It’s 111. Degrees. That’s absolute temperature, not the oddly popular blood-and-thunder heat index. Full on verbal attempts to describe it have fizzled to whimpers and grunts. Beyond hot was getting thrown around a lot. Hotter than hell went out when it hit 100. And that was 32 days in a row ago. What I know is the nape of my neck is dripping dank, and there’s only one wearing per bra. The front door is fatter than the frame so we come and go through the garage oven. The house is a cave 24/7 – shutters tight, lights off. Seventy five year old trees are dropping their leaves; smaller plants bend and twist towards hope. Our world, normally jungle lush with heat and humidity is garish and warped. It’s one giant stroke victim – water, not blood in short supply.
And when I lay down at night with no cover and toss and turn for hours thinking I can’t go to sleep without at least a sheet, dreams come of the only place I long to be.
Sitting cross-legged in dirt that moves and shifts with the insects on their highway, the winter grass mounds up then splits the surface like a time-lapse documentary. A new shoot carries me upward just in time to see groups metamorphosis into pale green polka dots floating over the field. One sticks underfoot and we surf the tops of the prairie grass watching critters burrow and build; animals shapeshift from prairie dogs to pheasants, coyotes to bison. A wall of wind sweeps by and we glide to a stop to watch the returning shock wave. It blasts and tramples a bull elephant approach; my ride shuddering and ducking for cover dissolves into the aureate October light. I’m left standing at the edge of the tall grass prairie.
Looking about for sound I’m aware for the first time I see and feel, but hear nothing. Joyous with the slow mo silent movie, one step puts a boot in touch with delicate strands of gold bullion at my feet. Turning toward the setting sun, my eyes snap shut against the sandy sparks of tumbleweed. It surprises with a cold hard sting, the tumbleweed having transformed mid-air to snow. Rays of filtered sun stream through dark clouds. The snow is heavy but the mightier wind seizes it from the clouds at such a slant, it never touches the gilded grass. In this silent halcyon, held captive between a blackened sky streaked with snow and gold at my feet, the next step forward finds a tan, dead pasture.
Shifting awake, clamoring for a cool spot on my pillow, I beg my brain to go back. But morning comes and for hours the joy lingers in the way of rare flying dreams. As the memory fades, the fight is lost to restore the high of cruising the grasses on that pale green polka dot. It dissipates almost completely by day end. My comfort comes from knowing the October road trip is now within range of the Outlook window.
As always, I’ll pull from the driveway toying with the thought of heading a different direction. But as always, the truck will turn north, a starving beast, until the grasses come into view. And it won’t turn around until the Great Plains run out.