I’ve been perusing my Emily Dickinson poems…

“Oh sacrament of summer days,
Oh Last Communion in the Haze–
Permit a child to join.

Thy sacred emblems to partake–
Thy consecrated bread to take
And thine immortal wine!”

–from Poem 23/130, c. 1859, beginning “These are the days when Birds come back–“

Summer is by far my favorite season. Don’t be alarmed by the breaking-all-heat-records news bulletins from Arizona. Granted, if “the grid” went down, things would get pretty hideous, but my birthday is in July and I’ve always felt most comfortable, most hopeful, most loved when surrounded by air the temperature of amniotic fluid.

Which I just learned is approximately 99.7 degrees.

I learn all kinds of things in fact during my daily siesta. Siestas are one of the real joys of summer in the desert.

After rising between 4 and 4:30 to swill my coffee, pray, sweep, and embark on my morning walk, which because of the heat needs ideally to be finished by 7, then doing housework, more yardwork, admin, 20 min yoga, shower, and writing/editing/making Power Points, answering comments and emails, my daily 15 min call with Blue Cross/Blue Shield (don’t get me started), travel itineraries, etc, and maybe a recovery meeting or a phone call with a friend, or an errand or two, by 1 or so when it’s, say, today for example, 106, believe me a siesta is the sanest, kindest, most sensible, most welcome practice imaginable!

I have my books, phone, snacks and home-made iced hibiscus tea. I have my NYT, Times Literary Supplement, New York Review of Books, Wall Street Journal, Racket News, and Arts and Letters Daily apps. I have Dante’s Inferno (reading a canto each day), a large picture book of Piero della Francesca, St. Exupery’s Wind, Sand and Stars, and critic Richard Deming’s This Exquisite Loneliness: What Loners, Outcasts and the Misunderstood Can Teach Us About Creativity.

I have these two dear Penguin 60s volumes that I found in a free library last week: Rudyard Kipling’s “Baa Baa, Black Sheep” and “The Gardener,” and “The Road Not Taken and Other Early Poems” by Robert Frost. I had never seen or known of this whole series, tiny paperbacks, maybe 4 by 5 inches with the familiar orange Penguin spine, 50-80 pages, of various noted and/or well-loved authors. Travel, poetry, fiction, essay.

So now I’ve read “The Gardener” as well as several commentaries on it (as I didn’t quite understand the story), and a few wonderful Robert Frost poems, and looked up Rudyard Kipling about whom I really know very little (he lived in Vermont for a time!), and the film noir actress Ruth Roman, and the making of Bad Day at Black Rock (have been on a Robert Ryan kick), and reserved memoirs by Zora Neale Hurston and Stefan Zweig at the library, and figured out what museums I want to visit in Washington DC where I’m headed next week (“Death in Venice” (preparing for fall trip), a biog of Pablo Picasso by one of his many ex-lovers (not sure whether this one killed herself or not), and The Code of the Woosters–for no summer is complete without at least one P.G. Wodehouse–in tow).

Anyway after I catch up on and research and read for a bit, I usu fall asleep, then wake at 3 for my afternoon coffee, bask for a bit in incoherent gratitude, then drive to the Newman Center, install myself before the tabernacle in the Blessed Sacrament chapel for 30-40 min, attend Evening Prayer and Mass, drive home, play the piano for a while and, around 7 or 7:30 set out for a short vespers walk. (Driving to Mass in summer is a concession I have made this year–I used to walk as a kind of combined exercise/penance, but 4:30 pm is probably the vey hottest part of the day so…let’s not be any more insane than we have to be, I tell myself).

By this time, i.e. 7:30, it will have cooled down to the mid-90s with maybe even a slight breeze. The sun is preparing to set, the sky and mountains are achingly beautiful, and most everyone is indoors so this, too, is one of my favorite times of day.

People are always asking “Why don’t you wear a hat?” but NO! I don’t want a hat! I want to feel the sun, the breeze, the heat (or the coolness as the case may be) on my head, and shoulders, and arms. This is another reason I like to sweep and do yard work–I need to get dirty. I need to be embraced by the desert, and vice versa. My day’s never complete unless I’ve been stabbed in the thigh by an agave, extracted a cluster of cactus spines with tweezers from my fingers, or tracked mesquite leaves all through the house.

After that it’s maybe a movie, more reading, Compline, and early to bed (though never quite early enough) as my inner alarm clock will wake me the next morning again at 4 to 4:30.

All around are trees, rabbits, and birdsong.

Heaven. Love summer.


  1. I needed this today. I’m overwhelmed by trying to do/go/meet up with people in Tucson’s extreme heat when what I really need to do is stop and rest. Take a sanity and serenity-inducing siesta. Thank you Heather for this reminder and for sharing how you do it! 💕

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Siestas are def the answer to so much! Funny how fear of missing out often leads to actually missing out…keep cool up there near the mountains, Friend!

  2. I, having been born in the Fall— November 1– an All Saints Day baby, just endure the heat and humidity of a Southern summer and come alive again in early October but I do understand. And I am not at all immune to the renewing charm of a siesta, no matter the season. 🙂

  3. Michael Demers says: Reply

    O my God, you are a desert rat, Heather!

  4. HEATHER KING says: Reply

    Don’t get me wrong–I was kidding about the amniotic fluid–I do love summer, but 82 with a nice breeze is more my ideal. I wouldn’t ASK for 106-degree weather; just saying I can make my peace with it, one day at a time, and that it even has its strange charms…I love the bracing days of October, too…and all the other months for that matter….happy summer, all!

  5. Melanie Poser says: Reply

    Since my 3 brain surgeries, the heat kills me! I take a siesta everyday around noon just to let my brain rest. I gotta say, l love my naps!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Right, resting my perpetually overactive brain is another benefit of the siesta!

  6. Hi Heather- This is not about summer!
    Recently, we watched the PBS special on Dante.
    Sooo good! I had never read Dante and was so moved by the beauty of the writing.
    I wish you were coming to Nee England- specifically CT would love to hear you in person.
    Safe travels!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Wasn’t that series wonderful, Lisa! It so humanized Dante…and encouraged me to dust off the paperback of The Inferno I’ve been toting from place to place since college and to start reading, one canto at a time. From there I hope, at last, to move on to the Purgatorio and Paradiso! As you may know, I’m a native New Englander (NH seacoast), and I never know where the good Lord will send me–so maybe CT sometime soon…wishing you a splendid summer–

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