Yesterday, Joyce and I drove down to the Ohio River (round trip--about 320 mi) to visit Middle Island, one of the chain of islands now officially called Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge. I'm writing a story (actually, revising an old one) and just recently decided I wanted to use Middle Island for a scene (I'd learned about the place on the Internet). But, you know, you gotta stand there, on the ground, if you're gonna write about it. That's my method, anyhow.
We drove a little ways down to a parking area and the trail head for the little (1.2-mi) "Nature Trail," which we handled like Natty Bumppo in The Pathfinder--pausing only a couple of times to wonder if we were making the correct turn. (As I age, I wonder more and more and more and more about the simplest damn things.) We saw gazillions of plants, heard a lot of birds (saw few); the only other mammal I saw was a jogger, who arrived from behind us and startled onto my poor fading head a few more white hairs.
What was manifestly not perfect yesterday was the weather. Yes, it was sunny; yes, there was a bit of a breeze. But it was hot, humid, and I--along with the other Dyer men I know--have a gene that, when conditions are hot and humid, barks instructions to my sweat gland: "POUR FORTH ... POUR FORTH TORRENTS OF FLUID ... SOAK THIS MAN'S CLOTHING! ... SPLASH HIS GLASSES WITH HIS OWN SPRAY! ... MAKE HIM REEK! ... CAUSE OTHERS TO LOOK AT HIM AND CRY: 'MOMMY! WHY IS THAT OLD MAN SO WET ... AND DISGUSTING!?!'"
I don't know how I ever survived my boyhood in Oklahoma and Texas. It was so hot in Enid summers that my mom removed from our beds all but the bottom fitted sheets. No covers whatsoever. (No one I knew had A/C in the Enid of 1954.) We slept thus from, oh, May through September. On especially infernal days, Dad would hose down the roof at night, just before we all turned in. I remember my dad coming back from his USAF reserve meetings out at Vance AFB in the summer, his khaki summer uniform soaked dark. He'd just been at a meeting, but he looked as if he'd just unloaded a river boat in high summer in New Orleans.
My dad and his brothers sweated like that. So do my two brothers and I. So does my son. So do my grandsons. It's such a grim gene, that sweaty one, dripping there on its chromosome like a saturated stinky little sponge that should long ago have been discarded.
So yesterday, on Middle Island, after a 1.2-mile walk (much of it in the shade), I too looked like a stevedore at the end of a July day. And Joyce? She breezed coolly along beside me, her obedient little sweat glands behaving like grade-grubbing third-graders hoping to be picked Gland of the Week.
We island-hopped on Friday—yes,
We are that kind of folk.
(Of course it was ONE island and
That’s kind of like a joke.)
On Middle Island down the road
From Marietta, O,
We took a walk—a “nature trail,”
If you desire to know.
The temperatures were very hot;
Humidity was high;
But we were not dissuaded, no
(I am a Nature Guy).
Not far downriver, such a sight—
Not one that does enchant:
We saw some towers blooming—yes
A nuclear power plant.
But nothing there was melting down
Except, of course, for me:
I dripped my way back to the car
I dripped my way back to the car
And fired up the A/C—
A bit of mild hypocrisy
That humans all produce—
Like oranges, apples, grapefruit, we
Can spill a lot of juice.
But it was just a lovely day,
A graceful sylvan scene,
With birds and trees and solitude
And vistas riverine.