Wednesday, July 30, 2008


A while back, I was writing to a professor friend who travels an awful lot, speaking all over the world. Because he travels so much, I knew he would understand when I said, "It's that time of day when in any civilized country things would be shut down and a person could take a nap if they wanted to." Or something like that. And he understood completely as he was soon to go to a mediterranean country where that would be just the case.

Just in case you don't know what I'm talking about, in most countries around the Mediterranean, places of business shut down during the middle part of the day and open again in the evening. This is "siesta" time, go home for a real lunch time, get in out of the heat time, give yourself a break time.

Especially as research is showing more and more the value of a nap and the reality that our brains and bodies need that rest in the middle of the day--that productivity actually increases when workplaces incorporate a napping (or at least resting) policy--I think it really is very uncivilized of us not to recognize this and do something about it.

I'm using the definition of "civil" as "of, relating to, or befitting a citizen or citizens." Working through the day without a real stop is not related to citizens as much as it's related to greed and inflexibility. And it certainly doesn't befit us (or benefit us) to force ourselves to continue working when the brain is crying out for a break. It's no different from skipping a meal in order to keep working longer, in my opinion.

Lately I'm feeling that it is rather uncivilized of us in America, at least here in the South, not to shut down for a longer while during these awful hot days.

I figure the earliest settlers in Memphis must have arrived in early October, and by the time June came, they had already invested so much in living here that it was too late to change their mind. Otherwise no one would ever decide to build a city here where it gets over 100 AND the humidity reaches into the 90+ percent range.

I may be part Cherokee and part Choctaw, but my heat tolerance genes seem to have all come down from the English and Scottish ancestors. These days I can hardly stand to walk from the front door to the car. I am taking my lunch to work every day--I who so dearly value my lunch time away from the office--just to avoid having to walk out, get in the hot car, and then get out again to go somewhere to eat.

I find it hard to focus after 10am. I feel drained when I get home after work. I feel starved for sunlight and the energy it usually provides. The heat drains more energy than the light gives, I think.

Someone told me at church tonight that it's supposed to get down into the 70's tonight. I had this vision of waking up at 4am just to go out and walk around a bit. I'm not going to set an alarm to do it, but if I do wake during the night, I just might step out to feel cooler air for a change.

I feel sorry for my surprise lilies that have popped up and are already starting to turn brown because the watering we do is not enough.

I feel sorry for the dogs when I leave in the morning and know they will spend the day outside. And little Paolo comes in and after a drink often plops down right over the a.c. vent in the living room.

I think of people living without air conditioning. I pray for them. I wonder what on earth can be done for them. No one should have to live here without it, and people die most summers from the heat (weakened by old age, usually.)

So, I don't know why those early people decided to settle here. But since they did, I wish we could be like the Mediterranean people and just close up the house and disappear for a few weeks to a house by the sea, with breezes and water to jump into. And no work to do, because who can do any decent work feeling like this, anyway?

That's my summer lament for this year. I don't know when I'll get back to blog. I'm going out of town again soon (to another hot place with poor cooling systems...I'm going to take a fan with me!), and all my creative juices are hiding out until it cools off a bit and they can risk flowing without fear of being fried, I guess.

I read this recently, from another blog: "Someone once said that the misery of a heat wave is something that can't really be quantified, it's only endured."

So if I don't write for a while, know that I'm working hard enduring the heat. For sure I'll be back after the heat wave known as summer in Memphis passes.


Lawrence Underwood said...

Actually, our wise Southern forbears did take breaks in the afternoons during the balmy hot summers.

Sheila said...

Well, whatever happened to the love and cherishing of that tradition, I wonder?

(According to the dictionary I consulted, "balmy" means "mild and pleasant," so I don't think it applies here!)

Amy Jo Underwood said...

I wish it was cooler also!
Though I don't really like taking naps unless I have a good book to read :)

Lucy said...

Whooooohhh! That's me blowing you cooling a breeze across the waters.

Have a good break, Sheila dear, and stay cool! It's my turn to write...

Molly Underwood said...

Good southern rains help a lot!
May it down pour your way soon.

Also, for AmyJo! It's not a nap if you are reading!! ha ha

Oh sheila, we love you!