When we came back down to visit Texas a few years after moving to New England in a giant green Mercury Continental, I have the distinct memory of stepping out of the car and then climbing right back in, because the air outside was like jumping into hell itself — so freaking, searingly, take-your-breath-away hot. “How do people survive here? How do they actually live here and not die?” I cried to my mom. “Your blood thins out,” she said.
Blood? Why live in a place where your blood has to do anything except what it does?
Every summer, for the fourteen years since I’ve been back in Texas as an adult, I wonder the same thing when I find myself house-bound or covered in sweat from a mere moment outdoors. Truly, it’s malaise inducing, this heat — flat lining, soul-sucking, blah-making. The lack of water way or vista or breeze causes a panicked claustrophobia that can only be relieved by fleeing to a place with beaches or mountains. But I’ve come to love that particular dusty awfulness of the Texas summer– nostalgia is written on the landscape: a story of thirst and heat and endurance. Maybe my mom was right — your blood does thin. Maybe that’s just a clever, Texas way of saying that I’ve been scorched, branded, claimed by the Lone Star State. There’s no way out now.
So here’s a toast, in images, to Texas summer: to that particular, brain-scorching, blood- thinning entrapment of this odd place that I love to hate. Happy First Day of Summer. (*sigh*)
Russell Lee, Farmhouse in High Texas Plains, 1940