I recently heard that the four seasons in Charleston can best be defined as ALLERGY, SUMMER, HURRICANE, and FOOTBALL. The description was new to me and I have lived in the Lowcountry for ten years. Today my house has been power washed, my windows cleaned, and all traces of pollen removed. I see that Allergy season is behind me. It is time to prepare for another Summer in the Lowcountry.
Like the spring, summer in the Lowcountry is difficult to describe. I personally refer to summer here as “the season of multiple showers.” My definition seems self-explanatory to me. However, let me paint you a clear picture of what a summer day in the Deep South is like from my limited suburban perspective.
Summer arrives stealthily just as the last of the flowering plants have been carefully placed on patios, porches and in gardens. Instantly, the heat is upon us. It is not the welcome heat that builds to a crescendo. Nor is it the type warming the weary earth and bodies of those in the north who are shaking off the brutal cold of another winter. It is an oppressive heat. It makes outdoor activity arduous and bodies slick with perspiration. The only thoughts in the minds of inhabitants is how to escape its grip.
Morning sounds change. There are still birds chirping early. The motorized sound of hummingbird wings at garden flowers becomes more prevalent. Activity begins early in hopes of avoiding some of the heat of the day. Chores that must be done outdoors are completed before the first cup of coffee. Runners and walkers exercise only in the initial hours of the morning. Athletes who miss this coveted opportunity, must wait until evening and face the onslaught of bugs that arrive after dinner. Evening exercise also makes it challenging to spot the red ants, poisonous snakes, and gators that share our outdoor world!
Sprinklers run in a valiant attempt to nourish newly green lawns that will remain thirsty throughout the summer season. Children are out of school. They play long into the evening embracing their unscheduled freedom from the demands of academic routines. They sleep later in the mornings and cannot be heard as they congregate at corner bus stops to begin another day. The sound of school buses transporting students in the early hours is replaced by trash trucks, lawn mowers, and the noises of all who must toil outdoors in the rising temperatures.
Even the dogs are sleeping in and adjusting to a new schedule. Dog owners walk their pets before the pavement becomes too sizzling for even the thickest of paws to comfortably walk upon. Canines are unable to slip on flip flops and can walk only in the shaded grass. They want to return home as quickly as possible to flop on a cooler interior floor – hopefully in front of an air conditioning vent.
Human skin takes on a slick shimmer of sweat and salt that remains the entire season. The refreshing morning shower lasts only until we step outside. We begin each day with heat and humidity. It rearranges our lives and leaves us continually wondering where to find shade. Those that must head to the office are slimy before their arrival on the job. They anticipate the end of the day when work clothes can be peeled off. They will be rewarded with a cool shower for surviving the heat. We covet even a parking spot that has a shadow. We keep coolers filled with ice and insulated bags in the car for early morning trips to the grocery store. We do not travel – by bicycle, foot, or automobile – without ample supplies of water.
Indeed, water takes on heightened value during the summer months. It is the favored escape from the heat and humidity of our days. We are thankful for our neighborhood pools and the beautiful beaches that surround us. We adjust plans and daily activities around times near water so that we have respites from the suffocating heat. Pool toys, beach towels, and bicycles transporting water gear are everywhere. Children gleefully run through sprinklers. Even the local “duck and cover” showers that arrive throughout the day as the air warms provide momentary relief. We shower whenever we can! The ice cream truck visits the neighborhoods several times each day cooling off sweltering youngsters and ringing up profits. Parents home with children who have just begun summer vacation wonder how to brave each day. They begin to count the number of days remaining until school begins – just as they had counted the number of days until its end only weeks before!
But endure we do! We are wilted and worn! Summer draws to a close and another school year is about to begin. All are tanned, relaxed, and ready to discard wilted flowers and plants. It is time for the return to routine. Cooler temperatures and the last weeks of Hurricane season are near. We again make sure that we have plenty of water and now add nonperishable food items. Important documents are at the ready and evacuation plans in place – for humans and pets. We are confident that our preparations will keep us safe. We trust that our reward will be experiencing the greatest of all seasons in the Lowcountry – FOOTBALL SEASON!