I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or celebrate. We all knew this day would come but now it’s official: 2011 is the hottest summer on record in Dallas. Today, with the 70th day at 100 degrees or above, we surpassed the old record set in 1980 of 69 days. This is merely apropos since we learned a few weeks ago that we’ve had the highest average temperatures this summer, and the highest low temperatures ever, but it’s still nice to beat that old, official record. We may break the record again tomorrow, but hopefully the cold front blowing in afterwards will be the end of the triple digit heat. We’ll see. I reserve the right to remain skeptically optimistic.
Last week we had day after glorious day of temperatures cool enough to leave the doors and windows open all day. Those kinds of days don’t come often in North Texas, where it’s usually either too warm or too humid to do so. Everyone smiled a little more last week, just happy to be outside again, breathing real air that didn’t come out of an AC unit. We all started thinking about the State Fair of Texas and football games, and those of us who run were reminded of how much easier running is when your heart isn’t trying to pump through 102 degree heat at 7PM.
Summers in Texas are anyway an ordeal, an exercise in forced hibernation from the elements. It’s a pattern familiar to anyone who’s lived here. We live like vampires, and tend to do anything that needs to be done outdoors either before or after the sun rises or sets. The rest of the day is spent going from one artificially cooled enclosure to another. We wear as little clothing as we can get away with (even when some of us shouldn’t) and we keep our blinds closed most of the day. We shower a lot. We complain a lot. Then we get used to it. But we do have our limits.
This summer tested us all. The weather was our #1 topic of conversation at the start of 99% of my runs. It’s hard to be chipper at 5AM when the temperature is 86 degrees and humid. I tried not to be too sullen, but there were days I just couldn’t take another day of running in the heat–so I didn’t. Extreme conditions sometimes call for extreme reactions. I can be very stubborn sometimes.
I resolved that we would beat the old record, that we would have something to show for living through this hell–as if I had any control over the situation. I knew we would beat it, and I think everyone else knew it, too. It was simply a matter of time. Well, hallelujah, that day has arrived! Put the medals around all our necks, because not only are we winners, we smashed the old heat record.
So what has the lesson been? That we’re all stronger than we think we are? To accept the things we cannot change? For myself, I feel as if this summer has been a waiting game, an exercise in patience, that if I just sit still enough, and move as little as possible, it will soon enough go away. It was also about giving up control, knowing there was nothing to be done but wait, accept, and hope for cooler days. For some of us the summer brought loss, of our homes from wildfires, and even of our own lives from the extreme temperatures. We personally lost most of our garden, but we’ll replant again this winter and next spring. On the positive side, being forced to stay inside so much this summer means I’ve read some great books. I even started cooking more. And even though it was torture, I never knew I could run–and survive–when it was 104 degrees.
Honestly, though, I’m glad we broke that record. Now we have something to show for all our misery. And it means the end has to be near.
Now I can say with conviction: Summer, be gone! You tried your best to do us in, but we’re still standing. We ran through your filthy, oppressive blasts of misery and made it through to the other side. Now, off you go, be on your way, and godspeed. There are miles to be run and winter gardens to be planted, dogs to be walked and fried foods to be eaten at the State Fair. Let’s pack it in and ship it out–and please don’t come back anytime soon.