It's 9 o'clock in the morning and already I feel like I'm melting. I woke up sweating. The sun burns my skin and reflects off every surface, magnifying itself into a death ray kind of blinding hot that sneaks in the slats of the shutters and sends tiny wisps of smoke up from the places it touches inside the house. OK, the smoke part might be an exaggeration, but everything else is true.
I grew up in Minnesota, where we chase the sun, because the sun is a sometime friend that disappears for months and becomes a weaker version of itself. It offers a few hours of light every day during the winter, but lacks the power to truly warm anything. The moment it becomes its summer version we chase it...we throw open our windows and draw back the curtains. We find every excuse possible to be outdoors with the sun. We accept the heat, glory in it really, because we know that there will come a time, sooner than we like to think, when this memory of being too hot will seem like the only warmth left in the world, because the sun will have become like a picture of itself and have no heat.
The heat in Minnesota is tempered by the environment. There are lakes and rivers surrounded by acres of trees that keep the cool in and balance the effects of the sun. The weather patterns there have a kind of rhythm...a time of extreme heat will end with a glorious thunderstorm that scrubs the tension of the heat out of the air. And we laugh at it and accept it because we know that winter is coming.
We have become masters at creating buildings that protect us from the elements. Northern climates have given the world the insulated glass window that allows as much light as possible to enter without giving up the heat inside, or allowing heat to enter from the outside. Because we don't want to lose sight of the sun; winter is coming, you know.
You would think that coming to Italy would be like heaven for me. In some ways it is. My access to the sun here is reversed. Winter is short and the time of the sun is long. My life has always followed the same pattern. Spend the winter trying to stay warm and thinking about the summer. When summer comes spend every available moment enjoying the warmth and the light of the sun. The feeling of freedom that comes with the sun. Freedom from four walls, freedom from clothing that covers from head to toe. The freedom of choice which becomes so limited in the winter.
The first year here I woke up every morning, always joyfully surprised that the sun was shining and rushing to get out into it because in my mind it was still going to disappear for a long time. Not right now, but eventually and there's no time like the present to prepare for eventually. I'm sure Leif thought I was crazy or remembered his first year here, when all the sunshine dazzles the eyes and the body. Eventually this enchantment wears off a bit. Not that I will ever lose my love for the sun, but I've learned to respect it as well. Now I wake up and think "Can I get to the market before it gets too hot?" I can get across town without spending more than 5 minutes in the sun. I always, always carry water.
Here in Italy the heat goes on...and on....and on. The entire country is
built out of stone and concrete. It's one gigantic heat sink in a place
that doesn't need to store heat during the summer. Air conditioning is
rare here because, well, I guess I don't really know why. Electricity
is expensive and Italian have perfected the art of shuttering the
windows to keep things as cool as possible for as long as possible.
Maybe by the time they start to think they should do something to cool
things off nature does it for them and they forget about it till next
year...when the same cycle of suffering, realization, preliminary
thinking cut short by nature doing it's job starts all over again. Maye it doesn't seem hot to them? Who knows?
I'm not gonna lie to you, it can be tough. There are no malls here. Only 50% of the buses and trains have AC. The stores that do have AC tend to leave their doors open (yes, they also heat their store in the winter and leave the door open, it's a strange country) so it's only marginally cooler inside.
So I spend my days chasing the shade here. Crossing the street
for it, forcing little old ladies into the sun for it (they still avoid
me like the plague), trying to fit my entire body into the shade of a tiny no
parking sign. I still wake up every morning, look outside and think "Ooh, the sun. What can I do outside today?" Then I remember that the sun is always present here and I don't have to chase it. It will hunt me down and bend me to it's will as soon as I put one foot out the door. I'm learning.
I can't believe I'm saying this. I'm kind of looking forward to winter.