It’s July 7. My husband gives me the daily weather report beginning with the high of the day. This is followed by the current temperature in our area taken from a station down the street. This is not news to me because I have already checked the weather on my phone. But it’s a “hot”topic these summer days.
Before I moved to Tucson I only did a cursory weather check, sometimes on the Weather Channel, sometimes just a glance out my kitchen window in New Jersey.
Let me tell you about summer here in Tucson. It’s mercurial in more ways than one. It’s hot. Very hot. July readings in the 90°s bring a semi-sigh of relief. “Well, it’s not too hot.” When it hits triple digits-100°- it’s hot. When it’s anywhere from 101°-105°- it’s very very hot. “But it’s a dry heat” loses its value as a rationalization. Don’t wear metal jewelry. Park under trees in parking lots if the spaces aren’t already taken. Higher than 105°, and that does happen, stay inside with A/C on.
Early in June the air is dry and “thin.” After the 15th humidity starts to rise along with the temps. This is a signal of the much awaited monsoons-thunder, lightning, heat, dust … and rain. We get the majority of our annual rainfall during the monsoon season (officially June 15-September 30). Folks start talking about feeling or not feeling the heat and humidity. The air feels heavy. You can smell the moisture. Rain arrives in some pretty terrific storms, rolling echos of thunder or loud boomers with huge grey-black thunderclouds releasing jagged lightning. We may not actually get rain in mid-June. We had a “nonsoon” summer in 2020. Gentle rain or fierce rain may come for 15 minutes in our neighborhood, but not 8 miles way at my sister’s.
The aftermath of a monsoon storm in July is desert flowers, the appealing smell of creosote, and rainbows. Not a bad tradeoff for the build up of heat.
There is also that slow down of summer. Yes, it’s the heat but for me it’s also decades of knowing summer means more relaxing and playing. And then I think of Miller Place. It’s been 14 years since my memoir about twinship and our idyllic summer vacation home on the North Shore of Long Island NY was published. Every summer my thoughts drift back to times I spent there. Some time during the summer I take my book off the shelf and read some chapters or look at photos.
I find my comfort in reading my memories again and drifting off into how it was. Ah, there’s the Miller Place beach where we spent entire days from lunch until sunset. The silkiness of floating in the salty Long Island Sound, looking up at the blue sky. It doesn’t happen at a pool or in my backyard spool or in a fresh water lake. It only happened for me in Miller Place.
The nostalgia of this refreshes me. I don’t want to recreate that whole part of my life. Taking a slice of it is like what my colleague Donna calls “Lilac nostalgia.” For her the word lilacs conjures up the visual memory or the smell and comfort of lilacs from her childhood.
Recently some friends who bought my book said they read it again this summer or will take it with them to visit a friend, or send to their sister. Is it because COVID blocked traveling for the weeks of summer getaways? Travel can be pretty complicated now — a staycation might seem less stressful. I hope in reading Thinking of Miller Place the magic happens for them again and for new readers.
Where do summer memories take you?
Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and her writing life. She’s retired from professional writing gigs after 30 years of teaching, coaching, editing, and gathering writers to publicly share their work. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. In retirement she writes to inspire, to connect with folks, and for the pure enjoyment of it. Ethel enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Zoom gatherings, and anywhere there’s a mic or a Zoom room.