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Oct 12

THE HEAT HAS BROKEN. EVERYBODY OUTSIDE.

Anyone remember Northern Exposure? One of my favorite episodes was when they were waiting for the ice to break. It was the signal of winter ending and spring coming into sight, and everyone was tense and grumpy with anticipation. It wasn’t something most people articulated, just a tense buzz running through the town and infecting everyone in it.

Here on the Gulf Coast of Texas (and Louisiana, and Mississippi, and Alabama, and Florida) we have something similar around this time of year–it’s when the heat breaks, and the temps plunge to 85 in the daytime, 80 at night. This usually happens in the first or second week of October.

The humidity drops. Suddenly you can walk around outside without feeling like you’re trapped in wet Saran Wrap. You’re not drenched in sweat after walking 2 blocks. Your glasses don’t fog up when you wheel the trash can to the curb. There’s a breeze, and it doesn’t burn your lungs when you breathe it in. Everyone takes a huge collective, unconscious sigh of relief. No more heat warnings, no more cooling stations. Steps develop springs, mothers kick their children out to backyards with clean consciences.

What makes it even better is that it’s always predicted in advance. Everyone’s waiting for the weather guy on TV–or, in my case, the Science Guy at the Houston Chronicle–to tell us “look for cooler temperatures to start on_________.” So we get the joy of anticipation with the payoff of relief.

And it really does change everyone’s attitude, although I’m not sure why. It’s not like the temperature is cool -it’s still 85 and sunny outside. The nights are not yet truly chilly. But suddenly, even when driving in the car with the windows rolled up, it just feels cooler. Crisper. Diva said it last weekend: “It’s starting to feel like the holidays.” Most of our foliage is evergreen. We don’t normally get freezing temps till January or after. As soon as the heat breaks, that’s the sign the holidays are coming, and we start to cross our fingers and toes and pray for a chilly Halloween. (And every year, as long as I can remember, all the stores carry costumes that are perfectly comfortable in northern climes but make no damn sense down here – fake fur, fake rubber, suffocating polyester. Southern children need light costumes.)

Up north, fall and winter drive people indoors, where they are stuck for months. They become housebound, lethargic, grumpy. Spring–or, in some places, late spring/summer–represents freedom, the outdoors, energy.

For us it’s the opposite. We’re driven inside in June, and for the next 4 months (September is summertime in fact if not in calender) we stay inside unless we’re next to a swimming pool or the Gulf. We try to remember to drink lots of water, and don’t let the kids play outside for too long, and do all our exercising indoors. So when the first heat break arrives in October, we can’t wait to get out of the house.

By Thanksgiving temps will be hovering in the low 70s; as soon as they hit 69 the old ladies will put on their furs and people with fireplaces will light them up. It’s all a matter of conditioning, you know. Hub’s best friend, a Houston near-native, has lived in Alaska for six years now and wears shorts and t-shirts in 60 degrees. On the other hand, when our heater broke down a few winters ago and it took Hub 2 days to find and install the necessary replacement parts, my mom wanted to take Diva to her house because it was dangerous for a small child get too cold. “Mom, it’s 62 inside the house. No one is in danger of hypothermia, I promise.”

I love sub-70 temperatures. Houston simply doesn’t get too cold for me to want to stay inside; that only happens if it’s wet. I hate cold and wet. Cold and dry I can do all day, every day. I was born in the wrong geographical region but my roots are so deep I see no way to ever dig myself up and go replant elsewhere.

Another benefit of the heat breaking is I get energetic and productive. I’m 40K words into the rock star WIP and y’all, I promise you it’s good. My new method of doing all the dialog first and then going back to fill in the narrative has been very effective. I’m going to have Seth’s story done by May. I’ve started plotting Nick and TJ’s book (with thanks and praise to Sarah, who told me how to solve a plot problem she didn’t even know I had.)

And I’m working on other stuff, too. Because ADD isn’t so bad when you’ve got the energy to do it all.

Anyone have snow yet? If so, post pictures in comments. I like to look at snow.

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