The Colorado Springs night sits cold and quiet, attended by the moon and stars. Snow patches glow softly, muted reflection of lights both heavenly and man made. The frigid air that is dry to the touch, cracks skin and chaps lips. That arid quality is a constant through the seasons here, and something that drive my thoughts back to humid life in my native South Carolina.
I eschew the hallowed "dry heat" of the West. Its status shilled by snake oil salesmen marketing this starkly beautiful, rugged, and parched land. The dry breezes, the dry heat, and the dry cold are all odorless and impersonal, leaving seasons incomplete, lacking some essential element of their personalities.
Seasons are distinct in the South because of humidity. In the winter she seeps through layers of protection; transfiguring simple cold to something more personal assuming residence in our joints. In spring she moistens the new life that honors her with vibrant colors. In the summer she carries the heat deep into the shade, into every crevice of the day. In the autumn she is like some transformative Hindu goddess, easing the natural compost of life into reincarnation for spring rebirth.
Humidity in the South is synonymous with the land’s context and inseparable from its holiness and hospitality. Humidity is protector, companion, and lover. Her presence is a shield thwarting an onslaught of Yankee immigrants, Northerners who believe our air oppressive and somehow worse than the polluted humidity of their great cities. Their stifling confines are too real and definable, while our moist and fecund world is of mythological and romantic proportions.
She greets us in the morning as we step from our homes, imbuing the air with the day's scents of decay and growth, of grass and pine, of pluff mud and swamps. She lazes about the day slowing our motions and greedy fervors, settling us into a more languidly paced life. She settles in the night as we retreat to the regulated comforts of our homes; waiting just outside, prepared to accompany us when the new day begins.
Humidity is a special intimacy that we are sanctified by each day. She draws us in with warm embrace, clinging with sensual desire, caressing the body with eddies of damp heat which flush the skin with pleasure, and curls and kinks the hair as if we were coursing with the raging hormones of youth. Moving within her constancy stirs some primal part of our brains, recalling the amniotic womb that sheltered us when we were nameless, infinitely dependent, and at our most vulnerable.
Humidity is the continuum of which all things are inexplicably bound in the South. She is a palpable ether, subtext, and lead character to the people that “speak right,” remember manners, and savor the counterpoint of ice cold sweet tea to the hot heavy air of a summer’s day. She is an anthem to my spirit, and a persistent siren call for me to return to my roots.