Jessica Sieff: Embracing the heat of summer

Published 9:27 am Thursday, July 15, 2010

The other night, long after the sun had set and night had fallen, having forgotten something in my car, I stepped outside and found myself a little lost in the extremes.

With one step I shed the cool, comfortable — perfect, really — encasing of the indoors and outside, almost instantly, the cement was warm against my feet. Almost hot.

Like someone had draped an electric blanket over my shoulders and offered me some hot cocoa.

In the heat, the night felt still and uncertain. Some spots of the sky were darker than others. It seemed perfect for a storm but not quite.

As if everything was as exhausted as the rest of us and felt the need to flee the heat unforgiving heat.

They say that when the mercury rises, people do crazy things. Passion overwhelms them and they succumb to temptation or the thick, unmoving air sets them on edge and everything is irritating.

I don’t understand what it is about the high temperatures but it seems a pretty plausible idea.

Sometimes the heat is so bad even incredibly complex power grids just can’t deal with it anymore and give out.

As a child, I never really enjoyed the summer. I have a lot of bad memories of dead fish washing up on shore so I’m not a big fan of the beach. Never really enjoyed the instability of water so I’m not big on swimming or hanging out at the pool.

I liked the idea of retreating, finding dark, cool places to spend my day.

All grown up now, however, I don’t mind the heat. I don’t mind it at all really, especially with the bitter cold of winter not a distant enough memory.

There’s something serene about it all. The fact that sometimes nature is just so severe even the power gives out.

Summer is tart and sweet, like lemonade and Popsicles, thick like ice cream but it’s also demanding, ever changing like the black tar that moves under your feet at 90 degrees.

I don’t know what it is about summer that changes people, but like I said, it seems plausible.

A couple of years ago, on the first day of summer some friends and I were enjoying a weekend in Chicago and found out the same day we were taking in Michigan Avenue, the city was hit with the most homicides in one day for that year.

Some of the best dramatic films take place during the summertime, some of the best novels too.

Maybe we are at our best when pushed to extremes.

Maybe the comfort of cooler weather, when we can laze about feeling indifferent whether inside or out, is just supposed to be a bit of a reprieve.

Maybe living in extremes is what pushes us toward what we’re looking for.

I don’t resist the heat of the summer anymore. In fact, I rather embrace it. I like that it makes me uncomfortable and sends me in search for something else. I like the feeling of pushing through that thick wall of oven-like air because I know I can.

And I love the way the world seems to change with the simple act of a step outside.