We recently moved back to the South from the very dry climate of Colorado. We spent our entire lives in the South and a mere three years in the Southwest. That’s a blip on the radar in the scheme of things. Therefore, it stands to reason that the filmy, moldy, moist environment of Georgia would feel familiar, even welcoming. After all, we’d lived in Georgia before for several years. Although we adapted easily to the altitude and aridness of Colorado’s high desert, it seemed inconceivable that it would so change our elemental structure as to make living at sea level in a sub-tropical environment intolerable. We would just re-adapt. Right?
At first, it appeared our bodies were indeed relieved to be “home.” Due to our acclimation to high altitude, our systems had learned to use oxygen more efficiently and produced extra red blood cells. Therefore, running at sea level seemed effortless. We could go all day. Our skin, which cracked and weathered in the desert dryness, requiring copious amounts of lotion, felt revived. No longer did we have to walk around with a water bottle in our hands, constantly refilling it throughout the day. You never leave home without water in Colorado. Without it, you feel the effects of dehydration within an hour. I don’t think I drank any water at all the first couple of days back in the South. I was drinking water from the air!
Despite days spent in the car and nights in strange hotel beds as we traveled back across the country for the move, I felt refreshed. There was a noticeable change in my energy level once we dropped below 6,000 feet. However, while the air is thicker in Georgia, and there is certainly more of it, summer in the deep South is a force of its own to be reckoned with. The heat consumes you. It is oppressive, completely lacking in any awareness of personal space. We found ourselves showering two or even three times a day to remove the salty , uncomfortable film which immediately envelopes you whenever you step outside between July and September.
We traveled to North Carolina for a week in October to escape the muggy heat and catch a glimpse of autumn. We got to wear jackets, jeans and boots, but the jackets came off the moment we hit the Georgia line on the way home. It was at least 85. Fall did finally head South in December. Yes, you read that correctly; fall came in December. There was a noticeable shift in the texture of the weather. The temperatures dipped into the 70’s. The air became crisp; the nights got cooler, and the leaves began to turn. The humidity abated, and it became relatively comfortable in jeans and a tee shirt. I had no delusions of ever wearing my heavy wool sweaters, though, and I packed them in space bag and slid them under the bed.
Then, about mid-December it started to rain. I was thankful, simply because I thought the rain heralded a real drop in the temperatures. We had a frost. I thought of my sweaters under the bed. It rained for an entire weekend; then an entire week. My youngest child developed a cough, a wet, phlegmy hack. I heard that cough everywhere we went. Others were afflicted with it. The rain had awakened the crud! Clouds, pregnant with rain, darkened the sky at all hours. The moon and stars were lost in a canopy of grey. My husband came home from work one day, coughing. I bought multiple bottles of honey-based cough syrup and gave vapor rub foot massages. It rained for two solid weeks. Storms rattled the windows at night, and huge booms of thunder shook the house.
On New Year’s Day, the rain finally blessedly stopped, although the clouds stubbornly remained overhead, threatening to dampen any attempt to venture out. We didn’t care. Out we went. On the second of January, the sun came out. We headed downtown and walked the streets soaking in a glut of vitamin D. We drove to the river and marveled at the swollen, muddy rapids. It had completely swallowed its banks and climbed the levees to consume the River Walk. Lampposts struggled to keep their heads above water. The newspaper said the river was the highest it’s been in 30 years. Our yard was soggy and the swing set and patio furniture were covered in a slick film. Suddenly, I felt a tightness in my chest, and I began to cough. Only my oldest child remained unscathed.
I went out to check the mail and discovered mildew creeping up the front door. In horror, I ran to fill a bucket with hot water and bleach and started scrubbing the door. Then I attacked the house, determined to eradicate the crud from the crevices of my home. Upstairs, I could hear my husband coughing. I went to check on him and found him, bent double, rummaging through the plastic bin of medicines he’d pulled down from the top shelf of the bathroom closet.
“Where (cough…hack),” he sputtered, “is the Mucinex? I’ve caught Georgia!” I found the tablets for him and took some myself. We collapsed on the couch with mugs of hot tea and honey. I looked over at Jay. “How would you feel about retiring in Colorado?” I asked. Jay sniffled. “Sounds good to me,” he said.