August 5, 2005

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Memories and warnings in steamy hot season

As I write this, the heat outdoors is searing and the temperature is rising. Perhaps we will be experiencing some relief by the time readers see this column, but that won’t mean that sizzling summer is over.

Those who work in the “great outdoors” in extreme weather, no matter what season, suffer. Sometimes I take their work for granted. It would be thoughtful if each of us in comfort would say a prayer for them as well as for our Armed Forces in extremely hot spots—and all others experiencing death-threatening heat. Also, please remember neglected and abused animals in such conditions.

However, hardy people don’t let the heat deter them from what needs to be done, nor do they let heat slow them down when having fun. Sometimes even I feel hardy, thinking nothing of working in the yard on a blistering-hot day or attending outdoor events of interest. One such time in the past was a Sunday afternoon poetry program I attended, happy that I could quietly be in the audience and “just enjoy.” Later, I wrote the following poem about the experience, which I share here in prose style:

Patio Poetry at the Jazz Cooker

“Like melting frost on glass, sweatlets glisten on the brows of poets enunciating truths and alliteration and assonance and sibilance that vie with cicada-sounds, barking dogs and slamming doors. Pigeons and audience cock heads to dream in the heat.

The flow of words coaxes nods and smiles, coughs and laughter while waitresses weave around with cool drinks and Cajun cooking. A fire engine sirens by for yet hotter spots; yellow wasps swoop and, like pointed words, sting a few languid listeners. Passers-by stop briefly and wonder: What rites are these?

Suspended time … a sense of solitude … summer scents drifting through sentences … clothes clinging to skin on that steamy afternoon … over too soon, abruptly.

I leave the magic for fear chatter will ring foolish and ruin what I feel. Years later, I remember these details well, but recall not one line of what was read. Perhaps, without consciously knowing, I was already penning this poem for now.”

Caution: In extremely hot weather, please stay well hydrated and get medical help if heat exhaustion symptoms appear, i.e., heavy sweating, muscle cramps, cold or clammy skin, headache, rapid heartbeat and nausea. If not treated, heat exhaustion leads to the more serious heat stroke, which includes rapid heartbeat, confusion or delirium, dry skin (since the body can’t sweat), high fever, headache, seizure or muscle twitching and unconsciousness. If heat stroke is suspected, call 911. Meanwhile, let us enjoy the lazy, hazy days of summer, remembering them in the midst of later frigid weather.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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