Some Like It Hot

The seasons? Meh. I love perpetual summer.

One of our friends, a wonderful woman who works in Thailand with us as a Peace Corps Volunteer, flew home to the United States for a visit because she missed the change of seasons. “Man, I do not understand that”, I laughed to my husband. He surprised me by saying “I miss the seasons, too”. Who knew?

On the rice plains here in central Thailand, they speak of three seasons: amazingly hot, really hot and wet, and just plain hot. I love ‘em all. I’m happy to wear a teeshirt in January instead of a heavy jacket, flip-flops in place of boots.

The encompassing totality of heat comforts me. I like to sweat. Drinking a lot of water and sweating it out is a kind of whole-body rinse. Yes, the heat invites snakes, scorpions, poisonous centipedes and flea-infested monkeys. A drawback, I’ll admit.

Back home in Minneapolis such pests wouldn’t last five minutes. There are four wildly different seasons. Spring was always a dream-state for me. Summer, even better. Fall … well, fall was tinged with the anxious anticipation of impending death. Winter: death itself. A six month-long fugue-state.

In November, Minnesota’s clouds turn from puffy white cotton balls on a brilliant blue background to featureless dark slabs that slide in and sit unchanged for months. Direct sunlight becomes an increasingly distant memory. Dawn is almost unnoticeable as dark gray fades to a medium gray after most people get to work. The process reverses a few hours later so that the sky is dark when it’s time to go home.

Snow falls, of course, twinkling and pretty in the city streetlights, fluffy and inviting for a few minutes. Then traffic and snowplows fling it about and deposit an awful gray slobber everywhere. With salt thrown from city trucks, the slush thaws and refreezes innumerable times over the winter, being ground-up, replowed and shoved into increasingly filthy piles. By March, when daytime sun begins to return and south-facing ice banks melt a little by day and freeze over night, you can’t avoid seeing cigarette butts and dog turds emerge from the crusty black mounds. It’s grubby.

City-winter is an enormous pain in the butt. Ice forms on the roof, trapping water and causing leaks. Ice forms on the car windshield and even in the door locks, stranding you in the cold. There’s ice underfoot, or else a salty cold Slushee that ruins your shoes.

Country life isn’t free of icy inconveniences, but it’s a lot less ugly. When it snowed during my onetime farm life, I could sit inside my front door and tug on my cross country ski boots, then step out of the door and into the bindings of my skis. The trails were mine alone for hours, white and unbesmirched except where I shared pastures with sheep.

The physical terrain of country life was a joy, but the psychic terrain of country folk — marked by an insular intolerance that presaged Trumpism — drove me back to the city where hearts are more pure and snow is less so.

My time in the heat here is limited. Our Peace Corps service ends next year, our visas expire, and we’re out the door. Spring and summer in Minnesota, and then what? Like a bird flying south every year? Minnesotans gleefully mock snowbirds as being the universal caricature of old-fartism. Nordic macho chic has a script for its adherents, and people who flee the ice, snow and grime are regarded as lily-livered pansies.

I’ve never done macho, I’m not Nordic and, yes, I am lily-livered. If the flip-flop fits, wear it.

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