Wild Woman Primer 3: Savoring the Summer
This month’s blogparty is all about staying cool this summer, and it’s hosted by Alchemille’s Garden.
I’ve always loved summer, I was born in early July in the deep South and have ever since thought of it as my own personal season. When I was very little I lived for a time on an island and spent much of my time jumping in and out of the Atlantic, eating fruit and running really fast to let the moving air pull the heat off of me. The hot, heavy nights were filled with the sweet scent of Japanese Honeysuckle and hummed with the buzz of houses full of window fans.
Now that I live in the mountains of NM, I’m always amazed by how much the nights cool off and that by three in the morning, I’m pulling up the down comforter, even in June! Nevertheless, the days are scorchers and the afternoons move like molasses, thick with the wall of heat that inundates everything. The soaring temperatures only seems to enhance and deepen the music of the river, making it that much more seductive and appealing. In the stillest, hottest time of the day I can stand on the hot mesa rock while hummingbirds whirl around my head and hear the river calling – a slow, liquid song that sounds like a lover’s voice, like the rhythm and flow of the earth’s dance.
My number one non-herbal recommendation for staying cool in the summer is: make friends with a river. It’s not just the cold water either (although that in itself is just wonderful) but the whole cool, wet atmosphere complete with plant friends, shade and birdsong. When the activity and heat of summer wears you out, a river can be deeply restorative and a much needed refuge.
Herbally, I suggest a river in a bottle. This consists of a small spray bottle filled with some cool herbal tea or diluted herbal vinegar, and a little fan (one of those little batter powered ones will work, or you can just use old fashioned arm power). Herbs that are nice for this purpose include Rose, Peach, Chamomile, Lavender, Mint, Elderflower and many others. It’s very simple: you get hot so you spray yourself down (or at least you face, wrists and the back of your neck) and then fan yourself. In a pinch, it works great, is simple to put together and can be used just about anywhere or anytime. And if you don’t happen to have any herbs with you, most kinds of herbal teabags can work nicely as well. Or just use plain water.
Food-wise, think fresh. Fresh, juicy foods of all varieties are lovely this time of year. The juicier and more cooling the better. Melons, watercress, cucumbers, summer squash and berries are all great choices. I’m especially fond of all kinds of berries just now, I think I could live on Nettles and Strawberries just now. Well, and maybe some chocolate too.
When it gets unbearably hot here, Loba and I resort to soaking all our clothes in the river, wringing them out a little and wearing them that way, usually with a wet sarong on our shoulders or over our heads. This works very well and is helpful when there’s no way to avoid getting hot in the first place. We also dress very lightly, and in all natural materials, especially silk and cotton. Loose, long skirts or sarongs keep the mosquitoes and horseflies off while allowing for airflow. Whatever you do, avoid tight, binding clothes that restrict movement, circulation and air.
Hair goes back and up, anywhere off of the shoulders. I have super thick, heavy hair and if I forget to pull it back I’ll be melting and miserable in no time. Oftentimes, two long braids pinned on top of the head is the coolest, neatest way to go. Go barefoot whenever possible, or at least wear open, comfortable, non-plastic footwear. And whenever you can, immerse your feet, hands and/or head in cold water, it helps in a big a way.
And whenever the heat starts to really get under your skin and make you crazy, think about how much fun summer was when you were little, how even the heat was just another opportunity to play in the sprinkler, skinny dip in a pond or indulge in frozen juice pops. Make an effort to celebrate the season by getting to a beautiful natural place where you can play in a body of water and savor the beauty of this special time of year.
For more tips, here’s a post I wrote last year this time called How to Survive A Summer in the Wilderness: Remedies from a Thorny Land.