Summer in Virginia makes anybody who’s not from Virginia tell you stories about a “dry heat”.
“It’s a dry heat,” they explain with a wave of their hand as they regale you with tales of Colorado, or Arizona, or that one time in Nevada. “It doesn’t feel hot like it does here.”
After his first trip to Las Vegas for a pool tournament, my dad’s response was always to raise his eyebrows and point out, “An oven’s a dry heat, but it’ll still cook you.”
There’s no dry heat in Virginia. There’s only a soft blanket of humidity that ranges from damp, to steamy, to oppressive depending on the day. In late spring, when winter is finally gone and nice weather actually decides to stay, the humidity lends an inviting ambiance to the air. On those evenings, there is no longer a big, wide world. Instead, there’s only this sidewalk you’re traveling, that porch you’ve stepped out on, the single convenience store you’ve chosen to visit for an ice cream bar.
Later in the summer, under the full gaze of the sun, Virginia humidity reaches out to fill your lungs and sit heavy on your skin. It reminds you that the world you inhabit is alive well outside of yourself, and you’re just one other being stewing in that summer heat.
Evenings, though, are by far my favorite. Once the sun has set and the cicadas continue their loud cries into the dusk, humidity in the air no longer feels like a burden. Instead, it feels like an embrace.
I can remember my bare feet stepping from rough brick, to weathered concrete, to soft Bermuda grass, the taste of Breyer’s chocolate ice cream still coating my tongue, and feeling the humid air settle onto my shoulders like a blanket while I searched for lightning bugs and dodged mosquitoes.
I remember walking the dog around the block with my mother, or my dad and my brother, the sound of all our flip flops smacking playfully against the soles of our feet while the summer night kept goosebumps from our arms.
I remember the delicious charred smell of burgers and steaks cooling to a memory while I drive past rows of houses, windows down, loud music trailing into the vibrant air behind me.
I remember walking through a hushed campus, into lively neighborhood streets where children were just beginning to put their bikes away and the weight of the morning’s work had not yet morphed into anxiety for tomorrow. All the while humid, living air swirling around me.
There’s no love in me for sticky skin or frizzy hair or angry mosquito bites, all those harsh things that come with summer. But I do adore the feeling of a humid summer night, cool enough to walk in and warm enough to leave my jacket at home. I do love the smell of green trees and fresh mulch, mowed lawns and dying cigarettes. Summer has a comfort that goes deeper, I think, than memories of a break from school. Somehow summer is a slower world, a softer world, a world that simply embraces being without so much survival for a few months each year. I’m looking forward to it.