In July a heat dome settled over Santa Fe and much of the southwest. On July 18 the temperature in town was recorded at 100 degrees. For the following 10 days and previous 10 days, it was recorded in the mid to high 90’s. While these temperatures were low compared to other places, they were prolonged and unusual. Despite being in the high desert, Santa Fe has not needed air conditioning. People have lived in their homes without it for decades - until now.
In my casita the day after day force of the heat was wearying as were the high winds which often came up for a time late at night. Along with the winds, the ozone level rose. The afternoons at times felt especially heavy from the accumulated heat. My zucchini plant which had been robust with large leaves and yellow flowers wilted repeatedly, even as I mulched and carefully watered. Until one day it did not revive and left several growing fruit but only one having reached full maturation.
Each day the birdbath needed replenishing. I’d come out in the early mornings, while it was still dark, and be met by a sparrow or a robin waiting on the fence by the bath. The bird feeder, too, had been more and more quickly emptied of its seed.
It is now monsoon season and the heat dome has effected it as well. Storms sometimes appear in the afternoon from over the mountains, whether the Sangre de Cristo or the Jemez, with dark clouds and flashes of lightning. Deep rumbles of thunder might momentarily shake the windows causing Maddie to hide on the bathroom rug or up on the bed. She trembles with their loudness and suddenness. Occasionally a moment’s downpour falls but not for long, barely enough to dampen the soil or darken the color of the pavement.
Maddie and I continued our routine of up early, out for a walk, and then perhaps errands before noon. Afterwards going out was only made attractive by being in an air conditioned car and heading for a drive into the mountains with their pines and pinons and places of shade. Still the heaviness of the heat could be felt if we stepped out of the car.
With the decades of warnings about global warming, they still felt far away both in time and place. Seasons fluctuated, there had been heat waves before, and after all, it was summer. Yet slowly like the effect of the heat itself, some of us may be realizing those warnings are coming true. The month of August this year will have a blue moon, a second full moon, something rare by definition. Is this heat dome a blue moon event or something to expect happening more frequently?
This morning the air felt cooler and softer. The stars were crisp in the dark sky and two doves perched on a wire stretched beyond the backyard. They perched next to each other cooing and looking from side to side, their silhouettes lit from behind by a street lamp. A raccoon had also visited earlier, climbing slowly in the branches of the tall Chinese elms, probably searching for food and water. Maddie went wild with barking as he looked down at her with his bright eyes and moved along with slow steps.
Later that day the first watermelons, palisade peaches and honeydews arrived from the farm in Colorado to the fruit vendor’s on St. Michael’s Street. Someone had picked them in the fields and orchards and trucked them down to Santa Fe. The heat from the past weeks made them taste even sweeter.