Crazy from the heat
Posted on June 13th, 2013
n our way to water a friend’s pets and plants while they’re away, we drove past a blinking sign in front of a restaurant that helpfully informed us that the current temperature was 108 degrees. I nearly choked.
“The phone says it’s only 107,” Marcel offered consolingly.
He was wasting his breath. With two weeks before summer is officially underway, I am comfortable saying that the heat already has rendered me fairly inconsolable. I look up at the ceiling while listening to our cooling systems rattle on the roof and I ruminate over what we will do if one of them gives out this year, when the temperatures are closer to 110 than they are to 100.
The desert has reduced me to my most elemental state: a crazy person.
And I will be honest and tell you, too, that I stood in the yard of this vacationing family with my children dousing the struggling grass in water feeling judgmental and sick and just generally, First World filthy. Pass an open window and you feel as if there is an oven ready to receive whatever you might push through to roast for your dinner. Every drop we spill on this lawn is one that could be more wisely collected in a canteen, the one that we will need strapped to our chest as we crawl across the sand in search for water, Bugs Bunny-style.
In the same way the desert reduces everything to its most elemental state through the natural forces of sun and wind and the absence of precipitation, so it has reduced me to mine: a crazy person. I have developed an obtuse, self-righteous pride in the dust bowl that is my backyard, because you know what it’s not doing? Kidding anyone.
In the first house we lived in here 11 years ago, our next door neighbor had a lawn that looked like it had been picked up somewhere in South Georgia and dropped just outside her front door. It was lush and long and a deep green. I idly imagined asking her if I could walk through it every now and then barefoot. The thing was, she was 80 years old. Scott remembers me asking her once how she was able to get her lawn to look like that.
“I water it more than I should,” she’d answered sheepishly.
I can understand that—being from a more temperate, less-informed time and moving forward with the practices that you had always understood to be acceptable. But if you weren’t born in 1933 and you’re living in the desert, what are you doing with a lawn?
Before I saw the sign flashing 108 yesterday, someone told me in passing that they’d been asked if they worried about the jobs in their chosen profession ‘drying up’ if the drought that has been visited upon New Mexico were to continue. They answered no—that Albuquerque would simply become the next Phoenix, a low-desert city where triple-digit temperatures are the norm. I smiled and nodded and walked on. When I realized I had a question for him, he was already in his car backing out of the parking lot.
What would that make Phoenix?∗