We celebrate family life in the August issue of At Home, so we’ve asked a group of Arkansas moms to contribute a bit of what they do best on the blog this month. Kicking off our Family Style series is writer and blogger, Kyran Pittman. Learn more about Kyran at her blog, PlantingDandelions.com, and in the August issue’s At Home With feature.
The late, great humorist Nora Ephron wrote that “if pregnancy were a book, they would cut the last two chapters.” The same could be said of Arkansas summer. July and August are superfluous and overwrought. Cut them, or give us the Reader’s Digest version: a week just sultry enough to call for a hand fan and a mint julep. Those forced to endure late pregnancy and late Arkansas summer simultaneously should be evacuated to Canada on humanitarian grounds.
As for the rest of us sweltering wretches trapped at home, here are my strategies for surviving Southern summer after it’s jumped the shark.
- Sweat it out. “Stir crazy” may not have an entry in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but that doesn’t make me feel any less insane, after a few days of confinement and inertia. The best prescription I know is physical activity. August in Arkansas may not seem like the time to start a Couch to 5K running program, but it was that, or start hitting the bottle before noon. To call it “running” is a ludicrous stretch, but I make myself walk, jog and hobble for 45 minutes most mornings before the temperatures hit the triple digits. Even so, it’s hot. I’m drenched with sweat by the end. And I feel much better all day.
- Let it go. Ecologically-minded garden experts recommend letting lawns go dormant in extreme temperatures, to avoid squandering resources (at least, that’s what I’m telling my neighbors). It’s not reasonable to expect plants to keep up their usual routine when it’s a thousand and hell degrees outside. Why should it be any different for us? I try to let go of the guilt triggered by how much time the kids have spent in front of a video screen, or how long it’s been since anyone’s had a bath (the pool counts, right?), or how many calories are in a venti frozen mochacinno. Those rules are for ordinary times. These are not ordinary times.
- Adjust your mental clock. We’re used to thinking of daytime as the active portion of our day, but Southern summers require a different mindset. We spent a few months living in Mexico, where the hours between lunch and dinner were as quiet and still as the dead of a suburban Little Rock night. Take a note from the people who live in this kind of heat year-round, and plan activities for early morning and evening. The only time we swim in August is at night, when the pool is quiet, the water feels somewhat less septic, and sunscreen isn’t required.
- Surrender. Crank ice cream. Eat peaches and watermelons as messily as you can. Drink sweet tea by the gallon. Retire, sighing, to the couch in late afternoon with a frivolous book and a chilled cocktail. Let every conversation revolve around weather (like, how can it be so dry and so humid–what’s that about?) Fry an egg on the sidewalk. Marvel at the cacophony of the cicadas. Endure it. Suffer it. Lean into it. Summer is the kiln in which a Southern soul is fired. That which does not kill us, only makes us more appreciative of the other three seasons.