Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Feel the Cool

August is the month for the dog days of summer.
And in the USA, Summer 2012 has set records for heat and drought.
Tidewater Virginia has been the exception this summer 
since we've had lots of rain lately.
Such frequent thunderstorms and their resultant precipitation
make it more humid when the sun does come out.
Even though we haven't experienced the same searing weather here,
a Tidewater summer is always hot and steamy.

My husband and I rode our bikes one morning last weekend, 
but the day had already grown uncomfortably warm.
As we turned our bikes onto a  tree-lined street, 
the air was suddenly, surprisingly cooler.
It was great to "feel the cool" after biking in the hot sun.
It made me think about the ways we used to stay cool before air conditioning.

Usually  one of the first things people would do back then 
was to keep the curtains and blinds opened on the "shade side" 
of the house in the morning, but close them on the sun side.
When I was a kid, it was common for homes to be 
 kept dark and cool inside this way throughout summer.

And people usually relied on shade trees planted around their homes, 
something that is less common today.
But a short drive out of the seven cities here in Tidewater
reveals a number of homes with tin roofs surrounded by large shade trees.
And  really, there is nothing more pleasurable than to sit in the shade 
 on a hot summer afternoon and drink iced tea
or lemonade garnished with a sprig of mint.

Here's an ancient poplar with plenty of dappled shade:

Sitting on front porches with porch swings suspended from blue ceilings 
also provided a respite from the heat.
In many southern communities, sleeping porches were common too.
A sleeping porch sounds like a great idea to me.
How restful it would be to lay in the dark and listen to crickets
and the gentle swaying of the trees in the night breeze. 

The following link connects to an article about how people used to stay cool.
It's got lots of interesting historical information and is a fun read:

My favorite part of the article is the advice to seek out a subterranean cave.
But lacking that, I recommend ice, the old standby:

There's nothing frostier.

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