We were driving back from a blissful writing workshop up in a remote area in E. Oregon when we came back into cell service. I’ll never forget my friend, Linda saying “Oh my god- there’s this thing called a heat dome that’s moving into the Pacific NW. It’s going to get up to 116 degrees F!” Seriously I thought she was joking until she insisted it was true.
We live in a place where occasionally we will experience triple-digit temperatures in the low hundreds but not this. These are Death Valley or Phoenix temps.- not Oregon. Another blow- last year it was the forest fires and now in late June extreme heat. Add to that the pandemic, politics and it’s beyond cataclysmic.
My house has no AC. There have been few times we have needed it as it is well insulated. This time, however, since it only dropped into the high 80s at night the house would not cool off and remained at 89 degrees inside. This was intolerable- especially for me as I am highly sensitive to the heat and can get ill.
The day after I arrived back home we packed up our small RV and headed out to the coast – about 1 ½ hours away. It didn’t matter that we didn’t have a campsite reservation. We just needed relief. As it happened we found a pleasant spot to overnight and enjoyed our time close to the ocean with temps in the mid-70-degree range. In a sense, we were short-term climate refugees.
I worried though. What about those like us with no AC in their homes that couldn’t leave? What about all the homeless people? The wildlife? Is this going to be the new normal? Temperatures are back down in the 80s but still, I worry.
One Hundred Sixteen Degrees Fahrenheit
Even the bees pant and drink deeply
in a cluster at the edge of the birdbath
My flowers wilt in the searing heat
dropping their petals to survive
their leaves sunburn
The cats stay under the house
cooled by damp earth
A young pigeon sits on the lawn
in a heat-induced torpor.
I wish I had a needle and thread
big enough to mend this tattered planet
so I provide water to the bees, the birds
let the cats stay beneath the house
I water and cover the flowers
and rescue the pigeon
This I can do