The Long Hot Summer

In the middle of May I began to panic. The days were heating up in Florida. I envisioned sweltering, humid, insufferable, Equatorial months ahead. Oh My God. What am I going to do?!!! How am I going to get through the Long Hot Summer?  I’ll be trapped in my house by the heat like I was by the cold in the long winters in Connecticut!  

I did have air-conditioning, of course, but, the idea of having to stay indoors all during the heat of the day alarmed me. I get cabin fever easily. I need to be out in nature or with people.

“Expectation is the source of all unhappiness” I once heard and thought it was about anticipating wonderful things which can be a setup for disappointment. In this case, I think, it also applies to dread, because I didn’t need to be so fearful. It’s now mid-July and I’m not only dealing with the heat, but the whole summer thing is turning out to be just fine. What a surprise!

I adjusted. Maybe my Indiana farmer genes kicked in because I love waking up before dawn. I don’t even use an alarm. I have a cup of tea as the sun rises. Most mornings I hop on my bike for a ride in the shade and cool air. Back in for another cup of tea and then out for a swim before the sun gets too high. I’m usually done with exercise before 10 am. I feel invigorated and ready to write, do chores, or take care of business.

In the afternoons, I find that it’s easy to go from the air-conditioned car to air-conditioned store or museum or restaurant or wherever. It can be hot, but I’m not uncomfortable if I’m not actually spending time hanging out in the midday sun. In the evenings, it’s still possible to eat outside at restaurants—usually there’s a breeze or a fan. I assumed that when the snowbirds when back north that this area would feel empty. Not at all. Restaurants are full, theaters still put on shows. Lots is happening all the time. People even come here for vacations in the summer, which I found astounding. At sunset, there are many more people on the beach than during the winter. The colors are spectacular, turning the clouds leftover from the afternoon brief thunderstorms into brilliant pinks and reds with turquoise, purple and blue skies all around.

Everything about summer here is surprising me. I don’t want to say this too loudly, because I can hardly believe it myself, but I’m actually liking it. Who knew?

Silly me for worrying. I should have remembered my motto that formed the acronymic name of my home, The Villa BETICI—because so far, this summer has definitely been Better Even Than I Could Imagine.

SKY GOD FIREWORKS

We sat on the second-floor, long balcony looking at a panoramic view of the Florida sunset as we waited for the fireworks to begin. Sipping pina coladas and nibbling on canapes, the five of us watched the sun dip down below the tropical vegetation and the inlets of brackish water headed for the gulf.

Suddenly, dramatic, dark clouds rolled across the sky and shut out the blue.  Lightning flashed. Thunder rumbled. The time between them lessening as the massive storm crawled overhead. As if a faucet had been turned on, so much water dumped from these clouds that the landscape was obscured from view. The rain lashed the screens and patio doors covering the outside of the lanai.

“Oh, golly,” one of the guests who had just moved to Florida said, “I’ve never seen such rain as there is down here!  I was driving the other day, and a storm came out of nowhere! I couldn’t see a thing in front of me! I was terrified!”

“Oh, don’t worry,” responded a young woman who has been a full-time Florida resident. “No one else can see anything either.”

We all laughed. Lightning flashed with a loud crash at the same time. We screamed. Then, noticing we had not been struck dead, laughed again.

But, like the new resident who had spoken, I, too, have never experienced anything quite like the summer storms of Florida. In fact, I have never seen cloud formations like the ones here. One day, after just arriving, I looked up at the intensely blue sky and gawked at a massive structure–puffy white clouds piled one top of the other to form something like Mount Everest floating gently by. I watched it with wide-eyed awe

The rain outside the balcony passed as suddenly as it had arrived, but the storm clouds lingered high above. The rain comes and goes here so quickly. It can be pouring on one side of the street and the sun shining on the other.  It’s not at all like the kind of rain in Connecticut that I have known. A rainy day there is just that….usually an entire day when the sky is a blanket of flat somber gray with hours or days of rain–dull, dreary weather that some people love, but I find depressing. Oh, yes, we had our summer storms—some pretty impressive, but nothing like the kind I was witnessing at the moment. The random lightning/thunder never seemed to pause, as these behemothic clouds roiled above. Bolt after bolt shot down constantly accompanied by instant loud crashes.

I thought of my beloved dogs who used to tremble, drool, and pant wild-eyed at the slightest distant rumble of thunder. They would have died of fright at this. I was glad I had not moved to Florida while they were alive. Had I been alone now, I would have scurried back into the house. But being with people was comforting. The continuing bolts of lightning elicited yelps and laughter from our small group.

We were in the middle of spectacular, heavenly fireworks. There were so many constant blinding white jagged lines streaking down to the earth, I could not imagine why the world was not on fire.  After a half hour or so of this, we did hear a siren…someone answering some alarm.

The clouds were massive and thick, but varied in density, so that often light showed through the dark shapes. The setting sun turned these lighter areas pink and gold. At one point there was even a hole where we could see clear, blue sky and red-tinged clouds high above.

We all whooped as particularly powerful streaks of lightning shot to the ground.

“Yikes,” the new Florida resident spoke with a hush as the Sky God’s Show went on, “I have never in my life seen anything like this! This is pretty unusual, right?”

“No,” the host said. “This is pretty much what happens in July and August in Florida!”

We yelled in unison as another spectacular display of lightning lit up the sky. The scene looked primeval to me. I felt I was watching the earth eons ago when deserts were covered with water. I would not have been surprised to see dinosaurs rise up from the waters below to roar defiantly at the thunder gods who created them.

Surprisingly, in the middle of all this, the town’s fireworks began to the left. Against the gigantic displays in the sky, they seemed like delicate little sparkly flowers. In our agreed upon estimation, they were no competition against The Sky God’s program. Our eyes were distracted time and again to the bursts of  startlingly bright bolts slashing down from the clouds.

I sipped my drink and quietly congratulated myself for venturing into such a wild, new world.

It certainly isn’t boring.