Mezzogiorno

ORIGINALLY POSTED JULY 18, 2011

Yesterday the thermometer clocked in at 41 degrees Celsius. This translates to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, the highest temperature I have experienced in my 35 years. Yes, it’s a different kind of heat….less humidity, but the sun just beats down differently here and I witness as the world around me adjusts.

I’ve always been fascinated with the way in which climate affects the culture of a place and the way people interact with one another. But I am from a cold climate and so I understand about the culture snow removal, navigating icy roads and generally the way people react to long drawn out winters.

But here in Puglia I am learning a different kind of climate culture. That of extreme hot and blaring sun. I’ve learned (the hard way) that leaving your laundry out in the middle of the day in July will bleach out your clothes. I’ve learned that 8 am is already much too late to go for a run. I’ve learned that my hair turns a bit red under all this sun—who knew? And like everyone else around me, I’ve adjusted.

Around 1:00 in the afternoon we break for lunch…..this is a given, but after the meal, in the sweltering heat of mid afternoon in Puglia there are really two options—get in the water or go to sleep in the coolest, darkest place you can find. Nothing else is all that plausible. Working in the tourism industry and communicating with other parts of the world who operate on different schedules, I do not always have this luxury. But even still, July and August things slow down even for us and these days I begin to feel this automatic pull towards slumber around 2:00 pm. Like the moon controls the tides, the high sun steers me to my bed. It is just what is meant to be done.

If I do happen to be out and about during these mid-afternoon hours among the deserted streets, empty piazzas and shuddered windows  I get this strange feeling. It’s as if this mid-day quiet is part of the larger story of this place, deeply rooted in the past and for a moment, I feel part of it. It is a similar feeling I get when I hear a fog-horn sound on a stormy night on the Atlantic. It’s a bit inexplicable, but the feeling comes from the same place.

This is a year of adjustments in many ways. Adjustments to a new way of living, shedding some habits (good and bad) and picking up some news ones (also good and bad) and generally changing the way I move through my day. For now, deep in the Puglian summer, it seems to make some sense.

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