Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 21, 2013

Marta Hepler Drahos: Feeling hot, hot, hot — too much so

Local columnist

---- — Heat, heat, go away. Don’t come back another day.

The childish rhyme runs through my head whenever I step outside in this tortuous weather of late. The weather, I’m beginning to fear, that will come more and more frequently to northern Michigan with climate change, making me unbecomingly pleased that I insisted on central air when we built our house.

Already the latest heat wave has claimed dozens of lives across the country. And in places like New York City, heatwave deaths could increase up to 22 percent in the coming decade as new temperature norms climb under global warming, one study suggests.

For locals who pay thousands to cook on tropical shores, a warming trend in northern Michigan is just what the doctor — and the budget — ordered.

What could be better than basting under southern palms than frying under northern pines?

My middle sister, who can withstand hours in the sun to tend and harvest produce for area restaurants and farmers markets, inherited the olive, heat-loving Portuguese skin-genes in our family.

Me? I wither, burn and peel, in short order.

My idea of hell is Hell, I tell someone, recalling bible stories of a raging pit of fire from which there is no escape.

As a kid, I had only to play on vacation beaches for minutes before crisping nicely.

Once I suffered from sun poisoning, a severe form of sunburn. My milky-white forehead, then lobster red, swelled to twice its size, I was seized alternately by fever and chills, and even my favorite ginger ale — Vernors; we lived near Detroit — failed to stem the nausea.

Back then, sunscreen was barely heard of; skin cancer rarely mentioned.

Now I favor hats and long, loose clothing to spare my skin in the summer.

But their protection doesn’t help when it comes to tolerating heat of the sort we’ve been having lately.

Though we live on a lake, it’s been too hot for a breeze.

Too hot to boat or even to swim, requiring, as it does, a hike down — and back up — steep steps.

Even our vacation renters are too dazed to move, forgoing the screened porch and the beach with its kayaks and pedal-boat to read in the cool of the cottage.

Once a day, they brave the heat for a short sight-seeing excursion — presumably not to the scorching sands of the Sleeping Bear Dunes — or a dash to the store for groceries.

The fire pit, new this year, hasn’t had a taker in two weeks.

Our Chihauhau, who usually can be found basking in the hottest patch of sun when outside, now does his business fast, then waits to be let back in.

I can’t stop thinking about the animals who aren’t so lucky — those without shelter or water — dying by the scores.

Heat, heat, go away. Don’t come back another day.