I complained on a recent evening, to no one in particular and without receiving a response, that I was a trifle chilly.
(I prefer to lodge my complaints in this timid way so that the resulting silence is expected rather than disappointing.)
Then I remembered that it was mid July and I felt not so much chilly as silly.
Summers are too ephemeral in these parts, and winters too long and too cruel, to justify whining about a cool breeze during what is, climatically, the warmest month.
It was a shameful moment, really — akin to complaining that a Christmas gift ribbon is tied too tightly.
I was trying to relax in my yard in one of those “zero gravity” chairs — an example of advertising puffery as egregiously misleading as any I’ve come across.
These chairs, no matter the name, are quite obviously subject to the laws of physics.
At least they are when I sit in one.
They are comfortable enough if you can achieve the perfect balance, but this is a skill which invariably eludes me.
I don’t recline in the chair — a verb which conjures the image of gently settling into a restful, body-soothing posture.
My experience would better be described as a repetitive sequence of wild thrashings, rather like a teeter-totter occupied by a pair of people who both suffer from nearly constant seizures.
I’m prone — literally, albeit only very briefly — to leaning back with too much force so that I rapidly shoot past the horizontal and clear to the chair’s limit, my feet pointing skyward and all the change in my pockets scattering on the grass. Then I immediately overcompensate in the other direction until the chair’s front frame support bar slams down, jerking me upright with quite enough vigor to induce whiplash.
These pieces of furniture, as you probably know, are equipped with cunning devices that lock the chair into position.
Which they do — except with my thumbs squashed between the lever and the chair’s frame.
Anyway, I had, after a few of those queasy up-and-down cycles, achieved an equilibrium sufficient that I could at least make out the words in the book I was reading.
But scarcely had I made it through a page when I noticed that the breeze, which was dancing the sword-shaped willow leaves dangling a feet or so above my head, had a bit of a cut to it that seemed more September than July.
My wife, Lisa, who had been sitting on the west side of our house, in one of the few spots around our spread that’s not leafily camouflaged, said it was quite pleasant in the shafts of sunlight.
I thought about lugging the chair over there but I figured I’d end up with a scraped shin and instead I fled for the house, as though I had been caught out in an early autumn flurry.
Later, as I propped my pillows in bed and resumed reading, a gust of wind flung through the window screen with enough force to flick a few strands of hair across my forehead.
It struck me, in that moment, that not only was my earlier complaint misplaced, but that this summer, at least to that point, was a season to be treasured for its moderation.
Notwithstanding my earlier reference to our cruel winters, a heat wave annoys me more than a stretch of polar temperatures.
After four or five days in the mid 90s I begin to feel a particular lassitude set in, a sense that the very air has taken on weight and that to move through it requires more energy that I can muster.
Often as not I’ll have a headache of the sort which seems immune to analgesics.
I’m writing this on a day — July 19 — when the National Weather Service is forecasting the imminence of the hottest spell this summer.
(A forecast, as I amend this on the 23rd, that proved unfortunately, and sweatily, accurate.)
But unless that begins a trend, it’s likely that this summer will be quite unlike its two immediate predecessors.
In 2017 and 2018 both July and August were considerably hotter than average. This culminated, on Aug. 9 and 10 of last year, with the two hottest temperatures ever recorded at the Baker City Airport, 108 and 109, respectively.
What with that recent history to consider, I’d consider it rather blissful if I might need to don a light jacket on some evening soon when the summer wind doesn’t lap my cheek like the fetid breath of a panting dog.
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I frequently find myself waylaid by the past while leafing through past volumes of the Herald to compile the “Turning Back the Pages” feature that runs in every issue on the left side of Page 2A.
Just recently I came across a column written in July 1994 by Robert W. Chandler, the founder of Western Communications, which until July 1 owned the Herald.
Its headline: “Simpson can get a fair trial.”
If you’re older than, say, 35, you probably recognize that the Simpson in question goes by the initials O.J. and that he used to play football.
Chandler wrote his column about a month after the infamous “low-speed chase” in Los Angeles and the subsequent arrest of Simpson on charges that he had murdered his ex-wife, Nicole Simpson, and her friend, Ronald Goldman.
I paused long enough to read the entire column, and it was an interesting experience.
Chandler, who died in 1996, was a fine writer. But I was fascinated in this case because his topic, one which was much in the news a quarter century ago, seems so incongruous today, when we know how things turned out.
Like many other commentators, Chandler was reacting to the concern, expressed widely in that summer of 1994, that Simpson, due to the unprecedented media attention to the case, couldn’t possibly receive a fair trial in L.A.
(I can scarcely conceive of what social media, which had yet to infest America, would have made of the matter.)
The supposition in 1994, of course, is that he would be convicted.
The Simpson trial of the following year, and its verdict, certainly turned out to be the milestone many thought it would be.
Except the question of fairness, as applied to Simpson, no longer seemed applicable.
The concept of “getting away with bloody murder,” however, did.
J ayson Jacoby is editor
of the Baker City Herald.