We’re in our third heatwave of the summer. Even on a cloudy day the ‘real feel’ temperature hovers somewhere between 35 and 40 degrees celsius. It’s a humid heat that generates a film of sweat on your skin just from the exertion of breathing. The air con unit makes a difference, but the crucial part of keeping the apartment cool is following the path of the sun during the day and closing the blinds as each window in turn begins to superheat the air inside.
Having an upside down layout is most beneficial in the summer. The ground floor slowly heats up all day, but the basement bedrooms are always a couple of degrees cooler. It makes it more bearable to sleep during the hot summer nights. This is the fourth place we’ve lived in over 3 different summers and it’s definitely the best of the lot.
By now our lockdown life has become the norm. Although the restrictions are slowly relaxing, we all know that real normality is not going to return this year. If ever. The vast majority of people are expecting a second wave to hit sooner or later. Despite this, many are behaving like the pandemic is already over.
Mask usage indoors has been dropping even while evidence piles up that being indoors with poor ventilation is a higher risk factor. It was a relief when the mayor of Montreal decided to make mask usage mandatory in indoor public spaces. Whether this will be properly enforced remains to be seen. Meanwhile I steer clear of the now pedestrianised main street where crowds are starting to congregate around the newly opened shops and restaurants.
We all have to find a way to balance the risk and quality of life. In general the summer heat is suffocating here. Wearing a mask gets uncomfortable very fast. We try to keep outdoors in quieter parks and streets where it’s safer. I avoid being indoors except for in our own apartment and fetching essential groceries. We’ll continue to order food for delivery rather than eating in a restaurant for the foreseeable future.
In terms of working from home, we are only one third of the way through this at best. A depressing thought. Work from home is a great option to have. It doesn’t work so well when it’s not a choice anymore. I’m sceptical that offices will be open by the start of next year. We’ve another normal flu season to get through between and now and then.
We have a clear idea of what the rest of the summer months will be like here. Another couple of months of this, then it’s the quick run into a winter with restrictions. How that’s going to work out is hard to guess. Will we have activities to safely go to? Or will we be struggling with a second wave of infections?
There’s usually a slump that comes with the rise in humidity. Most activities and groups cease for the summer months. Everyone seems to disappear on their holidays. Things go quiet and oh so hot. Last year we skimmed the start of this period, but we weren’t here for the long slog though July and August.
This year it’s less a summer slump, more a year-long slump.The world is on fire. Climate change, racism, sexism, the scandals keep coming. One day it’s the Irish comedy world, the next it’s the seedy underbelly of the gaming industry being exposed. None of it is surprising, none of it is new either. While the coronavirus rages on, this is also a year to call for action, call for change. The protests continue, especially in an America which has become unrecognisable.
On a good day I can focus on things that are happening right now – whether it’s progress through household to-do lists, one of the kids learning to write a new letter or use a pedal bike, or just having a rare afternoon in the park with a couple of their friends. On those days it’s all about what we are doing in the moment, and there’s optimism that when we come out the other side of this, the world will have changed for the better.
On a lesser day the heat and humidity is exhausting. Doing anything at all is too much effort, everyone is bickering, and it feels like this year will go on forever. None of the many problems this world has will truly improve. These long months until this phase is ‘over’ seem insurmountable.
Yet time is drifting past. Outdoors in the park the baby ducklings and goslings are all grown up into almost adults already. The clear waters where they learnt to swim and eat have been covered over with various types of growth. Huge dragonflies hover above the surface, and a heron swoops to gracefully land amongst the reeds at the edge. It seems like this year in particular the trees are loosing an unbelievable amount of seeds and pollen into the air.
The water surface is overwhelmed with coagulating lumps of greenery that has slowly started to moulder into a greasy slime that coats the rocks. White scum hangs between the lily pads. Below all this tiny fish dart back and forth through the decaying decadence. Life and death all blended into one mess.
A slightly cooler breeze wends past – literally bringing a breath of fresh air. I inhale deeply. A fresh dose of nature to restore weary souls. Worth the punishing trek to reach it.
Regardless of what else happens around the world, this dance of nature will continue to play out. Come the winter the water will appear to be wiped of life as it slowly freezes over into sheets of dirty ice. The contrast is extreme in Montreal. There’s no mistaking one season for another.
For now, the days sit heavy and monotonous like the weather. Glimpses and flashes of life and air surge up from the oppressive heat. The children lounge about in boredom, but are also steadily learning to read a little better and faster each day. The stroller is mostly abandoned as they bike or scoot along the dusty canal path under the blistering sun. On hot blustery evenings their energy surges and they dance and play in the shade outdoors before bedtime beckons.
A torrential thunderstorm periodically appears to wash away the dusty days for a brief moment before the sun beats down again. Despite the length of these slow, slow days, everything is still changing and growing. Including us.