Surviving the Heat Wave

My house does not have air conditioning. So when a heat wave came to Ontario, with temperatures of 33 degrees or hotter for four days in a row, my partner and I had to find other ways to keep cool. Here’s how we beat the heat:

– We kept the overhead fan in the living room going all day, to keep air circulating.

– We went swimming in the Rideau river: the lovely Strathcona Park is a two minute walk from our door.

– We drink lots of cold liquids, mostly fruit juices.

– We’ve a spray bottle full of water in the fridge, and once in a while I spray myself with it. I also wipe my body down with a cold wet cloth, to get rid of old sweat. There’s no point in toweling myself off to dry: within minutes the heat does that work for me.

The house heats up quickly during the morning and expels that heat slowly at night, which can make it very uncomfortable for sleeping. So at night I open the sunroom screen windows and the back door, to let cooler air flow through. Of course this means that the anything can fly into the house. We’ve been visited by hundreds of moths and mosquitos, two large black beetles, and a chickadee. But this is the only way to make the place cool enough to sleep in.

During the hottest part of the day, I get worried that my computer might overheat, so I shut it off. So I have been getting less work done on writing my next book. But this is a good opportunity to read, after all. With a private library, however small, no one ever needs to be at a loss for something to do.

But more than our computers, we worried about our dog. “Crash” is an Australian Blue Heeler, a breed that can take the desert heat. But she’s also twelve years old, which is the age when dogs of her breed tend to die. We were getting worried that the heat might kill her. So for her, we had towels drenched in cold water to cover her, ice cubes in her water (which she was too lethargic to drink most of the time anyway), and as much love and encouragement as we could show her. We took her out for walks only at night: the hot sidewalk would scorch her footpads. (During the day, if she had to go out to pee, she was taken out for no more than a minute or so.)

That sidewalk scorched my feet too! Now that it is summer I tend to go barefoot around the house and in my neighbourhood. In a few weeks I’ll have soles tough enough to walk to Mordor and back again. But in our heat wave last wek, the white concrete of the sidewalk got to be a bit much.

Today it will be a cool and pleasant 30 degrees, by comparison. In this part of the world, the difference between high summer and deep winter is as much as sixty celcius degrees. Both extremes are enough to kill the unprepared. We Canadians love to complain about our climate, but I wonder if we also harbour a secret pride in our ability to survive it. In the spring and fall, our middle-seasons, I sometimes feel stronger for having endured the previous season’s intensity. But I think I might trade that feeling for life in a somewhat more moderate climate – yes, maybe even the Galway rain.

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