June in the Desert

June in the desert. 

At 2:00 P.M., as the cottonwood leaves sparkled in a slight breeze and the aridity furiously cancelled all moisture, the mercury reached 106 degrees in the shade.  Birds prevalent in the morning hours―swallows, doves, grackles, sparrows, finches, kingbirds―were hushed, leaving only two making their resilient presence known.  The mockingbirds continued their deranged monologues, one regularly broadcasting from our roof’s TV antenna, which must have been nearly branding-iron hot.  Meanwhile, the furtive Gambel’s quail periodically cried in the usual vague distance.  Like these two, I managed in it.

No, I reveled in it, challenged it to deplete me as I worked outdoors, emptying the little storage shed of useless items left by the previous owners; sectioning the trunk of a dead yucca for disposal; uprooting dead ocotillos; and treating our house’s vigas, customarily protruding a foot or two beyond the outside walls, with a mixture of mineral spirits and linseed oil, the parched wood absorbing the liquid as fast as I could pour it.  

At 5:00 P.M., quitting time, the temperature was 100, and the day’s cumulative heat seem to cover me like freshly-spread asphalt.  Yet I was still alive, marveling at my body’s cooling systems, feeling cleansed, purged.  With the relatively low humidity (soon to be increased by the flood irrigation of the surrounding fields and the advent of the summer monsoons) the crackling heat was tolerable.  Of course, my peace of mind was maintained as well by the knowledge that at any point in the day I could retreat to the inside of the house, where an evaporative cooler provided a constant and comfortable temperature of 78 degrees (although the increasing humidity would eventually challenge the cooler’s ability).