Heat forces us to shut windows tight blocking the sounds of summer nights, such as my husband’s gentle snore, cats yowling, nightingales’ songs, raccoons rustle, lively music from passing cars, and the distant toot from a crawling train. These sounds reassure me that life goes on as I drift off to sleep. Windows shut, on the other hand, heighten mechanical sounds, such as the rhythmic ceiling fan with blades that dip ever so slightly every 100th spin, or the compressor sucking in stale air and pushing through cooled air. In the artificial silence, unfortunately, my husband’s snores jolt me awake.
A month zipped by with barely a trace of sweat. And now it is August. We pack so much expectation into long summer days by revealing our covered bodies, shielding our hair from the unforgiving humidity, and promising ourselves to maximize every minute. The humidity thickens with each passing day and it rains. Days, evenings. When at work, when at home. Our beach excursions are curtailed, our park plans rained on, and our daily routines continue. Before we know it, summer did not change the behavior we are accustomed to. Another summer slips through our days in a shimmery haze.
Yokahú overlooks El Yunque, a fertile rainforest in la Isla del Encanto with its own climate and ecosystem. Stand atop the 142-story tower and close your eyes. Listen to waterfalls, rare birds, and tree frogs indigenous to the land. Take in the true scent of green. Open your eyes and witness to the north the Atlantic Ocean lapping Luquillo.
Ave Maria, what horrors befell on September 20th? Winds pulled trees from their roots like a giant picking off lint from its shirt. The brave mountains fought back. They battered the ferocious storm, but not without loss. Mangled trees lie everywhere.
It’s the end of July. The sky should be bright blue and the sun shining through the haze formed by rising heat. Yet, clouds swish across the sky pushed by the blowing wind. The tops of surrounding skyscrapers are barely visible through the grayness that shrouds the city. Down below, the streets bustle with the comings and goings of gawking tourists. I wonder if the overwhelming pedestrian and vehicular traffic makes them uneasy. When I travel, I want to spread my arms wide. I want my toes free of pulleys and wheelies that constantly trip passersby in this congested realm.
Birds fly high, crickets chirr, and squirrels continue storing their winter supplies. My naked toes greet the light of day. It matters little that the autumn sun sets earlier for a true Indian summer has enveloped the northeast. Brisk winds greeted October early in the month and frost covered our grounds. But now, the air lacks the chill that cut through thin jackets—holdouts for hardy souls who refused to acknowledge the calendar. I embrace this glorious reprieve, a miracle bestowed on our land. Wiggle toes, wiggle joyously before the ground gets too cold and traps our skin beneath layers.
When days grow longer, so long that the sun barely sets and water flows again, circulatory systems pump anew and all that was hidden surfaces. Pete emerges from his home and assesses winter’s damage. The roof needs repairs, a window or two need replacing, the truck needs new brakes. He schedules part-time jobs—waiting tables, guiding tours, pumping gas. Enough, just enough to make his own repairs, stock up for the long winter, and save the prudent 20 percent. When the days get shorter and tourists leave, he breathes again, at peace that he earned his place in this world.
On my first, and perhaps only, visit to Cold Spring, I searched for a little something commemorating the disappointing day trip up the Hudson. The leaves had not turned and antique shops resembled secondhand flea markets. I stumbled upon a quaint shop devoid of customers. A bell tinkled when I opened its door. The scent of leather greeted me as well as rows of colorful leather goods. I tried on a pair of gloves. Buttery leather embraced my fingers and I knew I had found my souvenir. They remain unworn, for like the foliage had stalled, so has the cold weather.