(Grossness alert: Since this post is largely about what a rural middle-aged female feels in summer, there will be a bit of grossness here and there. I’ve decided to include the gross parts, at least some of them, in the interests of honesty. Consider yourself warned.)
I think a lot of us, both in Japan and elsewhere, will be glad to see the back of summer this year. Probably it will be worse next year, but I fervently hope for at least a few weeks or months of chilliness between, so I can gear up for next time. So I’ve decided to list a few things about this summer that I won’t be sorry to say goodbye to. Please remember that in our old house, A/C is limited to one room that we resort to when the heat gets to be too much. Our house is built for hot weather, it is as cool and dark as a cave most of the time, so over the years we haven’t been terribly inconvenienced by no A/C; we use electric fans which work pretty well, and also we just fling open the doors and windows which are fortunately large and numerous, good at catching breezes. It’s a mystery to me how many modern people live in BLACK houses with VERY SMALL windows. They must have their A/C going night and day. I realize I am very lucky not to be living in such a house, or in a box in the sky. Even after all these years, I am grateful for my home.
Anyway, on with the list.
1) GOODBYE TO SWEAT. Our area is very humid, so any physical activity, even something as small and routine as making the bed or putting away clean laundry, results in running, dripping sweat. Drops of sweat fall from my brows and the end of my nose onto anything I’m doing, so I have to have a towel handy if it’s an important project that won’t benefit from wetting. I have learned that my head sweats the most, with neck and upper torso running (no pun intended) a close second. I have learned the value of the Japanese hachimaki, a cotton band that one ties around the head at forehead level. This stops sweat from the head from running into one’s eye sockets. (Of course the eye sockets produce their own sweat anyway, so it’s a matter of less, not none.) Another towel is necessary to wipe the eye sockets, hairline, and temples.
What do I do after working in the garden and sweating profusely? I come inside, shed most of my clothes, and stand in front of an electric fan while drinking liquids for about ten minutes. This causes my body to stop manufacturing sweat (unless the liquids are too cold, then they ironically cause the body to get hotter and thus sweat more). Then I go into the bedroom to slather myself with Snake Brand Prickly Heat powder and put on dry clothes. If the clothes I have been wearing are brand new (less than 2 hours) I usually hang them up to dry and put them on again later, because laundry uses up water, which is at a premium in these days of relentless sunshine and no rain for upwards of two weeks. I may change my clothes as often as four times a day, so I try to keep the laundry to a minimum.
2) GOODBYE (till next year) S.B.P.H. POWDER, which is a mentholated talc that a friend kindly sends me from Singapore. It feels, until the menthol wears off, like walking around inside your own private portable refrigerator. I don’t know what I’d do without it. Why don’t they sell this in Japan??? (or maybe I’ve just never come across it. Does anyone know?)
3) GOODBYE TO FANS AND SUMMER BEDDING. On really hot nights (over 30 degrees C) I sleep with a fan trained on me with the timer set for about 2 hours, by which time I am asleep. My bedding in summer consists of two taoruketto (enormous towels), one above and one underneath, which is just enough covering to allow coolness and also guard against early-morning chill. I sleep next to a large window which is open all night to catch any breezes. Thank goodness my neighborhood is dark and quiet at night! The taoruketto underneath provides a delightfully irregular surface which is much cooler than a smooth, sticky cotton sheet.
4) GOODBYE TO FEWER TRIPS TO THE BATHROOM IN A DAY. In full summer I can drink around 2 liters of liquid daily and almost never have to pee, because it all comes out as sweat. I actually prefer this arrangement to that of winter, when I have to contend with no sweating which means more frequent peeing, more clothes, and (bane of most middle-aged women) urgent bladder. Well, this is my life, gross or not. And speaking of gross…
5) GOODBYE TO ILL-FITTING BRAS AND RESULTANT PAINFUL RUBBING. I won’t go into detail about this, but my bras and me are both very glad when the sweaty season is over.
Isn’t there anything I will miss about summer? Well, if the truth be known, I am OK with all the above. What I will really miss is GREEN. Just in time for my old age, I have embraced the no-till, no-weed (or minimal weeding) method of vegetable cultivation, which (apart from being much better for the soil and plants) cuts a lot of the most onerous work outside. I have actually learned to like weeds better than naked earth, which now looks really unnatural to me. Weeds cover the ground and help hold in moisture, aside from fixing valuable nutrients and fungi in their roots. It’s kind of messy looking, but no one needs to look at it but me. A large proportion of any soil is weed seeds anyway. There is no way to get rid of them all. So I guess I’m now practicing the “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” school of gardening.
In a few weeks I hope it will be getting a bit cooler. I know we all have to buckle up and get ready for all the climate changes the planet is going to throw at us over the next few years. I myself don’t think there is any way to avoid this -- the Earth changes so slowly, and these changes have been in the pipeline for many many years.
Anyway, I guess there will be a blog about saying HELLO to things in my winter life before too long. That will be something to look forward to -- much as, in winter, we look forward to warmer weather. I do anyway. Till next time.