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Margaret Hartley's Greenpoint
by Margaret Hartley


A Daily Gazette community blog
Ideas on greener living

Hot? Jump in a lake

Last week I visited a dear friend who used to live near me, then moved to Montreal, then Sweden and now lives in Minnesota.

Out there we did pretty much what we do wherever we are when we get together — walk and talk.

We walked around her neighborhood, where people were cleaning up tree limbs thrown down in a thunderstorm and chatted with them about the storms, the heat and the humidity. We walked around a lake and talked about the milkweed and other wildflowers growing along the shore, the butterflies that feed on them, and about the heat and humidity. We walked on an old stone bridge over the Mississippi River, talked about the old mills and the new theaters and bike paths — and about how hot and humid it was.

I’m not one to complain about the weather. When it’s really hot, I tend to see it as an opportunity to swim more in our usually chilly lakes. When the winters are particularly cold, I like to ice skate. When it’s snowy, cross-country skiing comes to mind. And when it rains, I generally keep on walking or hiking or doing whatever it is I do.

Gray skies don’t make me feel bad, and I love the sound of rain. I know which mountains are OK to climb when it’s wet and which trails become treacherous.

I like weather, I once told a friend who was apologizing for inviting me to the ocean on a particularly blustery weekend. Maybe that’s because I prefer being outdoors — in almost any weather — to being stuck in a climate-controlled building.

That being said, even I will admit the heat has been a tad oppressive, and our recent month of torrential rain, day after day, was a bit hard to deal with.

“This isn’t weather,” my husband said. “This is an assault.”

We are lucky that all that rain didn’t hurt us. We live on high ground with soil that drains well. There was no flooding and our gardens didn’t suffer. It’s pretty muddy in front of the ox shed, but nothing muck boots can’t handle.

My friend in Vermont was sick of the rain by the first of July. Her soil is mostly clay and her vegetable garden washed out. Then her yard turned into a puddle and filled with frogs, her driveway and road were intermittently impassible, the roof started leaking, the basement flooded and a tree fell, grazing the house.

And she knew she was lucky.

Too many people — north of us, west of us, south of us — had rivers and streams overflow their banks, streets flood, farm fields wash out, houses wash out. It’s easy to enjoy the patter of rain at night when you know your home, your family, your pets are all OK. When your home or business is destroyed by a surging river, rain doesn’t sound so nice.

One night in Minnesota, we had what I thought of as a gentle thunderstorm. The thunder came in long waves, more like a train than a crash, and while the rain was heavy the winds were light. I thought it was lovely, but my friend and her dog were a little shaken.

“Have you had too much rain?” I asked my friend, and she said people were thankful in her region, which had been suffering from drought.

Back home again, it had finally stopped raining except for the pop-up thunderstorms. My husband, who has not let rain or heat keep him out of the gardens, expressed some optimism that he might actually get some hay in before winter, which he is convinced will show up any day now.

I’m hoping the tomatoes ripen first.

Without the rain, my son started running again, avoiding the heat by going in the early morning. He comes back thoroughly soaked, but that’s because he stops to dunk himself in the lake on his way home.

At night we run fans in our not-very-climate-controlled house, to blow some of the hot air out and apparently to invite half the neighborhood moths inside. I guess we should fix that screen a former dog ripped when she ran out of the house through the side window some years ago. We only remember that problem this time of year, when our son announces that Mothra is in the bathroom.

It’s summer and it’s hot. But then, there’s just not that much time to swim in the lakes and work in the gardens before winter shows up again, so we might as well enjoy it. If nothing else, it gives us all something to talk about.

Margaret Hartley is the Gazette’s Sunday and features editor. Greenpoint appears in the Gazette’s print edition Sundays on the Environment page.

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