If you're writing about the South, the weather will probably be a character. I bet I could pick up any book on my shelf, especially the ones written by southerners, and open it to a weather reference. I'll try that.
James Lee Burke:
"The wind was blowing hard, and the royal palms out on the boulevard thrashed and twisted against a perfect blue sky."
"The sun looked broken and red on the horizon..."
"..Randall could see the steamy heat rising up off the street in waves. The asphalt basketball court behind the school would be even hotter."
See, easy as pie. I could go on forever quoting weather descriptions.
So I've been thinking about the heat. And late afternoon thunderstorms. This morning I saw a maybe-10-year-old running calmly, a happy jog, down my street in Florida. I can barely walk down the street, even at 9 AM. So what is it that makes children so much more tolerant of the heat?
When I was growing up in Mississippi, we were required to nap on most summer days. Until we were almost teenagers. That didn't really mean sleep. Just quiet indoor time in the middle of the day. Most dads I knew came home from work for "dinner"- a huge noon meal- then promptly took a siesta before returning to work. Meanwhile, the kids kept quiet, read books, played cards under the ceiling fan. One thing I don't remember is complaining about the heat. I do that a lot now.
My writer friend Lee Hilton recently moved back to Texas. (You may be able to click that link and read some of her essays if you have access to the New York Times archives.) Today she reports in on the weather:
The average number of 100° days in Austin is 11. As of July 7th, 2009, Austin has had twenty-two 100° or hotter days.
Was it just not that hot in my childhood? Has air-conditioning spoiled us all? I can't imagine playing hopscotch outside now, but I know I spent a lot of time at the Fireman's Park in Cleveland, MS, when the slides were so hot they burned your legs. Then again, there was that shady pavilion at the Park. Maybe we just stayed under there, or rested under fig trees to ward off the heat. I know I didn't sit inside with the AC blasting. Kind of makes me want to go outside and find a shady spot to write in. Wait, it's 95 out there. Never mind.