When the high is 117F

Cars line the parking lot at 7:30am when we show up to run the red dusty trails. By 8:30am, there are only two cars left.

There’s a neat hidden flat tab of fabric woven on the inside upper edge of my sun shirt sleeve. I loop my middle finger through it to keep the shirt pulled up as far as it will go across my skin, covering most of my hands save for my fingers. My hood is up over a wide-brimmed hat, creating either a Bo-Peep or Handmaid effect, depending on how sinister I feel in the moment.

When I sit, I sweat. I feel it snake down my chest, behind my knees, and where my thighs meet my butt. It’s horrifying and unbelievable, realizing how much water my body is expelling simply to exist. I’m constantly drinking water: hydroflask, empty, refill, refill, refill. I’ve lost track of how much water I consume in a day.

In the early afternoon, I feel my eyes get heavy. Where has my energy gone? I can easily take a nap, or sit very, very still for a preternaturally long time. It feels impossible to think about doing anything. Even grilling feels daunting, and I consider whether I really need dinner. (Spoiler: I do!)

In an intellectual sense, the heat is sobering. I think about it when I’m driving. If my car broke down, do I have extra water? Do I have a way to create shade? I’m aware of it, always, as the temp ticks up: this is a killer.

I used to be of the camp, when asked, that I’d prefer cold to heat because “you can always add extra layers”. I think about that now, still, but after years of “adding extra layers” I still felt cold, and I got so sick of feeling cold. This past winter I wrote the phrase “hot red rock” in my journal.

Again, all caps: HOT RED ROCK. Is that a poem, I wondered? The phrase hung around as an anchor to what I was working so hard to create those many, endless final months in Alaska.

I laugh now. There’s plenty of that! The hot red rock is an amphitheater in this town. It radiates. It is absolutely gorgeous, and also a visual touchpoint to – again – the heat.

We knew what we were in for when we said yes to a summer in Saint George. And, I tell my husband, we’ll get our cred for enduring this. It’s life experience, like getting through Alaska winter. It’s humbling; it puts me right at my edge, which is a place I both (apparently) love and hate to be, like the best and worst of being alive.

But I think next summer we’ll migrate someplace a little kinder; even a few degrees cooler. There’s no need to endure this level of heat beyond one season of our lives. We already put in our time with Alaska winters, and those were beautiful and wonderful until they absolutely weren’t.

For now, we just take it day by day, hour by hour, a little awed and a lot put in our place by truly understanding and experiencing heat. I’m a little slower, a little dumber depending on which time of day you find me.

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