Saturday, September 22, 2018

Summer Slide 

Warming stripes illustrating the changes in Toronto's annual average temperatures from 1841 to 2017. (Climate Lab Book) Image via CTV

As I looked up alone at summer’s last moon, our celestial satellite glared at me saying, “Where were you? I waited for you.” Another summer has slipped through my fingers. This is becoming so common to me that I've dubbed it the Summer Slide. Not the fun, water based backyard kind either. The kind that passes by with a whooshing sound. The Summer Slide is a slippery slope.

I tried to make summer something to remember. I tried to make it last. During lunch breaks, I ate take-out meals on a bench looking out over the lake. Some days I’d sit beneath a man made stand of birch trees whose leaves flickered and sparkled in a sumptuous breeze. For me, watching and listening to birch trees is mesmerizing. The wind through the leaves is reminiscent of a waterfall. That's if there was any wind. All summer Toronto felt airless and stagnant. To escape the heat I took to the water either by kayak or by bike, riding out to the Leslie Spit or by swimming in an open air pool. Still, the pace of the summer eluded me.

The heat definitely got the best of me. Whether it’s barometric pressure (scientists say it isn’t) or temperature fluctuations (scientists don’t really know) the heat seemed to triggered time altering headaches. While the humidity brought on allergies and congestion of unknown origin. The combination of heat and humidity ignited my skin which was covered in tiny hot blisters that were itchy as hell or what I imagine hell to be: itchy and hot. One particular weekend, I pulled a large pillow to the kitchen and I laid down on the cold floor and alternated between reading and napping. The tile floor of my basement kitchen is the coolest place in the house. Even still, it was too hot. I laid there rotting. I was like cooked meat resting and plated on the ceramic tile. Countless heat warnings warped and distorted every free moment (well, someone is counting. Sixteen heat warnings so far - we broke records for extended periods of overnight temperatures that never dropped. The last four years have seen extended heat warnings in September. The heat was relentless and slow and not just in Toronto. Forest fires that burned unabated, cloaked B.C. in smoke. Smothering humidity which might normally be balanced out by raucous summer rain storms lingered on and on. This year, when the rain did come it was in massive spurts and eruptions that when finished still didn’t break the humidity. The heat was such that when you felt the spit of rain from pregnantly dark clouds, you prayed you'd get caught in a downpour. When it didn’t happen, you felt cheated.

What will I remember from this summer? Ants crawling on sidewalk puddles of melted ice cream, fruit flies floating in a glass of beer, putrid lake water clouded by effluent from overflowing sewers. After a particularly short shocking storm, I watched from my office on the 28th floor, as the harbour filled with billows of brown spewing into the once blue, then green water. Most of all, I’ll remember how little I did. How little I moved. How I actively sought out stillness. I’ll remember the nothingness of it. The extended hours at work that led to nothing. The hours lying in the rumble of the air conditioner, unable to sleep. The days fighting to stay awake after a sleepless night. The money I burned on renovations. The money I drank trying to rehydrate. The money I ate at restaurants because cooking at home bordered on insanity. The errands I ran while sweating so much my shirts were constantly damp. The refreshing swim obliterated the second I left the water. The days wasted experiencing near psychedelic migraines. I drifted out on a tide of a sea of nothing on only a raft of despair, and you know what they say, nothing will come of nothing. Guess what? Nothing did.

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