold they don’t feel,
like they did last March
or anything else
but the creeping, creeping heat
that floats upward from the ground
only to pool in your head with no way out,
slow-cooking your brain
and what’s left of the information inside it.

Afterthoughts: This blog went flying out of my hands before I was done editing it, some inadvertent click of the wrist. So here it is edited, and with a noteworthy comment from cousins Leo and Kathy in Canton, NY, which is up North and not suffering as much as New York City, say, and the rest of us:

"However, we do think that global temps are rising due to human activities. It isn't a case of unprecedented heat but rather the frequencies and durations of hot spells. And how widely spread. You can't add endless amounts of CO2 to the Earth's atmosphere and not change the delicate balance of planetary heating and cooling. We recall talking about this with Loren who underscored our suspicions that carbon from vehicles and manufacturing is speeding the rise in temperatures. Loren knew."

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