Of course it’s hot, it’s summer!

The heat in the summer is a hundred and ten,
too hot for the devil and too hot for men.
The wild boar roams through the black chaparral,
it’s a hell of a place he has for a hell.

Today is the summer solstice, the first “official” day of summer. However, for those of us in East Texas this day just confirms what we’ve all been suspecting for several weeks now.

I talked to an older gentleman yesterday who said summer doesn’t really begin “til it’s too hot to check the mail” but I think the steady upward crawl of the mercury in the thermometer over the last couple months has been obvious enough.

“Can you believe how hot it is?” a friend of mine asked me a few days ago. I said I could. After all, it is June and this is Texas.

Sometimes, it seems, the obvious isn’t obvious enough.

There’s a hilarious scene in the first of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies where the heroic protagonist Will Turner encounters lovable rogue Capt. Jack Sparrow, on the run from British Redcoats.

During a swashbuckling sword fight, Sparrow gains the upper hand through dubious means, prompting the noble Turner to accuse him of cheating.

“Pirate,” is all Sparrow has to reply, reminding good Will Turner that of course he cheated, he’s a pirate.

Well, I get the same sort of feeling this time of year.

A few days ago, as the burning orange globe of the sun had just started to sink upon the far horizon, my eldest son remarked to me how hot it was outside.

“Texas,” is all I said in response…  of course it’s hot, it’s Texas!

No matter where you go in this great state, the summer months mean heat. Whether out in the barren wastelands of El Paso up to the high plains of Amarillo and down to the coastal climes of Corpus or South Padre, from June to August you’re guaranteed to sweat and curse the great Texas heat that surrounds us all.

Indeed, this is Texas and today marks the first official day of summer in the northern hemisphere.

Of course, one could argue that we’ve had something of a prelude to summer since our all-too-brief and all-too-warm winter.

I think it’s easy for us to forget that we live in a world of temporal abstractions.

The sun reaches its zenith, local Noontide, just a little earlier in Overton than it does in Westway but, according to the clocks, “noon” comes at exactly the same moment in both places. The world has been organized and synchronized for very good reasons, but it’s worth remembering that, only a couple of centuries ago, time was utterly local. Noon here, wherever you happened to be, was never the same as noon farther east or west.

Summer is another of those abstractions. This year, on the calendar, it means the span of time in the Northern Hemisphere between Wednesday and Sept. 22. No matter how we think of summer, it is, astronomically speaking, like any other season — a segment of the sun’s annual voyage north and south as seen from Earth. Forget the beach towels and the sunscreen. Celestial summer has nothing to do with us. It may seem like the time of year when we drive to Galveston or other tourists traps, but it is really the season when the sun begins to set a little farther south each day.

Most of us live within these temporal abstractions easily enough.

No matter what the clock, the calendar, or the scientists say, the season is whatever our senses and emotions say it is. It may feel like a blazing pre-summer day in March or the cool gray foreshadowing of autumn in September. The calendar wants to apportion just so much summer and no more, but we know better.

Here in East Texas, I think we take great pride in our heat. While our friends out to the distant southwest certainly have higher average temperatures than us, we counter that by reminding them of the suffocating humidity that accompanies the heat here in the Pineywoods.

“I’ll take 100 degrees out in West Texas before I’d take 90 degrees here,” one local resident told me, articulating the nuances between their “dry” and our “wet” heat.

But by every measurable indication, this summer stands to pale in comparison to last year’s record temperatures. Thankfully. In 2011 we saw nearly two whole months of 100-degree days from June through August, including three of the hottest months in recorded Rusk County history. Combine the heat with the negligible rain we received and it’s little wonder that wildfires started sprouting up all over the region.

We’ve already had more rain in just this current month of June than we had all of last summer, and the temperatures have been milder as a result.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is to count your blessings. Sure, it’s hot, but it can always get hotter. Thank heaven for small mercies. Today marks the first official day of summer and the beginning of a long fever that will not break until October, so behave accordingly.

Have some consideration for all the variables at play and be mindful of where we live. Don’t overdo it outdoors and don’t act a fool with fire.

Because it’s summertime in East Texas and things are just now heating up.


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