22 August 2018

The last really hot day, so they say. The last really hot day, I whisper to myself, trying to imagine the normal summer that is being forecast, cool evenings, moderately high temperatures, dewy mornings, recovering lawns, even rain. Rain.

Summer heat has made me careless. I drop litter, kick an empty can along the dirty sidewalk. What's another one in all this dust anyway. In the mornings after not enough sleep when I realise that it's another scorching hot day, I grab whatever washed out tshirt outfit is lying around, drink a cup of bitter coffee and push my callused feet into the worn sandals. Door handles are sticky, the hallway to my office is packed with used-up air.

I briefly wonder if this is what it will be like in the last weeks, days, before human life will disappear from the planet. This lethargic couldn't care less approach, this looking away if you can help it. Just trod on as if, kick all the empty cans along the sidewalk, does it matter at all.

Later I sit in the passenger seat where a sign tells me that this is a rental car which I must treat with care because I crashed my car last week. Nothing dramatic, dented metal, scratched paint. While we stood in the midday sun, the other driver and I, waiting for the police to lecture us that we were both at fault, she told me her life story. Or bits of it. A long string of words, on and on, while I nodded and smiled and the sweat was running down my back and R's mailbox telling me he was currently unavailable.

The rental car is a testosterone dream fulfilment and all I need is to sit back and watch the dried up trees and the thick layer of brittle leaves on the forest floor while R happily chauffeurs me around, fiddling with the gadgets. Will it look like this, I wonder again, dry and dusty, sluggish. Branches hanging like exhausted arms unable to hold life. The river shrunk to a thin line meandering in a bed of grey pebbles. 

Trees and rivers. No life without them. Treat rental cars with care.

picture credit: B. Westhoff/General-Anzeiger


  1. Isn’t it interesting that extremes can make us think of the end of existence. I think it will be the M25, in the rain, at about six in the evening in November.

  2. And here in Florida it has been a lush summer. Hot, yes, and humid certainly but rain almost every day. I have been grateful for every drop of it.

  3. for being so smart, as we think we are, we have to be the dumbest animals on the planet. what other animal has ruined it's environment making it impossible for it to live? maybe we are what happened to Mars, killed that planet and moved on to kill this one. all the sci-fi I read in the first half of my life is coming true except for the escaping into space part. it is so hot and dry here. we are supposed to have our hottest day of the year so far today and then it's supposed to cool down to the high 90s. I'd laugh if I wasn't crying.

  4. Normally, I love to hear somebody's story but there is a time and place for everything and after a fender bender and in the heat is probably not it.

  5. Sobering to see your river so low again. Sending love to you and R and the trees and the rivers.

    Yesterday a friend said that with the red sun and smoky air designated "unhealthy" bordering on "hazardous," our corner of the world looks "almost apocalyptic." Yep, it does.

    I remember smoky days like this in Southern California around this time of year in 1967, never in Northern California. When I was growing up in California, "fire season" used to occur only in the hot dry areas of Southern California and here and there in the forests up and down the West Coast. It is horrifying to look at the fire maps and see so much of the Western United States and Canada on fire, and the entire region blanketed with smoke. It's much worse than Beijing here. It's hard to believe it's gotten this bad over the last few summers


    The darkest hour before the dawn?

  6. You may be kicking that can down the dusty road but your writing here is bright and kickass.

  7. We humans are such a mess of a species. We are destroying the very things that sustain us. We believe all the made up stories about gods and boundaries and will kill anyone and anything that will get in our way. You have heat and we have an endless dome of fog and have not seen the sky for ages. The heat inland draws in the persistent gray. On an interesting day there is a hint of smoke in the air from the surrounding fires. When I think of the end, I think the last humans will find their way back to the caves and draw on the walls. Future species will come along in a million years who will reflect on their attempts at storytelling. And so it begins...

  8. It rained here last night and the air is cool, smoke has died down a bit. Yes, the end of days. I feel split-normal activities like reading and swimming and buying vegetables---then weird hot days, dead baby orcas, no salmon in Alaska, dried-out earth that is bursting into flames everywhere, ash on my car. And the latest scandal in Washington with Orange Man. Seems related.

  9. No it won't be like that. The heat combined with layers of trauma associated with the car-crash were denying you that sense of continuity which allows you a vague but comforting awareness of the future. No exact detail, of course, but a notion of plodding towards the next day and the next month. Plodding being the exact word. Most of the time our lives lack drama.

    What you needed but weren't going to get was a transfer mechanism: the vision of an evening in late November, a window which wouldn't close completely and was admitting a persistent draught, an unexpected puddle of water close to the fridge which might or might not be ominous, a novel by a well-favoured author which was turning out to be disappointing, a hole in the sole of boots reserved for use in winter. You'd swap all that to get rid of the heat and thoughts of the dented metal. Discomfort driving out discomfort.

    Did you photograph all angles of rental car? There can be arguments about almost invisible scratches. But perhaps that would be a discomfort too far. Re-read Kipling's verse, title forgotten:

    The cure for this ill,
    Is not to sit still
    And frowst with a book by the fire
    But to take a large hoe
    And a shovel also
    And dig til you gently perspire.

    One form of sweat replacing another and "Richard's himself again."

  10. I went to an exhibit at our city museum tonight and saw a show called "3D Vision." One of the exhibits was of those little Viewmasters that we had in the sixties and seventies. They had a few of them lying about, and when I picked up one and looked through it, I realized I was looking at little snapshots of Yosemite, a place where I've visited at least ten times since I moved to California over twenty years ago. The weird thing that I noticed was all the WATER rushing from the rocks -- famous waterfalls literally gushing. Yosemite hasn't looked like that in as long as I've lived here -- after so many years of drought and tepid snowmelt, the waterfalls are a ghost of what they were. It's so sobering.